Nong’s Khao Man Gai, a.k.a. Chicken-crack

There is a food cart that I really enjoy and try to get to once a week.  In fact, it is so tasty and addicting that at work it we dubbed it “chicken-crack.”  The cart is Nong’s Khao Man Gai, in the cart pod on 10th.  It serves one thing and one thing only, but they have absolutely mastered it: a traditional Thai chicken and rice dish (khao man gai) that actually originated as a traditional Chinese dish (Hainanese chicken).  You start with a whole chicken, poach it, then use the broth to make rice, sauce, and soup.  There is a ton of garlic and ginger throughout the process.  When served, is simply wrapped in a sheet of butcher paper, saving packaging waste.

I really like this chicken and thought I would give it a try at home.  Brian pointed me at a recipe (that I think he got from Natalie), so that is exactly what I did last Sunday with Grace and Micha as culinary guinea pigs.

While I expected a lot of garlic, the amount of ginger in this chicken surprised me.  It gets stuffed with big fat potato-slices of ginger and plenty of green onion before boiling.  There is also a good amount of salt involved — it gets rubbed with salt for cleaning, washed, re-rubbed with salt, then sesame oil.  The chicken was spot-on.  The rice was pretty darn close, though I think Nong uses a bit more ginger and a pinch of some other more exotic spice that I can’t quite identify.  Her soup has a bit more veggies in it.  There is some kind of celery-type thing — I do not think it is actual celery, but maybe Chinese celery or possibly bok-choy.  She also has some kind of squash-like vegetable (cucumber or zucchini?) that’s boiled down to translucent tastelessness, but adds a good texture.

The recipe’s sauce, though, was totally different.  The recipe builds up a sauce that is about 1 part broth to 2 parts sriracha (a.k.a. “rooster sauce”) with some sugar and spices thrown in.  It ended up red and spicy and, while good, was not the brown sauce with a touch of spicy and a touch of tangy that Nong serves up.  At the time, I suspected that maybe hers was more soy-sauce based, but did not have the time to experiment.  Upon returning later in the week, I paid closer attention to the menu and saw that it is a “fermented soybean sauce” base — though if I’m not mistaken, isn’t that the very definition of soy sauce, or is it maybe based on fermented soybean paste (like used in miso soup)?

I made the rice (just the rice) again last night with some leftover broth, but have yet to tackle the sauce again.

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Brian Enigma

Brian Enigma is a Portlander, manipulator of atoms & bits, minor-league blogger, and all-around great guy. He typically writes about the interesting “maker” projects he's working on, but sometimes veers off into puzzles, software, games, local news, and current events.

3 thoughts on “Nong’s Khao Man Gai, a.k.a. Chicken-crack”

  1. i love this place. in fact, i plan on going there today for lunch.
    if you could replicate the sauce, please post the recipe. that stuff is the crack cocaine.
    i will put it on EVERYTHING!!!

    have you asked for the “spicy” version of their sauce…? TO DIE FOR!!!!

  2. “squash-like vegetable” It is a type of winter squash. The Thais call it simply “ฟัก” but that is really the generic word for pumpkin. I think it’s acorn squash–or at least that is the closest thing I know of that is readily available in the USA.

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