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It Smells Like Vagina in Here

Posted by Sunday on Dec 13, 2009 at 6:48 pm

It’s a rough way to get off to dinner.  The pungent, lingering odor of what can only be described as, well, ladymeat.  It’s fish sauce, so there is definitely a fishy quality to it, but if we’re being honest here I’ve got to say that it doesn’t smell like fish as much as the already overmentioned bagina — and I’m not even a full paragraph into this recipe yet.  Fish sauce possesses a salty, musky odor that fish alone doesn’t have, and while not unpleasant, it is unnerving at best.  So, maybe not every-day Cupie odor, but certainly post-gym sans-shower.

So anyway, hungry?  This is one of my all-time favorite recipes that I have until now entirely forgotten to share with you.  It was originally a New York Times article in early 2008, and some very cursory and half-hearted searches for “iron pot chicken” on Vietnamese cooking sites has turned up firstly that it is probably actually ga kho to, or “clay pot chicken,” and secondly that there are as many versions of it as there are versions of chocolate chip cookies.  And I don’t want to turn into one of those people who gets all choked up on whatever traditional method there might be for a recipe – in all honesty, I don’t care.  I love this version and will likely never stray from it.


Anyway, it’s stupidly easy.  You start by cooking onions down in fish sauce and sugar until it starts to caramelize.  You don’t need an iron or clay pot for this, and while it might be nice if you happen to have one, it’s one of those circumstances where I’m all, dude, just get out the frying pan.  It’ll be okay.  Of course, this is where is starts to smell.  I never experimented with my own gender, but take of this what you will: I find the smell of onions and fish sauce cooking to be painfully intoxicating.


By far the trickiest part of the recipe is being brave enough to caramelize the sugar.  I took the above photo just before I added the chicken, and it was maybe two or three minutes too soon.  It could have been darker.


Anyway, the chicken immediately starts to weep juices and the caramel is reduced to a sauce in no time.  I find that there are two important factors with this dish: the first is that using white meat is a total mistake.  The longer the chicken can simmer in the sauce, the more delicious it gets, but white meat just can’t take more than a few minutes of cook time.  The second issue is that the pieces should be fairly small, smaller than bite size but not too small.  About the size of sugar cubes.  This provides the best ratio of surface-to-interior on the chicken pieces, allowing for more of the chewy, salty-sweet ambrosia that is in store for you.


The result is incredible, far more than the sum of its parts and certainly one of the easiest one-dish meals I make.  Besides, the allure of announcing “Vagina Chicken” for dinner is too compelling to pass up.

Vagina Chicken
serves two or three – recipe is easily doubled and the leftovers are just as good if not better.  My recipe is altered somewhat from the original, found here.  A note on fish sauce (‘nuac mam’ in Vietnamese): get a decent brand like 3 Crabs (it has three crabs on the label) or my second-favorite, Squid.  For christ’s sake, don’t get the Thai Kitchen garbage.  Also: the chicken can be replaced with just about anything – shrimp, pork, tofu, whatever.

4 Tbsp. fish sauce
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 T. vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, cut into eighths
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into sugar-cube sized pieces
1-inch knob of ginger, chopped fine
lots of fresh ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 C. chopped fresh cilantro

optional – fresh Thai bird’s eye chilis

  • In a medium-hot pan, saute the onions in the vegetable oil just until warmed through, about a minute.
  • WAIT, I ALMOST FORGOT!  Start cooking your rice now, if you’re going to have rice.  Phew!  I was almost too late.
  • To the onions, add the fish sauce and the sugar,  stirring  to dissolve the sugar.  Again, over medium-high to high heat, continue cooking, stirring occasionally to distribute everything, until the sauce starts to caramelize.  Depending on how hot your pan is, this can take as little as 5 and as much as 10 minutes.  If this step makes you nervous, just go slow and it’ll be alright.
  • Add chicken to the caramel and continuously stir for a few minutes, making sure to really saturate each piece with caramel and gently scraping and dark bits off the side of the pan.  Add the chopped ginger and the fresh pepper.  Rather than cook with hot chilis, I prefer using lots of really good quality fresh ground black pepper.  In fact, I often call this “Vietnamese pepper chicken” at home because calling it “iron pot chicken” doesn’t help Mike remember what it is.  Turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking until the juices and sauce have reduced by about half, another 10 minutes or so.  In fact, in the past I’ve forgotten to cook the rice and have turned the heat down to low while the rice cooks for 25 minutes, and the chicken turned out as good if not better.
  • When chicken is done, add the chopped cilantro.  It can take a lot, so really load it up.
December 13th, 2009 | Make It So

11 Responses to It Smells Like Vagina in Here

  1. I always thought it smelled like penis curd, and right when you open the bottle, especially when it gets on your fingers, and you can’t resist giving it a whiff, that sweet, sweet penis curd smell, or in your case, dank vagina. It must be a boy/girl thang.

  2. Sunday says:

    Interesting! I suppose I should refrain discussing this anymore since my parents are freshly disappointed with me, but I have to say that I find it interesting that the fish sauce thing might be universally sexual and not just feminine.

  3. alice says:

    dude now that i have an uncircumcised son, i can confirm the penis-funk and its resemblance to general vaqina-funk. it’s gnarly. also i always feel compelled to state that fish sauce smells like vagina but i’m always afraid someone will retort with, “THAT’S WHAT YOUR VAGINA SMELLS LIKE?” so i never say anything. totally enticing/revolting at the same time, ahhhh. i also think it smells like cat food, the canned shit.

  4. Andrea says:

    Hi! You gave me steak tips a while ago. THANKS! I just made this and OMG it’s amazing. It really does smell like vagina and taste like heaven. I also like to stink up the house with foreign smells.

  5. Sunday says:

    YEEAAAH, BUDDY! Jesus, I didn’t think anyone was going to try it after what I said about it. I’m glad you like it!

  6. Kristina says:

    Lady meat and penis curd. I’m absurdly happy I found this blog. My mother cringes when I say things like “man goo” and “baby batter.”

  7. alice says:

    that’s probably because “man goo” and “baby batter” are fucking repulsive omfg

  8. Kristina says:

    Fortunately she has a better sense of humor than most and understands we delight in getting a rise out of her.

  9. Maria says:

    Trying this tonight, crossing my fingers I can get the smell out of the apartment :)

  10. Rose says:

    I was making an entirely different dish the other day, and it included some chicken tossed in garlic and fish sauce and sugar and then sauteed. While it was cooking, I turned to my husband and said, “this smells like…” and he was like, “yeah.” And I knew I had to come back and find this post. So, thanks for that.

  11. Nishi says:

    No wonder I got a boner when I opened up that bottle of fish sauce

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