This common dish can be found sizzling on charcoal grills at nearly every street-food stall, often hawked on large sticks as if they're giant chicken lollipops. It is a savoury, sweet staple and a great option for those who can't handle spicy food – those who crave Thailand's famous heat can go heavy on the accompanying sides of sweet or hot chili sauce.
Note: In Thai cooking, the whole of the coriander plant is used. Washed roots and stems are mixed into curry pastes and marinades, while leaves are reserved for garnish.
Isan Grilled Chicken Kai Yang
1 whole chicken, about 3 lbs, backbone removed
1/2 cup coriander roots and stems, washed and chopped
4 garlic cloves
2 3-inch segments lemongrass, smashed
2 tbsp palm or light brown sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 Thai bird’s eye chili pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Herbed Nam Prik
1/2 cup Nam Prik
1 tsp garlic, chopped
2 tbsp finely mint, chopped
Spicy Chili Sauce
6 cherry tomatoes
3 Thai bird’s eye chili peppers
2 shallots, quartered
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp cilantro
1 tbsp fish sauce
Pinch of sugar
Isan Grilled Chicken Kai Yang: Cut chicken in half between breasts. With a mallet flatten the breast so the chicken is of even thickness. Run a skewer up through the drumstick and breast. Run a second skewer through the thigh and breast, parallel to the first skewer. This makes it easy to turn over the chicken.
Add garlic, lemongrass, sugar, fish sauce, chili, ground coriander and turmeric into a food processor and process until finely chopped.
Pour over chicken and leave to marinate for 4 hours or overnight refrigerated.
Preheat grill over high heat and lightly grease grates with 1 tbsp oil. Place chicken halves onto grill, skin-side down to create grill marks, about 2 minutes, reserving marinade. Flip and sear on second side, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and turn off middle burner. Arrange chicken halves over turned off burner, skin side up and maintain a temperature of 400 F with the lid closed. Baste chicken with marinade and cook until juices run clear, about 30-35 minutes. Remove chicken to a platter, remove skewers and cut chicken into pieces. Serve with Herbed Nam Prik and Spicy Chili Sauce.
Herbed Nam Prik: Combine 1/2 cup Nam Prik with garlic. Stir in mint before serving.
Spicy Chili Sauce: Heat a skillet over high heat. Add cherry tomatoes, chilis, shallots and garlic and sear on all sides until lightly charred, about three minutes total. Remove stems from chilis. Transfer charred vegetables to a mini-chop or food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Stir in cilantro, fish sauce and sugar. Serve with grilled chicken.