My Thai Inspired BBQ Recipe

Grilling Chicken at Home

Labor Day may be the one holiday that isn’t celebrated in Singapore.  Either way, the summer-like weather inspires us to BBQ all year round and we’re entertaining a few friends this weekend.  I’m using my simple go to recipe for grilled chicken that’s a hit every time.

Grilled Chicken – Gai Yang on the Streets of Chaing Mai

The recipe is inspired by a Thai street food called Gai Yang.  It uses a classic marinade that is a mouthwatering seasoning for everything from chicken to pork to beef.  I prefer grilling chicken halves instead of boneless chicken pieces since meat always tastes better on the bone and it’s easier to maneuver .

First, a technique which I promise overcomes the common dilemma when grilling poultry….the tendency for the meat to dry out before it’s fully cooked.  I recommend brining chicken (just like brining a turkey), for several hours in a salt water solution to plump up the meat to prevent it from drying out when full cooked.  I soak the chicken in simple salt water solution for several hours.  I then continue to season the meat with an aromatic marinade to enhance the flavor.

When grilling, I get the chicken crispy brown on both sides bringing the internal temperature  to 170ºF.  Next, before cutting or serving, I rest the meat for at least 10 to 15 minutes…this allows the juices to disperse evenly.

Try serving this dish with my recipe for Nam Pla, a pungent Thai chili and garlic sauce.

Grinding Chilis for Nam Pla

Brine for Chicken
A large plastic container with a lid to hold the chicken halves
1/2 quart water
1/4 cup kosher salt or 1/8 cup table salt
1/8 cup granulated sugar

In a large sauce pan, combine the water, salt and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once the salt and sugar dissolves, turn off the heat. Add 2 large cups of ice to the brine and stir until the ice melts and the brine cools.

Place the chicken halves in the plastic container and pour the brine on top of the chicken until the meat is completely submerged. Seal the container with a tight lid and refrigerate the chicken for 3 to 4 hours. Drain and discard the brine and pat the chicken dry. Continue with the recipe below for the marinade.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic and Cilantro (Gai Yang) Thailand
Makes 4 servings

1 (5 lb) whole chicken, halved

2 shallots, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon Galangal or Chinese ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro stem, chopped
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/3 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar, chopped
1 tablespoon canola oil

Nam Pla Dipping Sauce
1 red Fresno chili, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoon carrot, grated
1 small Thai chili or serrano chili, thinly sliced into rings

To make the marinade, use a mortar and pestle or a mini-food processor to grind together the garlic, shallots, galangal, cilantro stem and black pepper in to a smooth paste. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to facilitate the grinding if necessary. Transfer the paste to a bowl and stir in the coconut milk, fish sauce, dark soy sauce, palm sugar and vegetable oil and mix well. Place the chicken halves in a large sealable plastic bag and pour the marinade into the bag. Seal the bag and use your hands to massage the marinade into the chicken pieces. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 4 hours.

To grill the chicken, oil the grate of a grill. Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off excess. Discard the marinade and place the chicken halves on the grill grate bone side down. Grill the chicken until crisp and golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Use tongs to flip the chicken and grill on the other side until brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover the grill and roast until the chicken reaches the internal temperature of 170°F on a meat thermometer, 20 to 25 minutes.

To roast the chicken in an oven, preheat the oven to 450ºF, place an oiled rack on top of a roasting pan lined with foil. Place the chicken halves bone side down on the rack and place the pan in the center of the oven. Roast the chicken in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 170°F on a meat thermometer, 50 to 60 minutes. To serve, remove the chicken halves from the grill or oven and let the meat rest for 10 minutes. Cut the halves into 3 pieces each and transfer chicken to a warmed platter and serve with the dipping sauce.

For the dipping sauce, use a mortar and pestle or mini-food processor to grind the chili, garlic and sugar to a smooth paste. Transfer the paste to a small bowl and stir in the fish sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar and water.  Garnish with grated carrot and sliced chilies. The dipping sauce can be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days.