I was twenty years old the first time I stepped into a Thai restaurant, The Pink Pepper, in Phoenix. I grew up eating Mexican food so I was no stranger to chiles and garlic. Thai food incorporated those aromatics plus ginger, lemon grass, fish sauce and lime juice building a full-spectrum flavor bridge to a mouthful of sweet, spicy, sour, bitter and salty. One bite, that's all it took, and I was hooked - for life.
Although I have always enjoyed cooking, Thai food seemed like restaurant food to me. Great to have out on a Friday night but too difficult to make at home. That is until Linda discovered celebrity chef Tommy Tang in the early 90s at the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim. Tommy was there providing an animated cooking demonstration and promoting his new cookbook.
The first time I tasted this dish, Linda made it for my husband and me. We thought it was the best thing ever. Still do. I immediately bought Tommy's book. In it he writes that it is one of his most requested recipes. I bet. Not only is it absolutely delicious, but it would be next to impossible to deconstruct the recipe without his help. Since I have not been able to tell him in person, I will write it here: Thank you, Tommy. The world is certainly a better place when I share Thai Spicy BBQ Chicken with Sweet Chili Sauce with my family and friends.
For best results, the chicken should rest in the marinade overnight in the refrigerator. I've even let it go two days. My friend Victoria, who lives in Greece, can attest that we even let it go three days (quite unintentionally). It cooked up just fine although it had a distinct green color, which was kind of strange. We called it neon chicken as an inside joke for quite some time.
To use Tommy's slogan, "Let's get cooking."
Thai Spicy BBQ Chicken with Sweet Chili Sauce
This is one of our favorite entrees served with Pineapple Fried Rice and Asian Slaw. The recipe is adapted from "Tommy Tang's® Modern Thai Cuisine" by Tommy Tang (Doubleday, 1991). Leftover chicken, if there is any, is terrific on Thai Pizza or transformed into a kind of Thai Chef Salad with Dragon Noodles and Ma-La Green Beans decoratively sprawled over fresh greens with mango and avocado.
Two 13.66-fl. oz. cans coconut milk, preferably Thai Kitchen®
1 cup garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup ginger, unpeeled
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Thai fish sauce, preferably Thai Kitchen®
1/4 cup curry powder
2 Tbsps black pepper
2 Tbsps white pepper
2 Tbsps granulated sugar
1 Tbsp tumeric
6-8 pounds of chicken: whole and halved, or pieces (breasts or thighs)
Sweet Chili Sauce:
1 cup water
1 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Sweet Ginger Chili Dip, preferably The Ginger People®
2 Tbsps tamarind paste
2 Tbsps fish sauce, preferably Thai Kitchen®
2 Tbsps lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 Tbsps tomato paste
2 tsps garlic, finely minced
1 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp roasted red chili paste, preferably Thai Kitchen®
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp all-purpose flour mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
1. For the Marinade: In a food processor, using the steel blade, turn machine on and drop the garlic and ginger through the feed tube and let machine run until finely minced. Scrape sides of bowl and add coconut milk, olive oil, fish sauce, curry powder, black and white peppers, sugar and tumeric. Pulse to combine.
2. For the Chicken: Remove fat from chicken and place chicken pieces in a large bowl, add marinade mixture and combine well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
5. To serve: Transfer chicken to warmed serving platter. Drizzle with Sweet Chili Sauce and pass more at the table.