Chicken Tenders and Waffles with Vietnamese Caramel Sauce and Pickled Veggies is not your typical Southern fried chicken. It’s baked not fried and is spicy, sweet, and savory with a cool and crisp bite. And it’s a perfect savory option for a waffle bar. Jump to Recipe
Chicken Tenders and Waffles
During Restaurant Week in Oakland, I went to Clove & Hoof. It’s a cool butchery and restaurant in one. I had a Fish Sauce Caramel Fried Chicken Sandwich. As soon as I saw it on the menu, I had to get it.
I’m a huge fan of Vietnamese caramel sauce, which is made by melting palm sugar and fish sauce together. It is a thick sauce that’s equally savory (HUGE umami-packed flavor) and sweet.
When I was brainstorming recipe ideas for my sister’s bridal shower, it popped into my head as the perfect savory waffle option.
These waffles are almost the same as Monday’s Multigrain Waffles. I replaced the oat flour with cornmeal and added in some crushed peppercorns, Sriracha, Parmesan cheese, and smoked salt.
They can be made, frozen, and reheated in the waffle iron as well.
The Chicken Tenders
Frying a whole bunch of chicken on the same day as the bridal shower is my definition of hell. I decided to go with oven fried chicken to make life easier for me.
There is no grease and no standing over the hot stove frying chicken strips in small batches.
Vietnamese Caramel Sauce
To my knowledge, you can’t buy this stuff. Searching for it has gotten me no results. Vietnamese caramel sauce is similar to stir-fry sauces and that’s how it’s often used in Vietnamese cuisine.
I first attempted to make Vietnamese caramel sauce from Charles Phan’s cookbook, The Slanted Door: Modern Vietnamese Food (that’s an affiliate link) and it turned out horrible. Eventually, I found a video of him making it and it was so much easier than what was described in the cookbook. Just to let you know though, that cookbook is still awesome, that was the only recipe so far that hasn’t turnred out.
It’s like making simple syrup but you use solid pieces of palm sugar and fish sauce. You have to heat the sugar and fish sauce over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves and the sauce reaches your desired thickness.
I went with carrots and cucumbers because they’re easy but you could use any veggies you wanted. You can pickle them separately or together, whatever you want.
Some other options I’m thinking of adding on top of the carrots and cucumbers is chilies, radishes, and zucchini.
A lot of people love spring. And I want to love spring. I would LOVE to love spring. But allergies do their best to kill me every year. I’m on my third cold (it’s my second head cold) and I’ve coughed so much my ribs and chest hurt.
I get intermittent joint aches throughout the day and I can’t taste or smell anything. Which makes food blogging and planning a bridal shower really hard. Time is flying by and my knees are beginning to shake. I think I need a cheer squad to help me get pumped up.
It’s also my birthday tomorrow and I can’t bring myself to get excited. I’m feeling better but I’m still sick, my allergies are still horrible, and I didn’t have time to create a birthday cake for myself like last year. But maybe I’ll rally and try to invent something tonight? Here’s what I made for myself last year:
It’s a Cayenne Chocolate Cake with Goat Cheese Buttercream, Roasted Cherries, and Coffee Ice Cream.
Chicken Tenders and Waffles with Vietnamese Caramel Sauce and Pickled Veggies
Vietnamese Caramel Sauce
- 1 and 1/3 cups pure palm sugar pieces, chopped
- 2/3 cup fish sauce*
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup carrots, peeled and shredded
- 1 cup cucumber, peeled and julienned
- 1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 eggs, whites and yolks separated
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha
- 1/3 cup whole spelt flour
- 1/3 cup millet flour
- 1/3 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated feel free to use whatever cheese you want
- 1 to 1.5 teaspoons freshly ground peppercorns you can use black or you can mix it up with black, white, and green, etc.
- 1/4 teaspoon Yakima Applewood Smoked Salt or other smoked salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/4 cup potato starch, tapioca starch, or cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes) or cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Yakima Applewood Smoked Salt or other smoked salt
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 egg
- dash Yakima Applewood Smoked Salt
- dash Sriracha sauce
- 1 to 2 cups panko
- 1 cup Vietnamese Caramel Sauce or to taste
Vietnamese Caramel Sauce (2 minutes prep, 10 minutes cook)
In a medium saucepan, cook sugar on medium-low for 6 to 8 minutes until melted. Add the fish sauce and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved and the liquid is no longer cloudy.
Or you can combine the sugar pieces and the fish sauce in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until all the sugar has dissolved. Either way you make the caramel sauce, the longer you cook the sauce, the thicker and more concentrated the flavor will be.
Strain the sauce and pour into a mason jar. Let it come to room temperature before covering and storing in the fridge.
Pickled Veggies (10 minutes prep, 30 minutes to 8 hours rest)
Add the sugar and salt to the vinegar in a large bowl and stir until fully dissolved.
Toss in the carrots, cucumbers, onions, and any other vegetable you’d like to have. Consider radish, beets, zucchini, peppers, chilies etc. You don’t have to just do carrots and cucumber. Cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes. You can also leave them overnight in the fridge.
Waffles (10 minutes prep, 10 minutes rest, 10 minutes cook)
In a glass or stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and hot sauce until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk until just combined. Gently fold in the egg whites. Don’t worry if the batter is lumpy, that’s a good thing.
Let the batter sit for 10 minutes while you let your waffle iron preheats.
How much batter you use will depend on the size of your waffle maker. I have an American-style waffle maker that makes four squares at a time. I drop a 1/4 cup batter into the center of each square. Close the lid and remove the waffles when the timer goes off or the waffle appears golden brown across the top and steam stops streaming out from the sides of the waffle maker. Serve immediately.
To freeze the waffles, first, let them cool completely. Once cool, wrap each individual waffle in plastic wrap. Then either wrap two in foil or place them in freezer ziplock bags.
Take a waffle out of the freezer when you want one and reheat it in the waffle iron for 3 to 5 minutes or until it's crispy again and warmed through.
Chicken Tenders (20 minutes prep, 12 minutes cook)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the chicken strips into 1-inch thin pieces.
Mix the flour, cornstarch, hot pepper flakes, turmeric, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a shallow bowl.
Mix the buttermilk, egg, Sriracha, and a dash of salt in another shallow bowl.
Pour the Panko crumbs into a shallow bowl. Start with 1 cup and then add more when that gets low or soggy.
Dredge the chicken strips in the flour mixture, then the buttermilk mixture, and then the Panko. Place on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until crispy on the outside and lightly browned.
If you just made the caramel sauce and it's still warm, skip this step. If you've stored it in the fridge, it will be really thick and hard to spread. While the chicken cooks, heat the caramel sauce in a small saucepan over low heat. This will make it a little easier to spread on the chicken.
Brush or drizzle the chicken strips with the caramel sauce. And serve immediately.
Take fresh waffles or freshly reheated waffles and drizzle a little caramel sauce on top. Add a chicken tender and top with the pickled veggies. Serve with a drizzle of more Vietnamese Caramel Sauce or a little Sriracha sauce if desired.
*Look for fish sauces that don't add any sugar, caramel coloring, or other unnecessary ingredients. My favorite brand is Red Boat (affiliate link), it only has anchovies and sea salt.
I know this looks intimidating, but you can do most of the parts on separate days.
Both the Vietnamese caramel sauce and waffles can be made weeks in advance. I store my caramel sauce in the fridge for a long time because the ingredients last as long as they are refrigerated. Freeze the waffles and reheat them in 5 minutes.
The pickled veggies can be made the night before.
The chicken tenders need to be made the day of and the fresher they are, the better. They taste fine as leftovers but the crispiness disappears and can't be brought back by reheating the tenders in the oven or over a hot skillet.