Here's a question: what are the culinary uses of an empty aluminium coke can? Hack them in half with a pocket-knife to form individual muffin molds? Cut carefully with scissors and flatten for a makeshift plate? Pop art kitchen mobiles, perhaps?
In Hanoi, a quarter of a chicken is jammed into this icon of western culture, along with an assortment of medicinal herbs, roots, seeds and berries and sat to steam in a big old pot of simmering water. This unique 'soft drink' is called ga tan, which essentially means 'fall-off-the-bone chicken'. Originating in China - the dish, not the coke can ingenuity - is said to have restorative benefits, including easing of ailments such as constipation, asthma, backache and menstrual cramp. Add in diarrhoea and hangover assistance and the chemist would be out of business. 'Ga tan, the miraculous cure-all!'
Much as I would like to take credit for experimenting with this innovative technique myself, it would be a big porky pie if I did. I picked up my bird stuffed coca-cola tins at a little ga tan stall that sits on a platform on the side of Yen Phu Street, which runs parallel along the north end of West Lake and is itself a bloody interesting grub street. They had been cooling their claws in my freezer for a week when I had an 'I-can't-be-stuffed-going-out-to-eat-moment' the other night.
I banged the birds on the thaw for a bit - no time at all, in the oven that is Hanoi in summer. Mother Hubbard tossed out some gourmet Thai rice which just had to do as a bed for the chook. Half an hour or so later, I tipped my birds out of their steamy coke cages, their sluiced juices awash with a medicine of lotus seeds, angelica root, artemisia, a single prune (aha...the constipation remedy) and....who knows what the little orangey berries are?
The result is luscious, much like a slow braise where the flesh falls off the bones and, inexplicably defying gravity, falls into one's mouth. The juice tonic is delicately bitter, which surely means I'm cured of that which ails me.Details
Four cans - 40,000 VND (USD$2.50, AUD$3.30)
88 Yen Phu St.