The Unorthodox Epicure — Thai Grilled Chicken

Imagine this scenario: You pull into your driveway after a long day at work; you exit your car and the first thing that hits you is the aroma of whatever is cooking on the neighbor’s grill.  Oh, you’ve planned your menu and have insisted on sticking to it. But your Aunt Martha’s famous tuna casserole recipe just doesn’t compare with … whatever might be cooking next door. Ah, so you’ve experienced this? Me too.

You know what? It’s your turn to cause some culinary envy in the neighborhood. And Thai Grilled Chicken is just the ticket.

This main dish offers the savory goodness of the char with the bright flavors of Thailand.  Not to mention, it’s a consistency eater’s dream — with moist meat surrounded by crispy skin (my favorite part). I’ve taken a few liberties with my version of Thai Grilled Chicken. Then again, so do thousands of street vendors who hawk this deliciousness on the many byways of Bangkok. ~ It’s good enough on its own, but I urge you to try it with the Gai Yang sauce.

Thai Grilled Chicken (Gai Yang)

Thai Grilled Chicken (Gai Yang) — Give your neighbors grill envy. Take a culinary trip to the streets of Bangkok.

Thai Grilled Chicken (Gai Yang) — Cause some grill envy. Take a culinary trip to the streets of Bangkok.

1 – 3-5 lb whole chicken, butterflied then halved (see illustration below)
Marinade
Gai Yang Sauce

Place chicken in non-reactive dish and coat all sides with marinade. Cover and refrigerate at least 4-6 hours and preferably overnight.

Charcoal grill method
Fill a chimney starter with charcoal (about 6 lbs) and prepare charcoal for grilling. Place ready charcoal on one side of grill so as to be able to cook chicken using indirect heat. Grill chicken (with the legs closest to the heat source), flipping regularly, until thickest part of the breast registers 160F*, about 40 minutes. Move chicken directly over coals and grill until skin is golden-dark brown and crispy, about 5 more minutes. (Flip the chicken if it browns too quickly.)

Oven method
In a 400F oven, place chicken halves skin-side up on roasting rack above foil-lined pan and bake until thickest part of the breast registers 160F*. Set oven temperature to broil and cook until skin is golden-dark brown and crispy, about 5 minutes.

Place cooked chicken on a cutting board and allow to rest at least 5 minutes. Carve or chop and serve with Gai Yang Sauce for dipping.

*The USDA recommends an internal breast temperature of 165F. By broiling/grilling over direct coals and allowing the meat to rest 5-10 minutes, this internal temperature is easily achieved with this technique.

Marinade
3 Stalks – Lemongrass (You may use the paste available in most supermarkets)
6 – Garlic cloves
1 Bunch – Cilantro
1 TB – Dark soy sauce
1 tsp – Ground Coriander seeds
1 tsp – Freshly ground Black pepper
1/4 cup – Asian fish sauce
1/8 cup – Light brown or Turbinado (raw) sugar
2 – Kaffir Lime leaves (optional)

Place all ingredients in a food processor and combine until a thin paste forms (it will resemble a thin pesto).

Gai Yang Sauce
1/4 cup – Fish sauce
2 TB – Light brown or Turbinado (raw) sugar
2 TB – Tamarind paste thinned with 2 TB warm water
Juice of one Lime, plus leftover peel
1 – Kaffir Lime leaf, crumpled (optional)

2-3 – Thai chiles, minced (or 2 Chile de Arbol or Cayenne, minced)
2 – Garlic cloves, minced
1 – Shallot, minced

2 TB – Fresh Cilantro, chopped

Place chiles, garlic and shallot in a heat-resistant bowl (large enough to accommodate the other ingredients). Set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine fish sauce, sugar, thinned Tamarind paste, Lime juice and peel and Kaffir Lime leaf, if using. Bring to a simmer, stirring regularly to dissolve sugar. Once sugar is dissolved (about 5 minutes of simmering), turn off heat and pour liquid through a strainer into bowl containing chiles, garlic and shallot. Discard the solids in the strainer. Allow sauce to sit for about 30 minutes, stirring in Cilantro just before serving.

How to Butterfly a Chicken

Grab the bird by the tail. Using sharp kitchen shears, start cutting straight ahead. (You'll be cutting through some bones. No worries.)

Grab the bird by the tail. Using sharp kitchen shears, start cutting straight ahead. (You’ll be cutting through some bones. No worries.)

Cut upward on the other side, just as you did for the first cut. (Save this little piece for some chicken stock later on.)

Cut upward on the other side, just as you did for the first cut.
(Save this little piece for some chicken stock later on.)

 

Your bird is actually butterflied already. This illustration shows you how to cut the butterflied bird in half. — Just flip it over and cut up the middle of the breasts.

Your bird is actually butterflied at this point. This illustration shows you how to cut the butterflied bird in half. — Just flip it over and cut up the center of the breast.

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Comments

  1. This sounds wonderful and looks beautiful as well! We are the only people that grill on our street would be us so people envy the smells coming from our house – thank goodness!

  2. Foodgawker sent me here! What a great recipe! I can see why this would cause some neighborhood grill envy :-)

  3. Looks gorgeous, and YES, I have had that experience of sniffing around my neighborhood and wondering, “WHAT are they cooking?” (in a good way, LOL!).

  4. Look at the crispy skin on that chicken! Yes, I can see where the neighbors would be envious and probably be knocking on your door when you do this one. Very nice Adam, very nice.
    I thought we might be grilling yesterday if the storm knocked the power out but it turned out to be very light, fluffy snow and we kept our power. (See owning a generator really does keep the power on).

    • adamjholland says:

      I was waiting to hear from you about the snow and such. ~ Back in 1996 I worked a morning radio show in NJ and we had a blizzard during which more than three feet of the white stuff fell within a 24-hour period. Furthermore, we had 40 mph sustained winds. Needless to say, we were in a state of emergency and the station plow truck had to pick me up from home to get me to the studio. — My father (back in northeast Texas) called me and said “I understand y’all have some snow up there.” I responded “Dad, this is more snow than you can shake a stick at.” And then he said something that we joked about on the air that morning (and for years following): “Well.. It’s pretty cold down here too. My bird bath froze.”

      • Shelly Moore says:

        Love your food pics and recipes!!! I have a few Thai recipes I can make but this looks like it’s gonna be another one my hubby and I will really Love! Grilling season is here and we love to grill whenever we can. The sauce looks amazing too. May even use it on some spring rolls! :-)

  5. This looks SO good Adam! I’m a bit intimidated to cut up the chicken and grill, but with your illustrations – I think I can conquer it! If I chicken out (no pun intended) I’ll at least try the marinade and sauce on precut pieces!

    • adamjholland says:

      Thank you, Erin. Don’t be intimidated by the cutting. If something goes wrong, you still have the chicken to throw on the grill (in pieces, as you mentioned). Now, go conquer that chicken! ;-)

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