A classic Thai street food, this Thai Grilled Chicken is so good that it almost converted a vegetarian. True story.
The marinade for this chicken is insane. It really is. The flavour is so good and I honestly think you’ll regret it if you don’t make a double batch. Because I promise, you will eat more than your fair share.
I call this “real” Thai Grilled chicken because it’s on the right side of that “line” between authentic and westernised. As with any traditional dish from any country or region in the world, there is no such thing as “the” recipe. Whether it be fried rice, chili con carne, paella, bolognaise or a beef bourguignon, there are countless variations, from family recipes passed down through generations to high end modern interpretations by top chefs around the world.
BUT….there’s a line. A line between a recipe staying true to its roots and being completely westernised. Not that there is anything wrong with westernising something. In fact, some of the most popular (and delicious!) Asian dishes in western countries aren’t even found in Asia – like Singapore noodles.
This Thai Grilled Chicken is a classic example of staying on the authentic side of the “line”. Even throughout Thailand, there are so many variations of Gai Yang. Different from region to region, restaurants to street food vendors to home style versions. But there are two key ingredients that make this authentic Thai – lemongrass and fish sauce. Omit either of these, and you can’t call it “real”!
In addition to lemongrass and fish sauce, the marinade for this chicken is packed full of other classic Thai ingredients – loads of garlic, a touch of sweet and a great hit of chili.
Traditionally, Gai Yang is served with a dipping sauce. I like making this with chicken thighs because it is such a juicy cut. And with such juicy chicken with a thick glaze on it, I find that a dipping sauce is not necessary. So instead, I incorporate the flavour of the dipping sauce into the Marinade.
Throughout Thailand, you’ll find Gai Yang made with different cuts of chicken and even butterflied whole chicken (my favourite – except I can’t get through a whole chook myself!!). You can make this with you favorited chicken cut, just adjust the cooking time. It is traditionally cooked over hot coals so you get that wonderful smokey flavour. But whether you cook this on your grill or even on your stove top, I promise you one thing – this will be the BEST Thai grilled chicken you’ve ever had. I really am not exaggerating when I say this almost converted a vegetarian into a carnivore.
Happy grilling! – Nagi x
- 2 lb / 1 kg chicken thigh fillets (skinless, boneless) (Note 1)
- 1 large lemongrass stalk , white part only very finely chopped (about 2 tbsp) (Note 2)
- 6 cloves garlic , minced
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tsp finely chopped red chili (optional but recommended)
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine , sherry or sake (Japanese cooking wine) (Note 4)
- 1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
- 3 tbsp brown sugar or palm sugar
- 2 tbsp honey (or 1 tbsp brown sugar)
- 1/2 tbsp black pepper (adjust to taste - this adds spiciness)
- Lime wedges
- Red chili , finely sliced (optional)
- Cilantro / coriander leaves (optional)
Place Marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag. Massage to mix.
Add the chicken into the ziplock bag and massage to spread the marinade over all the chicken. Marinate for a minimum of 3 hours, preferably overnight (up to 24 hours).
Remove chicken from the Marinade and discard the Marinade (unless baking in the oven - refer Note 3).
Heat the outdoor grill on medium high. Or heat 1/2 tbsp oil in a non stick pan over medium high heat on the stove.
Cook the chicken until golden brown - around 3 minutes each side.
Rest for a few minutes before serving with lime wedges on the side, and garnished with fresh chilies and cilantro, if using.
1. This recipe can be made with any cut of chicken, just adjust the cooking time to suit. If using chicken breast, I recommend adding 1 tbsp of oil to the marinade to help with the caramelisation.
2. Lemongrass is readily available in supermarkets in Australia (Coles, Woolworths, Harris Farms). Peel the outer green layers off to expose the white part at the bottom of the stalk. Only use the white / very pale green parts - the other parts are tough and "reed" like.
3. This can also be baked in the oven at 180C/350F for around 35 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of your fillets. Turn once and baste at least once (preferably twice) using the remaining Marinade.
4. The cooking wine is an important ingredient in this so I really urge you to use it if you can. But if you cannot, then use chicken broth.
Nutrition per serving.