Cooking in a clay pot is one of the most popular methods in Vietnam. This dish, a dry braise, uses fish sauce and sugar to create a delicious combination of salty, sweet, and spicy flavors. (This recipe can be doubled or even tripled for a crowd.) Reprinted with permission from The Slanted Door by Charles Phan, copyright (c) 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.
For the caramel sauce: In a medium saucepan, melt the sugar with fish sauce over medium-low heat, about 10 to 12 minutes.
For the chicken: Heat the oil in a shallow claypot or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallots, chilies, ginger, ½ cup of caramel sauce, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper; bring to a boil. Continue cooking to reduce slightly, about 4-5 minutes, then add the chicken. Turn the heat down and simmer, stirring occasionally until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
Garnish with cilantro and serve with steamed jasmine rice (optional).