We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thai Spicy BBQ Chicken with Sweet Chili Sauce

by Michelle

   Thai cuisine is so prevalent that it seems as if it has always been part of the American gastronomic landscape. It is hard to believe that once upon a time, say back in the late eighties, there were few Thai restaurants and even fewer publications dedicated to exploring the vivid flavors of Thai cuisine.
   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.

   Tommy Tang arrived in America from Thailand in 1972. Ten years later he opened his first restaurant in Los Angeles and then followed-up with a second location in New York. He came out with his own line of seasonings and marinades. Later Tommy had a cooking show on PBS. Tommy Tang's Modern Thai Cuisine cookbook has sold more than 100,000 copies. He rode the wave of success by giving his Thai food a decidedly western twist. Some have even gone so far as to call it California Thai. I call it tasty.
   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.
3. For the Sauce: In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients from the water through the flour, and bring to a boil over high heat, whisking. Reduce heat to low and simmer 4 minutes. Let cool. Serve at room temperature.

4. Final preparation: Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare charcoal grill. When the coals are ready, cook the chicken for about 25 minutes, turning as required. When the chicken has nice grill marks and looks to be about half done, remove to half-sheet trays lined with foil and coated with non-stick spray. Drizzle additional marinade over the chicken and bake in the oven until done, about another 25-30 minutes, rotating trays as necessary for even baking.
5. To serve: Transfer chicken to warmed serving platter. Drizzle with Sweet Chili Sauce and pass more at the table.

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