Both in Rwanda and Cote d’Ivoire, we’ve found ourselves becoming obsessed with a new cuisine. In Kigali, we constantly craved Indian food although it had never been something we’d really had or liked. But after trying it and liking it we were hooked. Now in Abidjan, we find ourselves salivating at the thought of Vietnamese and Lebanese food. But it’s not always practical (or healthy or financially smart) to eat out or order in but we crave it nonetheless. So instead, I looked to recreate some of the same flavors at home to quench those cravings and feel better about it. I wanted to tackle something that would fix my bo bun and nem cravings, my favorites. The best part was once I came up with a recipe for the meat, I could use it for both dishes. And the rest was just assembling anyway. A little back story before I go on…I just celebrated my birthday but really “celebrate” is not the right way to describe it. Instead of diving into some cake, I found myself laying in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV with pain meds and antibiotics dripping down. My awesome luck meant I got to have an appendectomy the day before my birthday. Even better my doc said I couldn’t eat or drink anything for the first 24 hours or so and then all I could have was tea and then afterward for the rest of the week simply broth and apple sauce. I was starving, miserable, pathetic, and dying for real food.
As much as I begrudgingly followed his advice, I will say I think it really helped my recovery so I’m grateful at this point but not the way I wish anyone to spend their birthday or any day really. SO the story is to tell you that I also couldn’t have red meat for the month following the surgery. So when I set out to try my own hand at the Vietnamese flavors I loved, I swapped the pork and the beef for chicken. It’s not exactly like the real thing but I’d say it’s rather close and quite tasty and hits the spot. Even better you can prepare a dish of it for the week and mix it up however you want, a little variety with rice or vermicelli or on a salad or wrapped up in rice paper.
Try it out and let me know what you think. We will keep working on it and maybe try our hand at a homemade dipping sauce too for our salads and spring rolls but for now, we will take little steps toward making our own creations.
- 3 chicken breasts
- 1/8 cup soy sauce
- 1/8 cup fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon sriracha (or more, as desired)
- 2 small garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (or swap for freshly grated, if you have on hand)
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Pinch of black pepper
- Put chicken breasts into a large plastic bag.
- Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl and then add to the bag with chicken.
- Let marinate for an hour at room temperature (or marinate for longer in the refrigerator).
- Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
- Place chicken breasts in a baking dish, pouring the marinade over top. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Once cooked, cut up chicken and discard the marinade. Add chicken to a salad or wrap it up in rice paper with carrots, cucumbers, mint, and cilantro for a healthy spring roll lunch. Any way you choose to eat it, ENJOY!