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Thai Grilled Chicken with Sweet & Spicy Dipping Sauce

  • 40 m
  • 1 h 30 m
Naomi Duguid
“In this recipe for gai yang, or Thai grilled chicken, the chicken marinade is enriched with a little coconut milk, which keeps the meat moist during grilling. Prepare the sweet-and-spicy dipping sauce the day you want to use it, because it loses freshness quickly. If you prefer to use chicken breasts instead of thighs and drumsticks, use 3 bone-in breast halves and cut each in half crosswise for 6 servings total.”


    • Chicken
    • 3 medium cloves garlic
    • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns, coarsely ground
    • 2 tablespoons minced cilantro stems
    • Pinch of salt
    • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (see Tips)
    • ½ cup “lite” coconut milk
    • 4 pounds bone-in chicken drumsticks and thighs (about 12 pieces), skin removed, trimmed
    • Dipping Sauce
    • ½ cup rice vinegar or cider vinegar
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
    • ¼ teaspoon salt


  • 1 To prepare chicken: Combine garlic cloves, pepper, cilantro stems and pinch of salt in a large mortar or food processor or food mill and mash or pulse to a coarse paste. Transfer to a large bowl; stir in fish sauce and coconut milk. Add chicken and stir to coat with the marinade. Refrigerate, loosely covered, for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  • 2 Preheat grill to medium. (No grill? See broiler variation, below.)
  • 3 To prepare sauce: Heat vinegar to a boil in a small nonreactive pan. Add sugar, stir to dissolve it, then reduce heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and minced garlic; simmer for 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and stir in salt. Pour into a serving bowl and let cool to room temperature before serving.
  • 4 Remove the chicken from the marinade. (Discard marinade.) Oil the grill rack (see Tips). Grill, turning occasionally, until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part without touching bone registers 165°F, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • 5 Serve the chicken with the dipping sauce.
  • Make Ahead Tip: Prepare sauce (Step 3) and hold at room temperature for up to 4 hours.
  • Tips: Fish sauce is a pungent Southeast Asian condiment made from salted, fermented fish. Find it in the Asian-food section of well-stocked supermarkets and at Asian specialty markets. We use Thai Kitchen fish sauce, lower in sodium than other brands (1,190 mg per tablespoon), in our recipe testing and nutritional analyses.
  • Oil a grill rack before you grill to keep the food from sticking to the rack. Oil a folded paper towel, hold it with tongs and rub it over the rack. (Do not use cooking spray on a hot grill—it may cause a flare-up.)
  • Broiler Variation: Preheat broiler to high. Place chicken in a roasting pan and broil about 5 inches from the heat, leaving the oven door ajar. Check after 8 minutes or so; the chicken pieces should be browning. Turn them over and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part without touching bone registers 165°F, about 8 minutes more.
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