Chicken porn (Thai grilled chicken, Gai Yang)

gai yang

Well, it’s actually just a Gai Yang, or Thai grilled chicken.  But it does look mildly obscene, don’t you agree?  The poor innocent chicken, stripped bare and spread out in a rather immodest position for all the world to see.  It’s also quite immoderately delicious, and inordinately easy to do.

There’s a term for this flatten out chicken, it’s called "spatchcock".  To spatchcock a chicken is to remove its backbone and flatten it out before cooking.  I doubt the folks grilling the chickens on the street in Bangkok know
the proper culinary term, but this is precisely how they do it over
there.  It makes things a whole lot easier to do a whole chicken on the grill.  I also think that it normalizes cooking time so that the breasts, legs, and thighs finish cooking at about the same time.  I’ve never had dried out breasts and undercooked thighs when grilled like this over low fire.

This chicken got a Thai seasoning rubbed all over and let marinated for a bit.  It doesn’t take that long, really, just prepare the chicken before you set your barbecue afire.  By the time the fire dies down enough to cook the chicken, the marinade will have done its job.

In Thailand, a grilled chicken like this is usually served with two sauces: one is often referred to as "grilled-chicken sauce", which is basically a sweetish chili sauce you can buy in a bottle, and the other is a Jaew sauce, which is basically this dressing I used in my Ugly Salad post last week.  You can use either, or both, or none at all. 

Thai Grilled Chicken

Gai Yang, Thai Grilled Chicken

5 cloves of garlic
2 stalks of lemongrass, use only up to about 3 inches from the root (optional)
1-2 tbsp of chopped cilantro roots or the bottom part of cilantro stalks
1/2 tbsp white and black peppercorns
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce
3 tbsp canola oil or other mild-tasting cooking oil
1 tsp turmeric powder (or curry powder if that’s all you have)
a dash of rice vinegar

Peel and finely chop the garlic.  Peel the tough outer part of the lemongrass, disgard everything but the inner stalks, about three inches from the root.  Finely chop the lemongrass. 

In a mortar or food processor, pound (or process) the garlic, lemongrass, cilantro roots, and peppercorns together.  In Thailand we use only white peppercorns, but I like to mix it a bit of black pepercorns in it as well.  You can do as you wish, or as your kitchen pantry dictates.  Work everything together into a fine paste.

Add the oyster sauce, fish sauce, oil, turmeric powder, and rice vinegar into the mortar and mix well.  You might need to take the paste from the mortar into a bowl before doing this, depending on the size of your mortar.

Spatchcock your chicken.  If you don’t know what to do, here’s step-by-step, illustrated instructions with from the Chron.  The only thing I suggest differently is to use a kitchen sheer instead of a knife to cut off the backbone–much easier that way, trust me.

Place your spatchcocked chicken on a large serving platter and massage the marinade paste all over that baby.  Let rest while you go take care of the fire.  Let the fire dies down to almost ember before you place the chicken on the barbecue.  You want to do this on a very low fire or your chicken will burn before it’s fully cooked.

Grill the chicken, basting a few times with the remaining marinade, until done.  Serve with a chicken sauce or Jaew sauce.

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20 Responses to “Chicken porn (Thai grilled chicken, Gai Yang)

  • Jessica said:
    May 13th, 2008 at 2:17pm

    Pim,
    How do they make those grilled beef skewers on the streets in Bangkok? My fiance and I thought we’d died and gone to heaven when, on a touristy walk around the streets of the Nana district, we stopped and had a couple of skewers. They pineapple and pepper at the end were an excellent finish, but I still dream about the spices on that beef. Any help?
    -Jessica

  • FatB said:
    May 13th, 2008 at 3:29pm

    I think the chicken was asking for it, walking around all delicious. What does she expect to happen?
    And you don’t have to spatchcock your chicken if you don’t mind rotating it, but you’re right that otherwise you can’t cook it evenly. And flatter will be faster anyways.
    BTW the term ‘spatchcock’ is probably more vulgar than the porn reference. Awesome.

  • Tommy said:
    May 13th, 2008 at 9:24pm

    I’ve also heard it referred to as “butterflying” the chicken. I did this last fall with a red chili paste rubbed underneath the skin, and it turned out great. I’ll have to give it a try it with the Jaew sauce!

  • Anne said:
    May 14th, 2008 at 1:42am

    Imagine, Pim, that in french cooking -but you must know thet- it is call “à la crapaudine” which means frog-like! Does it make it more attractive? Hum… I love when you make travelling around this small goosto planet. Thanks!

  • QQ said:
    May 14th, 2008 at 2:36am

    Hi
    My Husband totally crazy about Thai food. Can I use chicken leg to do it ?

  • fin said:
    May 14th, 2008 at 6:30am

    Perfect for a summer garden party :)

  • fin said:
    May 14th, 2008 at 6:32am

    Perfect for a summer garden party :)

  • Jayne said:
    May 14th, 2008 at 1:19pm

    Ah- I love gai yang! My husband and I make it often, most recently for a bunch of his music students after their juries. It’s always a hit, to say the least.

  • Janie said:
    May 16th, 2008 at 9:28am

    I know this is going to vary greatly, but ~approximately~ how long does the chicken stay on the grill?

  • Hillary said:
    May 16th, 2008 at 11:43am

    I love grilling season. That coal is such a fiery orange – nice picture.

  • Claudia said:
    May 16th, 2008 at 7:46pm

    I’ve been enjoying your blog for awhile & it’s a favorite. That chicken is on my this week-end to do list. It’s definitely BBQ weather here in Hawaii now. For us, that just means not raining!

  • swirlingnotions said:
    May 20th, 2008 at 10:57am

    Yum, yum, yum. We usually make Gai Yang with a fully dismembered chicken, but I like the whole spatchcock look.
    I traded in my charcoal grill for a gas one several years ago for recipe testing convenience, but photos like this one still make me miss my Weber Kettle :-( .

  • Maureen said:
    May 22nd, 2008 at 5:41am

    I’ve done the spatchcocked chicken a couple of times and it certainly makes the cooking and eating easier. Thanks for the gai yang recipe…grilled chicken was one of my faves when I lived in Bangkok.
    btw, the technique also works for a turkey.

  • We Are Never Full said:
    June 5th, 2008 at 1:37pm

    Spatchcocking creates the most moist chicken and it also allows for crispy skin. Hands down one of the best ways to cook it.

  • QQ said:
    June 18th, 2008 at 1:18am

    Just like to tell you.
    Even I didn’t add the cilantro roots and turmeric powder (replaced with curry power) my husband totally love it.
    Please share more of your secret dishes ^^
    Take care

  • Peko Peko said:
    June 23rd, 2008 at 8:22pm

    While this dish looks very delish, ‘Chicken Porn’ sounds *especially* unappealing to me! Ha ha.
    KyotoFoodieのPeko

  • Scott said:
    July 8th, 2008 at 4:33pm

    I always thought that a “spatchcock” chicken was called a “game hen”, also a misnomer.

  • Heidi said:
    October 12th, 2008 at 4:21pm

    It does look slightly violated! Thanks for the recipe and technique and also the chili sauce rec, I will have my eye out for it!

  • Tiffany Pendant said:
    February 8th, 2010 at 9:59pm

    I remember the headcheese on the charcuterie platter anywhere. And it helps that I was there 9 days ago.

  • Laundry Bags said:
    September 27th, 2010 at 11:22am

    This looks so great. Cool recipe and cool pictures.

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