How do we love rotisserie chicken leftovers? Let us count the ways…
Buying a whole pre-cooked chicken from the store easily saves your dinner plans in a pinch. If you’re looking to go outside the box (uh-hmm, henhouse that is) then checkout these flavorful dishes from the recipe book of a Vietnamese native.
Roast chicken noodle soup. PHOTO: AUBRIE PICK
Take a fresh look at yesterday’s bird. These easy Vietnamese recipes use every delicious bit.
IN THE EARLY 1970s, my mom decided to raise chickens. Our three-story home in Saigon lacked a yard for them to scratch around in, but she craved the fresh eggs and tasty homegrown birds of her youth. So she bought a bunch of chicks, and we five kids delighted in having the fuzzy cuties around. Then one of our housekeepers, a cheerful, large woman, stepped on a chick and killed it. My siblings and I freaked out, and Mom realized her city kids weren’t ready for animal husbandry.
In late-April 1975, my family boarded an American military plane and fled the impending Communist takeover of South Vietnam. We were lucky but didn’t know what the future held. Stuffed inside Mom’s handbag was a survival kit: some jewelry, important photos, bottled water, instant noodle packages and a handwritten recipe book.
During our first visit to a supermarket, an Albertsons near the apartment we rented in San Clemente, Calif., Mom hit pay dirt: whole chickens and chicken parts, all neatly packaged and affordable. In Vietnam, chicken was pricier than pork and considered a special-occasion meat. Mom read the supermarket circulars like they were the Bible, and when whole chicken went on sale, she sent my dad and me to the store, where we’d split our haul in order to purchase double the allowed quantity.
Applying an old-world, no-waste approach, my mother butchered the chickens, roasting the dark-meat pieces, poaching the breasts for salads, simmering backs and scraps for soup broth and collecting the livers for pâté. We enjoyed chicken frequently and she stuffed and roasted whole birds for the holidays.
When I published my first cookbook, “Into the Vietnamese Kitchen,” in 2006, interest in the food of Vietnam mainly occupied foodies and culinary geeks like me. Much has changed. These days, in my hometown as well as other American cities I visit, I see a much greater variety of Asian products in supermarkets. My new book, “Vietnamese Food Any Day,” uses ingredients found at most mainstream market chains.
My mom, now 84, is currently obsessed with rotisserie chicken. A couple weeks ago, she asked what she could do with the leftovers of a deal she’d scored. I suggested roast chicken noodle soup and use-it-up fried rice, my go-tos for giving rotisserie chicken a Viet makeover.
Vietnamese food doesn’t have to be a weekend project. It’s deliciously doable any time, especially when you have a versatile bird on hand.
Roast Chicken Noodle Soup (Mì Gà)
TOTAL TIME 1 hour SERVES 4
To get the required 10 ounces of chicken meat, debone half a breast plus a thigh or drumstick, or two thighs. Wheat-based Chinese noodles typically go into this soup, but it’s great with ramen or soba, too.
- 4 large or 6 small dried shiitake mushrooms
- 2 cups hot water
- 2 scallions
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, plus more for drizzling
- Chubby 1-inch (1-ounce) piece ginger, peeled, cut into 4-5 coins and bruised
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 10 ounces deboned rotisserie chicken or roast chicken, cut into bite-size pieces, plus leftover chicken carcass, bones, pan juices and skin
- ½ teaspoon plus ⅛ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- Fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup, or 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1½ tablespoons soy sauce
- 8 ounces dried Chinese wheat noodles, ramen or soba, boiled according to package directions and drained
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro
- 10 ounces baby bok choy, halved length- wise and cut on the diagonal into pieces about 1 inch wide and 2 inches long
- Freshly ground black or white pepper, or togarashi
- ½ cup Any Day Viet Pickle (optional)
- In a medium bowl, cover mushrooms with 1 cup hot water. Soak 15 minutes. Strain mushrooms, reserving soaking liquid, and set aside.
- Meanwhile, thinly slice green parts of scallions, and set aside for garnish. Cut white sections into pinkie-finger lengths and use flat side of knife to bruise.
- In a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, warm sesame oil. Add bruised ginger and white parts of scallions, and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add stock, mushroom soaking liquid, chicken carcass, bones, pan juices and skin, and remaining 1 cup water. Partially cover, bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease heat to maintain a simmer. Skim off any scum on surface and add five-spice powder, 1 teaspoon salt, maple syrup and soy sauce. Simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest 5 minutes. Skim off any fat.
- Strain broth into a clean pot. You should have 7 cups. If needed, boil to reduce or add water to dilute.
- Stem and quarter shiitake mushrooms, then add to broth. Return broth to a simmer over high heat, adjusting heat as necessary to maintain simmer.
- Divide noodles among four bowls. Arrange bite-size chicken pieces on top. If noodles and chicken are cold, warm in microwave. Top with sliced scallions and cilantro.
- Add bok choy to simmering broth and cook until bright green and slightly soft, about 1 minute. Season broth with salt as needed, ¼ teaspoon at a time. Increase heat and bring to a boil, then divide broth and vegetables among bowls. Drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle with pepper. Invite diners to add pickle, if using, for bright flavor and crunch.
Photo: Aubrie Pick
Use-It-Up Fried Rice
TOTAL TIME About 20 minutes SERVES 4 as a side dish
It’s easy to make a luxurious mound of this dish, called cơm chiên in Vietnamese. Use dry-ish, cooked and cooled rice, made up to 3 days ahead. Avoid adding too much liquid seasoning to the pan, or it will overhydrate the rice instead of just lightly coating it. Use high heat and cook quickly, with ingredients near the stove, ready to dump into the pan.
- 3 cups cooked long-grain rice, such as white or brown jasmine, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil such as canola oil, peanut or coconut
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1-1½ cups diced leftover rotisserie or homemade roast chicken
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce or soy sauce, plus more for serving
- 1 scallion, both white and green parts chopped
- Fine sea salt
- Stir rice to prevent lumps. Set near stove along with remaining prepped ingredients.
- In a large nonstick or carbon-steel skillet over high heat, warm 1 tablespoon oil. When oil is nearly shimmering, add garlic and stir-fry until aromatic, 10-15 seconds. Add chicken and cook, stirring, to reheat and refresh, 1-2 minutes. Add rice and stir-fry until warm and beginning to revive, about 2 minutes.
- Push rice to skillet’s perimeter to create a 4-inch-well in center. Add remaining oil to the well, pour in egg, then pour fish sauce around the rim of well (onto rice). Quickly stir-fry to break up, scramble and work golden egg bits into rice. Add scallions and cook until just wilted, 10-15 seconds more. Turn off heat, taste,and season with salt as needed.
- Transfer rice to a plate or shallow bowl. Serve with additional fish sauce or soy sauce for extra-savory punch.
Any Day Viet Pickle
TOTAL TIME 1 1/2 hours MAKES 3 cups
Keep this quick pickle around to add color, crunch and tang to Vietnamese dishes. Simply called đồ chua (“sour stuff”), the daikon and carrot pickle is a banh mi must-have and a perfect side for rice plates and grilled meats. You can substitute turnips or watermelon radish for the daikon.
- 1 (1-pound) daikon, or two 8-ounce purple-top turnips or watermelon radishes
- 1 (6-ounce) carrot
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar, plus ½ cup
- 1¼ cups distilled white vinegar
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- Peel and cut daikon into sticks about 3 inches long and ¼ inchthick (the width of an average chopstick). Peel and cut carrot into sticks a little skinnier than the daikon.
- Put both vegetables in a bowl and toss with salt and 2 teaspoons sugar. Massage and knead for 3 minutes, or set aside for 20 minutes, until you can bend a piece of daikon so the tips touch without it breaking. Vegetables will have lost about a quarter of their original volume.
- Rinse vegetables with water, drain in a mesh strainer or colander, and press or shake to expel excess water. Transfer to a 4-cup jar.
- In a medium bowl, stir together remaining ½ cup sugar with vinegar and 1 cup water until dissolved. Pour enough of the liquid into the jar to cover vegetables, and discard any excess. Let sit 1 hour. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 1 month.
—Recipes adapted from Vietnamese Food Any Day by Andrea Nguyen (Ten Speed Press)