Say it with us: “An!” It means “eat” in Vietnamese. Follow Helene An, executive chef at Beverly Hills hot spot House of An, as she recounts the family history that brought her to culinary fame in Los Angeles and shares the recipes she and her daughter cook for their never-ending line of hungry fans.
In our large family — five kids, 11 grandchildren and counting! — this is a dish that always goes over well with everyone. The younger ones love the fragrant and moist chicken, while my mother loves that she can do most of the preparation the night before and then just relax and play with her grandchildren when they visit for a meal. This is an easy and delicious introduction to my mother’s favorite flavors: basil and thyme, Vietnamese parilla (tía tô), lemongrass, and fish sauce. At our home we eat this with rice, spooning the pan juice over top, with a side of sliced tomatoes and butter lettuce with Helene’s Lemon-Sugar Dressing.
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed
- 6 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 bunch (about 1 handful) fresh Vietnamese balm (kinh giới) or lemon balm leaves, chopped
- 1/2 bunch (about 1 handful) fresh Vietnamese coriander (rau răm) leaves
- 5 kaffir lime leaves, very finely chopped
- 2 fresh lemongrass stalks, tender inner white bulb only, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon white peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons palm sugar, coconut sugar, or lightly packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 whole (2 1/2-pound) chicken, quartered, backbone removed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon honey
For the chicken
TO MAKE THE MARINADE: With a mortar and pestle or in a food processor, process the garlic, cilantro, all leaves, lemongrass, peppercorns, and coriander into a paste. Transfer the paste to a medium bowl and stir in the fish sauce, soy sauce, lemon juice, sugar, and salt.
Put the chicken in a resealable plastic bag. Add the marinade and seal the bag. Turn the chicken to coat well. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F. Place a 2½-foot-long piece of aluminum foil in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Coat the top of the foil with nonstick cooking spray. Place the chicken in the center of the foil, skin-side up, and fold the foil over it to make a packet. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
Increase the oven temperature to 450°F. Carefully peel back the foil and bake the chicken uncovered for 5 minutes longer so the skin is lightly golden browned. The sugar in the marinade might make the juice in the foil look burned, but it won’t affect the chicken. Remove the pan from the oven and brush the chicken skin with the melted butter. Then brush with honey. Return the pan to the oven and roast the chicken uncovered for another 5-10 minutes until golden brown. The chicken is done when it shows no sign of pink when pierced in the center with a sharp knife. Serve hot.