Thai Grilled Chicken (Gai Yahng)




Cilantro Pesto

  • 2 teaspoons wholewhite peppercorns or 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaf, with stems
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped garlic

Sweet-Hot Garlic Sauce

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt, if desired
  • 1 tablespoon chili-garlic sauce (available in the Asian section of your grocery-I like Huy Phong brand, a.k.a. Rooster brand)


  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 lbs chicken pieces
  • hot cooked long-grain rice or jasmine rice


Prep Time: 2 1/2 hrs
Total Time: 3 1/4 hrs
  1. 1 To make pesto, crush or grind the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle or in a spice or pepper grinder (empty grinder first, then pour in the measured peppercorns and grind until empty). Combine pepper, cilantro, and garlic and work into a smooth paste with a mortar and pestle or in a food processor. Add a little oil or water if needed to facilitate the grinding.
  2. 2 To make sauce, combine sugar, water, vinegar, garlic, and salt in a small, non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat (Beware of the fumes! It will taste much, much better than it smells at this stage--vinegar fumes will make your nose itch and eyes water!). Stir to dissolve sugar and reduce heat to low. Simmer until slightly reduced and thickened to a light syrup consistency, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chili-garlic sauce. Cool to room temperature; if not using right away, transfer to a jar and seal tightly (can be stored at room temp for 2-3 days).
  3. 3 In a 1-gallon ziplock bag, combine 1/3 cup of the pesto (save remainder for another use), the soy sauce and the salt, if desired. Add chicken pieces and shake until coated. Cover and chill 1-2 hours, turning over now and then.
  4. 4 Prepare a hot coal fire or preheat a gas grill. Arrange chicken on grill and cook for about 45 minutes-1 hour (depending on size of pieces), turning now and then to cook evenly.
  5. 5 When chicken is done, transfer to a platter and serve with the sauce and some rice.

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