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Thai Grilled Chicken (Gai Yahng)

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“Another recipe from Nancie McDermott's 'Real Thai'. This is my absolute favorite Thai recipe (the cookbook's spine is broken so that it always falls open to this recipe, that's how much I use it)! It's so amazingly good, yet really fairly simple. Apparently in northeastern Thailand, this is street food, halves of small grilled chicken sold by vendors as the delicious aroma fills the air. For a real treat, have your butcher halve Cornish game hens and grill those rather than chicken pieces or quarters. Prep time includes marinating time.”
3hrs 15mins

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. To make pesto, crush or grind the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle or in a spice or pepper grinder (empty grinder first, then pour in the measured peppercorns and grind until empty). Combine pepper, cilantro, and garlic and work into a smooth paste with a mortar and pestle or in a food processor. Add a little oil or water if needed to facilitate the grinding.
  2. To make sauce, combine sugar, water, vinegar, garlic, and salt in a small, non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat (Beware of the fumes! It will taste much, much better than it smells at this stage--vinegar fumes will make your nose itch and eyes water!). Stir to dissolve sugar and reduce heat to low. Simmer until slightly reduced and thickened to a light syrup consistency, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chili-garlic sauce. Cool to room temperature; if not using right away, transfer to a jar and seal tightly (can be stored at room temp for 2-3 days).
  3. In a 1-gallon ziplock bag, combine 1/3 cup of the pesto (save remainder for another use), the soy sauce and the salt, if desired. Add chicken pieces and shake until coated. Cover and chill 1-2 hours, turning over now and then.
  4. Prepare a hot coal fire or preheat a gas grill. Arrange chicken on grill and cook for about 45 minutes-1 hour (depending on size of pieces), turning now and then to cook evenly.
  5. When chicken is done, transfer to a platter and serve with the sauce and some rice.

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