Thai Grilled Cornish Hens with Chili Dipping Sauce (Gai Yang)
Why This Recipe Works
For our take on Thai grilled chicken, we started with Cornish hens, which are similar in size to the hens traditionally used by chicken vendors in Thailand. Butterflying and flattening the hens helped them cook more quickly and evenly on the grill. We created a marinade consisting of cilantro leaves and stems (a substitute for hard-to-find cilantro root), lots of garlic, white pepper, ground coriander, brown sugar, and fish sauce; thanks to its pesto-like consistency, it clung to the hens instead of sliding off. We set up a half-grill fire and started cooking the hens skin side up over the cooler side of the grill so the fatty skin had time to slowly render while the meat cooked; then we finished them over the hotter side to crisp the skin. We whipped up a version of the traditional sweet-tangy-spicy dipping sauce by combining equal parts white vinegar and sugar and simmering the mixture until it was slightly thickened and would cling nicely to the chicken. Plenty of minced garlic and Thai chiles balanced the sauce with savory, fruity heat.