Fish sauce is one of those things that generates strong opinions…yes, it is pungent, but it is also delicious! (And the taste is not the same as the aroma.) I’ve been making this dish for many years, and it’s a favorite both at home and with my clients who enjoy Asian flavors.

I found this recipe in Food & Wine magazine. It features chicken thighs with a glaze of brown sugar and fish sauce, fresh hot chile peppers and scallions, finished with a generous sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper. The original recipe calls for cherry peppers, which have a mild heat. You can use any hot peppers, to taste, or leave them out.

It is perfect with Jasmine rice on the side, along with a stir-fried veggie. I thinly sliced half a head of green cabbage, a small onion and a handful of scallion greens, all from my Stearns share, and stir-fried it all over medium high heat in the same pan I cooked in the chicken in: don’t wash it out first, so the remnants of the delicious sauce from the chicken can also infuse the veggies. Enjoy!

Serves: 4

1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, mashed slightly with the side of a knife
2 cherry peppers, sliced, or other hot peppers to taste (optional)
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced and separated into green and white parts.
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Freshly ground black pepper – to taste


  1. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, fish sauce, water, and rice vinegar.
  2. Heat the oil in a large deep skillet. Add the white parts of scallions, and the peppers if using, and cook over medium-high heat until they begin to brown, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken, meaty side down, and cook til browned on that side, about 4 minutes.
  4. Turn the chicken over and add the fish sauce mixture. Simmer over medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes turning the chicken occasionally, until it is cooked through, and the liquid has mostly evaporated and beginning to caramelize (it will get thick and syrupy).
  5. Add the scallion greens, tossing to coat.
  6. Finish with a generous amount of black pepper.