Vietnamese Cooking: Chicken Satay with lettuce, herbs, peanut sauce and brown rice

During my days at UCSF, I dined often at a restaurant called “My Father’s Kitchen” for lunch. It’s located in Divisadero street and my office was in the building right next to it. It’s a small cosy restaurant which taught me so much about Vietnamese cuisine. Infact it’s the place where I learned how to eat a Vietnamese meal. They have a limited menu and it does get repetitive after you have tried all their recipe. My most favorite one was their chicken satay served over a bed of lettuce, herbs, white rice and peanut sauce. The first day I took a to-go of their chicken satay dish. That was my first experience with this cuisine. I was totally new to it but one reassuring factor was the sight of rice. Rice is a staple Indian ingredient. So I knew I had to mix rice, chicken with peanut sauce and eat them. But I was wondering on how to finish the lettuce and herbs. Should peanut sauce be a dressing for it? or Do we need to mix chicken and lettuce with the sauce? That’s not possible as the lettuce were huge and not chopped. It was so confusing. The lettuce and cilantro tastes good as such but mint leaves leaves an after taste which I hate. So I threw the herbs and lettuce that day. The following week I dined at the restaurant and the pleasant lady taught me to place the rice, chicken and herbs over the lettuce, drizzle the peanut sauce and roll it like a cigar and eat. I hope this post gives an idea to those who are eager to try Vietnamese dishes.
Since I stopped working with UCSF and since I didn’t find the time to explore another Vietnamese restaurant closeby, I decided to make it in my own kitchen. My parlour lady is from Vietnam and she gave me some pointers on getting the recipe right. I drove to Ranch 99 store to pick up fish sauce, lemon grass and oyster sauce. I had soy sauce at home. I recommend having this sauce if your family loves Asian cuisine. You can add it to you morning eggs or noodles or use as a dip for spring rolls. You have zillion ways to use it. I love to marinate my chicken/lamb/shrimp or fish with these sauce-cocktail.
Lemongrass as the name suggests has a subtle citrus flavor. I used few fresh stalks. The stalks are fibrous so you need to chop them and mince it in a mortar and pestle. They are widely used in Asian cuisine and I am loving its flavor. This chicken satay is made with lemon grass, tons of garlic and few Asian sauces for added depth in flavor and texture. I used brown rice instead of white to make it more healthy. It’s purely optional. You can even use Jasmine rice. This dish is healthy and nutritious.The honey /agave nectar in the marinade caramelizes in the heat and creates a gorgeous brown glaze over the chicken. I like to leave lemon grass stick around the chicken. But you can throw them away before cooking.


Source: Lan, My Parlour lady

5 chicken breast / thigh fillets, boneless
1 small onion (shallots), peeled and finely chopped
2 red chili – chopped
2 stalks of lemongrass (use the bottom portion only)
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoon honey or agave nectar (optional)
Salt, if needed
Bamboo skewers (soaked in water for 30 minutes before grillings) / I used stainless steel skewers

1. Clean, remove the fat and cut the chicken thighs into 1-inch cubes.
2. Chop and crush the lemon grass in mortar and pestle and dump it into a fresh bowl. Add the chopped chilies, shaloots, garlic and sauces. Stir to mix well. Add honey and check for salt. All the sauce have enough salt in it. Add more if you want.
3. Add the chicken cubes and massage the marinade into the chicken and let it sit in the fridge overnight.
4. Thread the chicken into the skewer as you would do for kebobs. Pre-heat the grill to 300F and grill them  5-8 minutes on each side. Serve hot with peanut sauce, rice, lettuce and herbs (cilantro and mint leaves).
1/2 cup  peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon coconut palm or white sugar (plus more for added sweetness – use as per taste)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
Warm water, as needed to make the dilution
1. Heat a sauce pan. Dump them all together on it. Gently heat them for 2-3 minutes, until warm.
Additional notes
1. Satay with chicken breast can be eaten with brown rice in South Beach Diet Phase 2 and Phase 3.
2. It can be eaten by those who are on a weightloss regime and also by those who are diabetic / pre-diabetic.
3. Omit honey/agave nectar in the marinade and prepare the chicken for phase 1. Just enjoy the chicken with lettuce and herbs. Avoid the rice.

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  1. Dear Vijeetha
    How are you?
    Very nice recipe . I have never cooked any Vietnamese dish, may be i will start with your recipe . Of course enjoyed Vietnamese dishes during my stay in Vietnam …very nice indeed.
    Have a nice week

  2. whats this brown rice? when i inquired about brown rice in spencers daily or nilgiris.,all i receive is a blank stare or the bulky kerala red rice!

  3. Just found your blog through Kalyn's round up! Very nice to “meet” you…

    you have a wonderful collection of recipes, and gorgeous photography!

    will be back to indulge once I have some more time this weekend…. 😉

  4. Hi Vijitha, I am paying you a visit as you visited me this week . How nice to find your blog. I see that you try to be very healthy, something that I am not always capable of when I cook, as I have a preference for baking. Maybe you will inspire me. I love Vietnamese food. It is a bit of a staple in Sydney ( although not necessarily with my son). I made a simple Chinese chicken noodle soup last night and he was not happy!. Your chicken looks delicious, and I love this style of rolling up and eating. BTW what is a palour lady…sounds funky

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