The Vietnamese Ingredient To Use For Golden Roast Chicken Skin

When you're looking for a homey, satisfying, and simple entrée to prepare for dinner, it's hard to beat a straightforward roast chicken. Fragrant, juicy, and deeply delicious when made correctly, roast chicken — whether prepared classically with lemon and olive oil, served over bread and arugula a la Ina Garten, or marinated in bright Indonesian ingredients such as lemongrass and green chiles — is a widely beloved anchor of any meal.

For many folks, the meat of a roast chicken is all well and good, but let's be honest, the golden-brown, salty, crunchy skin is probably the best part. There are a million and one tricks out there for obtaining crisp, golden skin on a roast chicken — from pinning the skin into place with toothpicks to brining the bird in buttermilk, whose sugars will caramelize in the oven and beautifully brown the skin (via The New York Times). If you've tried all these hacks and are still looking for your favorite tactic for achieving a golden-skinned bird, then read on, because there's a Vietnamese ingredient you can use to achieve that very goal.

Palm sugar brings a hint of sweetness and a golden brown color

When the craving for roast chicken hits, many of us are likely to reach for ingredients such as butter, salt, and perhaps a few sprigs of fresh herbs before grabbing our roasting pan and getting to work. But there are so many variations on this satisfying dish, and one that piqued our interest is a Vietnamese-style baked chicken recipe that appears on Serious Eats. As explained by the recipe's developers Emily and Matt Clifton, a jam-packed marinade imbues the bird with tons of flavors, including those from fish sauce, fresh cilantro, and hot chile paste. 

But the marinade's standout ingredient just might be palm sugar, a traditional sweetener used in Vietnam that caramelizes in the heat of the oven and lends a deep golden color to the chicken's skin. Viet World Kitchen writes that palm sugar, a robust-tasting sweetener made from the boiled sap of sago or coconut palms, comes in a variety of styles and is used in a range of Vietnamese dishes. You might recognize it from Vietnam's famous caramel sauce, which isn't a dessert item but is rather used to baste rich meats such as pork belly and ribs.

Viet World Kitchen advises looking for sugar at Chinese and Southeast Asian markets, and it's also available online. But if you can't locate it, Serious Eats counsels swapping in dark brown sugar.