Summer always seems to be synonymous with grilling and since it is summer here in the Bay Area I decided to grill tonight’s dinner. Like usual, I went to the grocery store this morning and got a whole chicken, some herbs and a green papaya. If you have ever been to Thailand then you will recognize these grocery items to be the main ingredients for the popular Isan (Isaan, Isarn, Isaan, or many other spellings) dish gai yang or literally chicken grilled. Isan is located in the northeastern part of Thailand. Every time I met a Thai person and they asked me my favorite dishes I would respond with dishes like: sticky rice, gai yang, som tum, and laab. They would always smile and reply, “you like Isan girl.” According to my favorite massuse it was because I looked like I was from Isan and because I liked the food. Regardless, every now and then I crave my Isan food.
Along the road where we lived was a little roadside restaurant that sold gai yang, khao neow (sticky rice) and somtum (green papaya salad). The Husband and I ate there many weekend mornings. We would go in the morning for breakfast and it was always delicious, not to mention so cheap that we could not understand it. I miss Thailand and the food but since I am fortunate enough to have learned the techniques of Thai cooking I can have it whenever I want. And tonight, a warm summer night was the night to have my Thai food.
Below is my recipe for gai yang.
What you will need:
whole chicken (butterflied*), 3-3 1/2 lb
1 stalk of lemongrass (just the purple), finely minced
10 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 T coriander root, finely minced (omit if you can not find)
3 T coriander stems, finely chopped
1/2 c light soy sauce
2 T dark soy sauce
2 T oyster sauce
2 T sriracha sauce
4 T brown sugar
1 lime, just the juice
1 T turmeric
1 T white pepper powder
charcoal bbq (or gas)
What you will do:
1. *Butterfly the chicken. Place the chicken on a cutting board, breast side down, tail facing you. With kitchen shears or a knife remove the backbone by making two cuts from the tail to the head of the chicken (save for a stock). Flip the chicken over and press down on the chicken at the top where the head would have been. Voila! Butterflied chicken.
2. In a bowl, make the marinade by combining the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary; you are looking for a sweet, salty, sour and slightly spicy marinade. Place chicken in a baking dish (or any other vessel that will fit) and pour marinade over. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight turning chicken periodically.
3. Heat up charcoals, when hot you want to put your coals to one side of your grill. This will create direct (over the hot coals) and indirect heat. Place marinated chicken skin side down over the direct heat to sear the chicken. This happens quick, about 3-4 minutes. Once your chicken has a nice sear, move to the indirect heat, cover your grill and cook until the chicken is done (165 degrees F). My chicken took almost an hour- low and slow kept the chicken juicy and moist.
This dish reminds me of the streets of Thailand. The flavors are so fragrant and well-balanced. It is extremely easy and, in my opinion, there is no better smell than chicken cooking on a charcoal grill (I am sure my neighbors are thinking the same thing, ha ha).
Cheers and happy eating!
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