Try a Central Highlands style chicken feast

May 12, 2024 - 10:39
Cơm Gà Trúc Linh, a small, simple chicken restaurant on National Road 20 is must-visit place with free-range chicken delicacies, especially boiled chicken

By Đình Nhi

I recently returned to the Central Highlands city of Đà Lạt, a six-hour drive from HCM City, after more than two decades.

For my twins, it was their first visit to a place where they found everything amazing.

The main aim of our trip was to relax and take in the wonders of the Central Highlands, but also discover some local food specialities.

It was lunch time and we were still more than an hour from Đà Lạt, so we stopped at Cơm Gà Trúc Linh, a small, simple chicken restaurant on National Road 20.

But full confession: Cơm Gà Trúc Linh was not our first choice and we only planned to nip in, quickly fill our empty stomachs and nip out. And then we found the place was fantastic and every single chicken dish was spectacular, and we fully indulged ourselves.

LOW-KEY EATERY: Cơm Gà Trúc Linh is a must-stop place for food on National Road 20 when you travel to Đà Lạt. VNS Photos Minh Phi

Though the restaurant is well-known for its boiled free-range chicken and dishes made of chicken organs, which are especially delicious, also on the list are many other items including eel, grilled pork ribs and stir-fried beef.

But the chicken dishes are the most popular for the stunning way in which they are cooked.

Chicken is made in several different ways - boiled, roasted, grilled, deep-fried, braised with red chilli, citronella and turmeric, and salad.

Boiled chicken broth, juicy and fragrant, is used to make a selection of savoury dishes including porridge, hotpot, sour soup, and chicken rice.

Hungry, I quickly scanned the reasonably priced menu and asked for some of our favourites - a large portion of boiled chicken (VNĐ125,000), a chicken salad (VNĐ150,000) and a combination of sour chicken soup with chicken rice (VNĐ120,000).

I thought it would be more than enough for the three of us.

When the food arrived, we thought it was the most wonderful chicken spread we had ever seen.

My stomach started grumbling and my mouth started watering.

I straightaway dug into the boiled chicken.

The dish is accompanied by fresh aromatic local herbs and assorted pickles, and a spicy and sour-sweet fish sauce dip.

GOLDEN DELICIOUS: Free-range chicken is the first choice for many at Cơm Gà Trúc Linh.

Unlike in the north, here in the Central Highlands - and also in the rest of the south - we don’t eat boiled chicken with lemon leaf strips.

At Trúc Linh, the boiled chicken is served with aromatic herbs like rau răm (laksa leaves) and mint leaves, and of course the fish sauce, spiced with chopped ginger and chilli.

Done to a turn, the chicken was completely different from the ones I normally buy in supermarkets. The meat was as firm and tasty as it could be and the skin was crunchy and an eye-catching yellow from fresh turmeric.

“We serve only free-range chicken and, more importantly, the way we cook our chicken dishes is unique and in our secret family style,” the owner of the restaurant, who also wanted to keep their name secret, said.

I loved the meat while my twins wolfed down the skin and said: “We have never had such delectable chicken, especially the skin. We just love it, Mom.”

I myself cannot stand chicken skin and never eat it, but I’ll take their word for it.

I next tried the chicken rice. Cooked with the broth and fresh turmeric, the yellow-coloured rice had a glossy look and gentle aroma.

“Knowing that diners look for both taste and presentation, we try to do this,” the owner said.

“And to keep our guests coming back, we need to offer them a one-of-a-kind experience.”

Meanwhile, I was going bonkers over the rice and boiled chicken dipped in the spicy fish sauce.

A guest next to my table articulated my thoughts perfectly: “I love chicken dishes cooked this style.”

The lady, a regular customer there, went on: “The turmeric added to boil the chicken not only makes the chicken skin look enticing but also increases the flavour and aroma of the meat.”

When travelling, I love to try local flavours, and so the chicken salad, also a standout at Trúc Linh, was a no-brainer.

The chicken salad is as tasty and aromatic as it looks. VNS Photo Minh Phi.

It was a delicious mixture of meat and skin chipped into bite-size pieces, crab claw (or pepper elder) herb, red cabbage and sweet-sour vinegar with tropical herbs and crispy fried onions sprinkled on top.

The dish tasted and smelled as good as it looked. I myself ate more than half the plate along with the spicy fish sauce dip, and for the first time I saw my son eating chicken salad.

My daughter was however still only picking on it.

Then came the chicken sour soup cooked with lá giang or river leaf creeper and the broth. A fan of sour soup, I love it when made in the southern style with a delicate balance between sour and sweet.

I also found its aroma pleasing.

It was made exactly in the way I like, and so I treated myself to two small bowls of the savoury soup. It is an absolute must-try.

Cơm Gà Trúc Linh has no sweet dishes on the menu, and so we ended our meal without a dessert and headed for Đà Lạt. VNS


Cơm Gà Trúc Linh

Address: 401 National Road 20, Liên Nghĩa Commune, Đức Trọng District, Lâm Đồng Province

Phone: (0263) 3662255

Hours: 08am - 10pm

Comment: A must-visit place with free-range chicken delicacies, especially boiled chicken