Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gai Yang, Thai Barbecue Chicken

Our last trip to Vina and Viet Hao markets didn't produce everything I've been wanting in the kitchen.  So I ordered some Healthy Boy brand sweet soy sauce from Import Food.  If you can't find it in Lincoln, they probably have it.  I ordered quite an assortment of staples and I'm looking forward to some more Thai and Vietnamese dishes.  But not to worry, Vung Tau is still on speed dial!

Last night I made a marinade for the chicken of oyster sauce, sweet soy sauce, garlic, fresh ginger, salt, pepper and satay seasoning from Penzeys.  Rinsed the chicken in cold water, patted it dry with paper towels and put it in a dish deep enough to let the marinade cover it.  Before I poured the marinade on, I rubbed the chicken with lime halves.  The longer you marinate this, the better.  If you're pressed for time, let it sit for at least two hours.

When I got home this evening, I quick thin sliced a cucumber, half a red onion and a whole deseeded jalapeno.  In a bowl went a half cup cider vinegar, sugar and salt.  Whisk this up till the sugar and salt are dissolved and toss in the veggies.  Chill this in the fridge while your grill is heating and while cooking the chicken.  I put the chicken skin side down right over the hot coals for no more than a minute to sear the skin and give it nice grill marks.  Then moved it away from the heat, covered the grill and 40 minutes later it was done.  Serve some sticky rice and sweet chili sauce with this and you'll love it. 


the DISH said...

you sure know your grilling, mate. looks excellent.

Mr. T said...

Very nice! This is a northeastern Thai favorite. If I still had my mortar and pestle I'd make you some mean som tam to go with that.

Chris said...

Thanks for the comments guys!

Hey T, our household loves papaya so I bet we'd love som tam! Do you have a recipe you'd share? It's really made with the unripe fruit?

Mr. T said...

Ahhh, yes! Let me try my best. First, a few key fundamentals:

1. Yes, the base of som tam is raw papaya, not the ripe (i.e. orange), juicy, sun-drenched papaya that is enjoyed by so many. You need an unripe papaya that has meat which is pale greenish-white in color, almost like the meat color of an apple. Thus, its not nearly as flavorful as ripe papaya is. But it serves its purpose as a base. This may be quite hard to find in Lincoln because no one wants unripe papayas.

My suggestion is that you start at the Asian grocery on 27th st. connected to the Thai House restaurant. The owner of the grocery is Thai. If you tell them you want an unripe papaya for som tam they might be able to help you.

2. Portion size is small, compared to what one in the states might consider for a “salad”. If you do a google image search, you will see that most portions of som tam are not that big, but enough to occupy a medium or small plate.

Its certainly not a “main dish” but eaten sparingly along with a protein like chicken or fish and plenty of sticky rice. So the proportions I will provide here are based on this typical size of som tam that one would find in Thailand or Laos.

3. There are variations in som tam, and different kinds of supplemental ingredients one can add to it. Personally, I prefer som tam thai (Thai style som tam). I think its better than its Lao variant (which uses fermented fish sauce that really overpowers it for me). These directions are for a typical som tam thai.

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

After you clean and skin your papaya, you’ll need to cut up the meat into “threads” to make the base. I’d refer you to photos online to get an idea of the size of these threads.

Now, som tam vendors have a way of doing this with big butcher knives, but for sake of practicality (and safety) you could probably just use a carrot shredder. The size of the papaya chunks will probably be about the same and it won’t affect the taste. You’ll need about a large handful of the papaya threads for one dish (so you’ll end up not using much of the papaya at all).

In your mortar (and one does not need a mortar but that is how its traditionally made) put in:

2-3 cloves of garlic (skin on).

2-4 birds eye chilies (Mexican groceries will have these). 2 chilies have about as little heat as one would want to still make it a good som tam. 4 is a bit too much in my opinion but it really depends on your tolerance for heat. If its too violently hot, it ruins the som tam in my opinion.

A rounded tablespoon of sugar (brown or white – brown is more “country”). This will be your sweet taste so adjust according to taste.

A few swishes of Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce. This will be your salty taste. Again, adjust according to taste. In my opinion, too much is overpowering (and smelly).

2 cherry tomatoes.

A quarter of a lime. Squeeze the juices into the mortar and then just drop the whole thing in.

A small handful of fresh, uncooked green beans. Maybe 3-5 green beans total.

That’s it!

Mr. T said...

Now mash that mixture up in your mortar so the tomatoes, garlic and chilies are all broken up and the juices mix together (mashing for about 30 seconds to a minute should do). If there is not enough liquid, add in a little water.

Then throw in your papaya, and stir it all up. Also add a small handful of roasted peanuts (for texture and taste). If you have tiny dried shrimp (again, Mexican stores will have this), throw a table spoon or so in as well (this will also add to the salty taste – its optional).

Enjoy! Spoon it out of your mortar onto your plate.

Be careful to NOT eat one of the mashed up chilies as it will still be very hot. One should “pick it out” with a fork while its on the plate (along with the squeezed lime).

By the way I have a good shot of a very typical plate or som tam thai back at lincolnite as well. It’s a little bright because I had to use a flash as I was inside when I took it, but you’ll get the idea:


This is the usual portion size and typically, 2 or even 3 people might share this plate.

Chris said...

Awesome info T!! Thanks for the assist and I'll be searching for papaya this weekend.

Mr. T said...

Cool, let us know what you discover!

Mr. T said...

By the way - there is a really good food photography blog I follow regularly - and they just posted some nice photos of som tam vendors (the Lao version - pic 3 and the last pic) along with other lao food, like gai yaang (grilled on a stick of course - pics 1 and 2).

DeNise said...

Hi Chris! Mindy just told me about your blog. Really neat, love all the cooking and think you should show more photos your backyard. Does Mindy know about the photo of her with Zack? Love it! Have thought about starting my own blog, but kind of nervous. Started on Facebook a year ago and is a nice way to stay in touch with family and friends. Tried to get Mindy to go online. But can understand her reluctance. Take care and have a great weekend.

Roxanna said...

Yummy! I've never thought that barbecue chicken goes well with sticky rice. I'm gonna try this at home.

I'm going to use the best gas barbeque accessories that my Grandma gave me last Christmas. It goes with a brand new quality Weber portable barbecue from my Dad too. Thanks for sharing the Thai Barbecue Chicken recipe, Chris! I really appreciate it.