Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Spicy Caramel Chicken and a History Lesson

I’ve wanted to film an updated version of this caramel chicken for many years. It was one of the first videos I ever posted, and its unexpected popularity made me realize that there were actually people (non-relatives) watching these videos.

The original vision for Food Wishes was an online cooking school, where I’d charge tuition for a series of courses that would mimic the culinary school I’d just left. I started filming a few recipes each week, knowing full well that only a handful of people would see them, but I had to learn my new craft.

Caramel Chicken, Circa 2007
As the library grew, so did the audience, and I realized that instead of charging for the content, I could give it away for free, and maybe survive on the ad revenue that YouTube was just starting to offer. Above and beyond that, I was getting emails and comments, telling me that what I was doing was making them happy.

This wasn’t something I’d anticipated, and while at the time I would have preferred money, it was great to hear, and inspired me to push on. The rest, as they say, is history, and every time I got an email asking for an updated version of this recipe, I would fondly remember how all this came to be.

So, whether you were here from the very beginning, or you’re brand new, and will be trying caramel chicken for the very first time, I really hope you give this fast, easy, delicious, and historically significant recipe a try soon. Enjoy!


Makes 4 large portions:
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in about 1 inch chunks
1/2 cup sliced, seeded jalapeno peppers
1/2 cup sliced, seeded mild red chilies, or bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
4 cups cooked white rice

For the sauce mixture:
2 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
4 cloves finely minced garlic
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp hot sauce, or to taste

49 comments:

Chibby said...

Yay! So glad you're updating some of the older videos! Thanks for all that you do, CJ.

Jeff in Philly said...

We're all very happy you made this venture work, Chef John. You're still teaching!

Chris M. said...

Looks great! Can you recommend a replacement for peanuts? That allergy can get nasty and I don't want to kill my girlfriend.

Chongo Power said...

Bravo.

Tubbers Dacat said...

Is there anything I can use in place of the fish sauce (I know it will not be as awesome without)

John Muir said...

Hi Chef- If my chicken is getting done before it carmelizes, is that because my pan isn't hot enough? or because it's non-stick? or is it because I'm moving chicken around too much? It's a heavy pan from Le Creuset (I got it at an outlet)

Matt said...

I will make this dish this week! I've got two questions. First, a third of a cup of fish sauce seems like it would be a lot - it's much more than I've used in any prior dish. Would reducing the amount be inadvisable? Second, I saw a comment on the original post about reducing the amount of brown sugar to one half cup. My wife recently started a cult diet that calls for no sugar. How low can I reduce the sugar before it greatly changes the result?

kinjun ranger said...

I have made this several times Chef John. Always is a huge hit and there are never any leftovers. I do play around adding various "vegetables" and it always comes out perfect.

Thanks for what you do.

Joe Eoj said...

Your first Caramel Chicken recipe is one I often pull out and make for my Grandmother.

I'm sure I grabbed a recipe or two from you before but it wasn't until you made a WU-Tang reference in one of your videos that I took note. Since then I've been watching your videos, even the ones I have no intention of making I'll watch for the commentary.

I've learned to cook thanks to you, and can now always(mostly)whip-up something.

Could you please find it in your heart to do a recipe for MOUSSAKA?

Thanks for everything Chef John, For me you're up there with Steve Martin, Nina Simone and Rickson Gracie.

Danger said...

Going to have to make this. You should add a link to the old video so people can see the difference. I went and googled it just to see the transformation. Also.... extra views for that video :)

Angie M. said...

I made the old version of caramel chicken for the 3rd time last night! Thanks Chef, you really do make people happy.

rotunder said...

Coriander!!! Yes that's what we call it in New Zealand. A few years ago I was looking for "cilantro" everywhere in the Supermarket and getting really frustrated, so I ended up googling it and turns out it's just the Spanish word for Coriander!! Found it in seconds after that, hahaha

Briege Burns said...

Where are the instructions, Chef John?

Food Junkie said...

Chris M. try anything crunchy that she is not allergic to and will not go mushy in the sauce. Chow mein noodles are good but should be added to the plate at serving as they will go soft in leftovers. Other nuts or seeds will work if she can have these, or even diced, lightly cooked celery.

Adam Garib said...

Looks great!

Chris Floyd said...

Congrats on eight years of success! I've silently been along for the ride for the last three years. You're my go-to favorite chef by wide margin (and I suspect I'm not alone with that sentiment). Quick note: I came across your site by accident in 2013 when I Googled "sea bass recipe" and you had just recently posted your chili-lime version. It was fantastic, and I've silently followed along on your video journey. You've been my personal culinary school, and I've developed a true passion for cooking. I'm now working the dinner line at a local bistro part-time, a job that came from practicing techniques and recipes you taught (I've flipped more than my fair share of cheese balls, mastered the demi-glace, can actually justify buying blocks of real parmigiano-reggiano, and know basically every good recipe needs a secret pinch of cayenne). Made your seared scallops with orange supremes and jalapeno vinaigrette for my job interview. I think that recipe is going to end up on the menu soon. Thanks for all you do. Keep it up Chef John, the budding chefs of the world are watching.

vero said...

Chris_ Cashews are under-estimated in cooking! And if she only is allergic to peanuts she can have anything else. Cashews and peanuts are NOT related, so unless she actually has had blood tests showing she can't have various other foods either it should be fine.

Just stopped by to say thank you to Chef John, think I've been following videos for like 5 years now? Always entertained, often I end up making the food, at least something similar. Inspiring and educational and hysterically funny at times!

Joe Sixpack said...

I made this about 4 years ago loved it now I see this video I'm wondering to myself why didn't I make it again loved it the first time I made so I'm off to the store for some chicken thighs Thx for meminding me about this tasty recipe

Michael Williams, D.O. said...

I really enjoy your site. I've always cooked but you've inspired me to a new level. Because of you and Laura everyone calls me Chef Mike.......thanks .........keep up the good work.

Raymond Keeler said...

is it me or is the first addition of caramel sauce missing in the video?? at 4:21 he mentions "dumping in the rest of the sauce" but i don't recall him saying when to dump it in the first time.

Chef John said...

It's you! See 1:50 ;)

Raymond Bjerkas said...

I really enjoy cooking using your recipes, thanks for the awesome videos.

I made this dish today, and it's the first time I fail after following your videos...
My meal came out way too salty.. I followed your measurements, but I guess either the fish sauce or the soy sauce I use are way saltier than the ones in the video.

Anyway, thanks for the awesome videos and blog...

Adrien Leloup said...

Made this tonight, was super good. Thanks for the great recipe.

Joel said...

so delicious thank you again chef

Santiago Draco said...

Hey Chef John! Great recipe! One question (mentioned this on youtube also... I think you missed a step of adding some sauce/sugar into the chicken during the browning/caramelization process. You mentioned the sugar caramelizing mid way but never added sugar... then at the end you state "now add the veggies and the "rest of the sauce" which makes me think you added some sauce in to caramelize earlier in the video....

David McCutcheon said...

I had too much chicken in the skillet. More than just filling the bottom of the skillet with one layer of chicken. It didn't Carmelize as much as the bottom of the skillet. Also, can you stir the chicken too much? Don't you need it to stick to the skillet a while? Second, if you leave it in the skillet on high heat, won't that over cook the chicken?

Chef John said...

Santiago, watch the video again and pay attention at the 1:50 mark!

Omar Naziry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary said...

This was absolutely delicious, I am a relatively new follower and a believer for sure. I cooked extra chicken and carmalized it in batches. Patience was defineately the key. Thank you for all of your wonderful recipes and your advice.

Munish Nanwani said...

Chef John, you are the best. I watch all your recipies religiously. And when I have nothing else to do I rewatch my favorite ones again and again......

I made this recipe yesterday and used scotch bonnets instead of jalapenos! I was visualising success the whole time and it helped so much :)It came out so well, enjoyed it so much with rice.

THANK YOU!

Munish Nanwani said...

Chef John, you are the best. I watch all your recipies religiously. And when I have nothing else to do I rewatch my favorite ones again and again......

I made this recipe yesterday and used scotch bonnets instead of jalapenos! I was visualising success the whole time and it helped so much :)It came out so well, enjoyed it so much with rice.

THANK YOU!

Cliverton said...

Chef John,
This is the first time I had to toss an entire dish of one of your recipes.
WAY too salty.
I followed the amounts and ingredients exactly (unseasoned rice vinegar).
???
Any ideas?

Chef John said...

The dish is supposed to be salty, but having said that, you can reduce the fish sauce and soy. How one perceives salt varies greatly from tongue to tongue, so you must be "one of those people" ;)

Cliverton said...

Ouch!

With the aid of a "Kung Fu" style flashback... I might have used a tablespoon of soy sauce.

Mea cuppa.

Ben Harmon said...

I created a text version of the recipe. You still need the video for the details, but I like having a written recipe to follow. http://imgur.com/dAk25r4

Ed Adams said...

Chef J,

Thanks again for all you do. I'm sure you've inspired many more home cooks than just me. I've been a faithful follower/recipe stealer since I found you 3 years ago. That happens to correspond to my retirement date which is when I needed to learn to cook.

Ed

A.J. said...

This is better than takeout and easily accomplished without too many steps or dirty dishes! Perfection AGAIN! Thank you, Chef John!

TakeDeadAim73 said...

hey, could pork loin work in this recipe, or is it too lean to get through the carmalization process?

Eric Eligator said...

Made this for the first time for dinner tonight - it was really delicious. Waited for good caramelization. Substituted cashews, toasted them first. I also have a thing for Sambal, so used that instead of Sriracha. Also used those small sweet peppers (yellow, orange, red) instead of the hot ones as my family doesn't like things too hot. But man, this was great. Another one of your recipes that's now on the "make it again" list.

Sunakshi Bhasin said...

You bring a smile to my face :)
if i ever learn cooking( which i want to),
It would be a dream come true to learn from you.

Beatrice Lawson said...

Chef John, i dont post often enough to say Thank You but I do try at least to leave raving comments at allrecipes.com.
So - not only do I love your blog and recipes which are now my main source of inspiration, both my son and husband know you by name - no mean feat since they are clueless about any other blogger. Caramel chicken is the first of your recipes that I made and it is my son's absolute favourite meal. It is cooked in our house twice a month at least and every time he asks me to make something in particular his request is always for this dish. That being said, we have loved everything that I have cooked following your recipes, and yours is the only stew I actually enjoy!
Funny thing reading your updates above - my hubby asked me last night as I was making the ricotta meatballs - how does Chef John make any money if he gives his recipes away for free?? I told him I had no idea, but hopefully some ad cash... I really wish you would get a TV show because that is one I would actually watch! (I do hope you or your agent is pitching a cooking show for you!)
So glad you do put together these videos and hope your audience continues to grow - your videos are well done, funny and the results are always fantastic. Thank you!

Chef John said...

Thank you so much!

Evan said...

wet rice crumbles. dry rice is best for chopsticks.

Pat Reynolds said...

Oh my good gravy, this is amazeballs! I used my aluminum non-stick skillet, everything worked out well, and I felt like head chef in a upmarket Chinese restaurant! I added some sesame seeds at the end, they gave the peanuts a nice complementary flavor. I could probably jigger this to be an orange chicken too - hmmm...

Fizz Bronson said...

I made the caramel chicken twice, once with chicken breasts and once with chicken thighs and it's soooooo much better with the chicken thighs. Deboning the chicken legs was a bloody carnage but it was definitely worth the effort. And with the remaining bones and skin I made some tasty chicken stock.

Armymum said...

Made this for dinner tonight.... SO good!!!!
I like the fact you said in the video "visuaize perfection and work back...." That really helped me because just like you mentioned, I get nervous that I'm letting it go too far and going to ruin it.... Both were perfect descriptive suggestions for the process... Will absolutely be making this again, I may however change the name to Candied Chinese Chicken! Thank You!

Ced said...

Spicy! Those jalapeños definitely let you know what's up.
Made this with my brother.
Will definitely do it again!

Thank you for posting these recipes and being a great narrator.
It's helped me get much more curious about cooking, and as a student, that's very valuable.

Reza Azimi said...

hi chef john
instead of using " 3/4 cup light brown sugar " ,how much white sugar can i use ?because in my country brown sugar is very Inaccessible and expansive.
and one more question , what is the best substitute for fish sauce ?fish sauce is almost rare in here
tnx a lot

YuGin Tan said...

If I could make a suggestion- perhaps it would be better to add the peanuts in at the very end, to avoid the risk of them losing their crunch while sitting in the sauce waiting for it to reduce.