Published July 1, 2004.
Gai yang is popular Thai street food. Could we capture its complex flavors
Is it possible to bring the flavors of Thailand into the American kitchen (or backyard) without using an ingredient list as long as your arm and making several trips to Asian specialty stores?
Thai grilled chicken, or gai yang, is classic street food. This herb- and spice-rubbed chicken is served in small pieces and eaten as finger food, along with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. Thai flavors are wonderfully aromatic and complex, a refreshing change of pace from the typical barbecue.
After testing numerous rub combinations, the simplest version won out, made only with cilantro, black pepper, lime juice, and garlic, accented with the earthy flavor of coriander and fresh ginger. Now the chicken skin was wellflavored but the meat was not. The best solution proved to be the easiest: We took some of the rub and placed it in a thick layer under the skin as well as on top of it. Most recipes call for grilling the chicken over a single-level fire, but this resulted in a charred exterior and an uncooked interior. We tried a two-level fire (one side of the grill holds all of the coals; the other side is empty), first browning the chicken directly over the coals and then moving it to the cool side of the grill to finish cooking. This was a big improvement, but the chicken still wasn't cooking through to the middle. Covering the grill with a disposable foil pan, which creates a "mini" oven, solved this problem. The true Thai flavors of this dish come through in the sauce, a classic combination of sweet and spicy. Most recipes suffered from the extremes, but we found balance in a blend of sugar, lime juice, white vinegar, hot red pepper flakes, fish sauce, and garlic. We found it best to mix the sauce right after the chicken goes into the brine, which gives the flavors time to meld.list of recipes