This is my take on a Thai grilled chicken I had when I lived in Bangkok. It is very similar to the famous street-side grilled chicken (Gai Yang / ไก่ย่าง) you see gloriously butterflied on the roadside. The particular dish was found deep in the recesses of a Mall which is not that surprising if you have been to Bangkok. But still odd for a Westerner.
How in the world did I find myself in front of such deliciousness? Well, in Bangkok, malls there are often corridors, causeways and escalators that can completely discombobulate you. It was one fateful afternoon when I was aimlessly spinning around trying to find an exit to the outdoor world when I saw a café offering up some cheap eats. It was there that I had that beautifully grilled chicken or “gai yang”.
Now you may ask, “Well, how in the world did you manage to come up with a recipe?” It took a handful of tries/fails before I managed to crystallize those classic Thai flavors into one dish.
Thai Chicken Method (Gai Yang)
Using a CuisinArt or Vita-mix puree everything except for the chicken. Now, I used to make this for chicken legs but I eventually moved this recipe over into a spatchcocked chicken. It’s easier, juicier and a lot more affordable.
One of the important steps here is to create a smooth paste from the ingredients. To achieve that I generally put all the ingredients in the blender in this order; lemongrass (already sliced), coriander (ground, seeds, roots, tops), shallots, garlic, fish sauce, white pepper, palm sugar and a little annatto oil. This gives me the smoothest paste possible in the time I have along with some red coloring from the annatto seeds.
Another key part is to lightly…and I do mean lightly season the chicken with some fish sauce. I measure out about 1/2 teaspoon and rub it in. Let that sit while you are making your Gai Yang marinade.
Lastly cover the chicken with this herbal “arroy-d” paste for at least 6 hours. Don’t try and shortcut this part. It’s important to impart all the flavors here. This recipe uses a lot less sugar and salt but still packs a umami-kick.
If you have an outdoor grill you can simply get it ready and grill the chicken. When I lived in NYC I had to make certain things work in small spaces with a Le Creuset on the stove but now I have a glorious grill. Here is my method.
Thai-style Emerald Chicken
- 1 whole chicken spatch-cocked.
- 70 grams fresh lemongrass
- 70 grams coriander sprigs tops, stems and roots
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 60 grams French shallots
- 10 grams fresh garlic
- 1 tablespoon palm sugar
- 2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 tablespoon canola oil
- Lightly season the splayed chicken with some fish sauce.
- Put all the ingredients (in order) in a blender and puree.
- Massage the paste onto the chicken strips for a minute.
- Put everything in a container and let it marinate for a couple hours in the refrigerator.
- Heat the grill half on HIGH and half OFF.
- Spray some high-heat oil on the grill right before you place the chicken on.
- Heat the thighs first. Flip after you read a 140ºF reading.
- Sear, crisp, whatever for 5 minutes.
- Let it rest for 2 minutes.
Note: You can also do this with a stove top grill (e.g. Le Creuset)