One of the easiest and most delicious dishes that my wife and I like to make at home is Gai Yang, or Thai-style grilled chicken. If you’re a regular reader of this site, you’ll remember that we served Gai Yang as the main course on our Diner en Blanc Singapore menu. While easy to cook and a joy to eat, especially with some sticky rice and some Thai sweet chilli sauce, the trick to making a great Gai Yang is to marinate the chicken (at least) overnight.
What actually goes into the marinade is actually quite personal. Every home or professional chef will have his or her own preferred ingredients and quantities. At its base, Gai Yang is chicken that has beem marinated with fish sauce, palm sugar, garlic and cilantro stems and then grilled over charcoal. That said, I’ve seen recipes that replace fish sauce with soy sauce or even oyster sauce, which while interesting, are not substitutions I would make.
When S and I took our little boy T to Bangkok at the end of July, we discovered that he enjoys Gai Yang just as much as we do. Which is fantastic. As he gets older, he’s been eating more and more “adult food”, so we’re always on the look-out for foods that we like that he also takes a shine to. It’s a lot easier to prepare one larger meal that the whole family can enjoy–as opposed to cooking a separate meal for the rugrat.
Of course, I was not at all surprised that T liked Gai Yang. It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t enjoy what has become one of Thailand’s most popular Thai street foods. Despite its association with Thailand, you should know that Gai Yang originally came from Laos, where it’s called Ping Gai (which literally means “roast chicken”). It came through Thailand via the Isan folks who live in the country’s northeast (which borders Laos).
When we do Gai Yang at home, despite having a Miele barbecue grill built into the island in our kitchen, we tend to roast the chicken in the oven. It’s simply easier and a whole lot cleaner.
I hope you give this simple but gorgeously aromatic and tasty chicken dish a try. I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes one of your own favourite easy recipes to whip up for yourself. And your kids.
Feeds 6-10 friends depending on quantity served to each person
6 boneless chicken thighs
6 coriander roots, scraped and chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped
1/2 cup kaffir lime leaves
1 tablespoon tumeric powder
3 tablespoons palm sugar
20 white peppercorns
6 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Using a small food processor or stick blender, mince and blend together the coriander, garlic, lemongrass, kaffir lime and peppercorns. You will likely need to add liquid in order to get your device to blend the ingredients more evenly, you can add the water or some of the fish sauce in now.
Transfer the spice paste to a large bowl and add in the rest of the fish sauce, water, and olive oil. Stir into a wet paste. Also add in the tumeric powder and palm sugar. Stir in order to dissolve the sugar.
Add the raw chicken thighs to the bowl and using your hands, work the marinade evenly all over the chicken. Transfer everything to a large ziploc bag. Let the chicken marinate in the fridge overnight.
When ready to cook, take your chicken out for 20 minutes prior to cooking so that it is not too cold when popping it in the oven.
Preheat your oven at 230 degrees Celsius.
Line an oven safe tray with aluminium foil. Spread the chicken out on the tray, skinside up. Roast for 20 minutes.
Take the chicken out, chop and serve with sticky rice and sweet chilli sauce.