What’s cooking today: Lemongrass chicken

What’s cooking today: Lemongrass chicken
Vietnamese-style lemongrass chicken. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Lemongrass is the hero of the Vietnamese recipe on which this wok dish is based. In the authentic version, coconut water will be used. This is not always to hand in my Karoo town, so I adapted it by using coconut cream instead.

If you can find coconut water, try the recipe with that. Coconut water is the clear liquid inside a green coconut, i.e. one that is net yet fully ripe. It may be available at an Asian speciality food store, so a trip to your local Chinatown if you have one might bring a happy result. Short of that, do what I did and use coconut cream or coconut milk. Either way, the addition of a little cornstarch is an intrinsic part of the recipe.


8 chicken thighs, deboned but skin on

1 x 3 cm piece fresh ginger, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 habanero chilli or two milder red chillies, including seeds, chopped

4 to 6 sticks of lemongrass, bashed with the back of a heavy knife handle, woody parts removed, the remainder chopped finely

400 ml coconut water, or coconut cream, or coconut milk

3 Tbsp fish sauce

1 Tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp sugar

Chopped coriander for garnish

3 Tbsp peanut oil or other suitable wok oil


Ideally, start the day before.

Do not remove the skin from the thighs.

Debone the chicken thighs by cutting inwards along both sides of the bone, from the underside, and prising them out. Also remove any other small bones. 

Slice each deboned thigh into three pieces, leaving the skin on. Marinate chicken thigh pieces in a mixture of fish sauce, sugar and cornstarch. Leave in the fridge overnight or for a few hours.

Pour oil into a wok and then put it on a high heat. When it is sizzling hot, fry the chicken thigh pieces in batches until the skin is beautifully browned.

When all the chicken is browned, return all of it to the wok, add the chopped lemongrass, garlic, ginger and chilli all at once, and stir.

Cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes, then add the coconut water/ cream/ milk, bring it to a simmer and allow it to cook on a moderate to low heat for a few more minutes. If it seems too thin, sprinkle a little more cornflour on and stir it in.

Serve with Asian noodles and garnish with coriander. DM/TGIFood

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Send your recipes to [email protected] with a hi-resolution horizontal (landscape) photo.

To enquire about Tony Jackman’s book, foodSTUFF (Human & Rousseau) please email him at [email protected]


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