This dish is my mother's version of the classic Vietnamese clay pot meal in which ingredients are slowly braised until tender. Served straight out of the pot, this comforting clay pot chicken dish with rice is fit for a large family gathering on a Sunday evening. My mother's kitchen is always permeated by delicious aromas, and for my siblings and me, this dish is the smell of home. Cinnamon is a common ingredient in traditional Vietnamese cooking, and we have opted to use ground cinnamon instead of the traditional cinnamon stick. Either way, the essence of cinnamon imparts delicate warmth to the fluffy rice, while the ginger lends a bright punch. Snappy vegetables are dispersed throughout the dish, balanced by tender Vietnamese-infused chicken -- the star of this sumptuous dish. —Full-thyme Student
boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into about 2-inch pieces
cloves garlic, minced
freshly ground black pepper
carrot, sliced into thin discs
spears asparagus, sliced diagonally into 1 inch pieces
In a large bowl, combine chicken, fish sauce, minced garlic, minced ginger, minced shallot, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Cover chicken and allow to marinate for 15 minutes.
In a large nonstick dutch oven over high heat, add 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar to the middle. Allow the sugar to melt, and using chopsticks, mix sugar to allow it to caramelize. Being careful not to burn sugar, allow sugar to caramelize into a dark amber color, about 1 minute. Add chicken as soon as sugar is caramelized. Toss chicken around until coated with caramelized sugar. Cover pot with lid and allow chicken to cook for about 10 minutes, or until chicken is golden brown and cooked through completely. Transfer chicken to a large clean bowl and cover to keep warm.
To the dutch oven over high heat, add 1/2 cup water and carrots, asparagus, and mushrooms. Allow vegetables to cook for about 5 minutes, just until carrots become tender. Add prepared bok choy to pot. Mix in 1/8 teaspoon of salt and cook vegetables for another 5 minutes until everything is tender. Transfer vegetables to a different large clean bowl and cover to keep warm.
To the dutch oven over high heat, add rice, chicken broth, 2 cups water, and ground cinnamon, and stir to combine. Cover with lid and as soon as liquid begins to simmer, reduce heat to low and allow rice to steam for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until rice is cooked.
Remove lid and while using a spoon, push rice to side of pot, creating a shallow space in middle of pot. Transfer chicken and its juices to middle of pot. Transfer vegetables to the edges of pot, so that vegetables encircle the chicken in middle. Adjust heat to high and allow everything to heat through. Garnish with sliced green onions and cilantro. Serve directly out of pot.