Street-Style Grilled Chicken
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns, ground
  • 2 teaspoons minced lemongrass
  • 3 good-sized slices ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 small frying chicken, or 2 to 3 pounds chicken parts

Sweet chile sauce

  • 1/2 cup rice or cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
Time Estimates

Prep time: 15 min  

Cook time: 30 min  

Total time: 45 min  


  1. If using a mortar and pestle, grind the marinade spices first, then add the lemongrass, ginger, and garlic and pound to a paste. Transfer to a bowl large enough to hold the chicken and stir in the soy sauce and sugar. Otherwise, mince the lemongrass, ginger, and garlic together, transfer to the marinating bowl, and add the spices, soy sauce, and sugar.
  2. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Divide it into whatever form you find most convenient for grilling (split down the back and flattened, split into halves, "semi-boned" like the quail in Watercress Salad with Soy-Glazed Quail, or cut up into small parts), trimming off excess skin and fat. Toss the chicken in the marinade to coat evenly. Marinate 30 minutes to overnight; refrigerate if holding for more than an hour before grilling.
  3. Combine the chile sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. (Watch out — the chile fumes can be powerful.) Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce is syrupy. Remove from the heat, set aside until cool enough to taste, and adjust with more sugar or salt if desired.
  4. Prepare a medium-hot fire in a covered charcoal or gas grill. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes before cooking. Grill, basting occasionally with the marinade remaining in the bowl, until the chicken juices run clear and the breast and thigh meat register at least 155˚F, about 15 minutes per side. Let rest for a few minutes before carving. Serve with individual bowls of the sweet chile sauce.


Makes 4 servings

Good to know

One of the favorite street foods all across Southeast Asia is grilled chicken, usually marinated in some form of spiced soy sauce. In Vietnam, the marinade may include cinnamon or five-spice powder; in Malaysia and Singapore, rice wine and oyster sauce; in Indonesia, tamarind; and so on. And of course, no two cooks make it exactly the same. This version is basically Thai, especially the sweetish red chile sauce that accompanies the chicken.

Which beer should I drink with this?

A dry-finishing lager or pale ale, if not too hoppy


1. A mortar and pestle works best for extracting all the flavor from the spices and aromatics, but you can also use ground spices or a spice grinder and mince the other ingredients by hand.

2. If you don't feel like making your own, you can buy bottled "sweet chili sauce for chicken" in most Asian groceries. If you find the bottled version too sweet, as I often do, you can cut it with a little vinegar. Similarly, if my sauce is not sweet enough for your taste, feel free to add more sugar.

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From The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook, Copyright © 2002 by Jay Harlow. Used by arrangement with Jay Harlow.

Photo: Jupiterimages