Marinade Magic: Thai Barbecue Chicken Gai Yang Recipe

Thai Barbecue Chicken Gai Yang

Thai Chicken or Gai Yang is one of the most delicious and easy ways to serve chicken. Chicken pieces are marinated in a delicious mix of spices and sauces and then grilled or roasted until lip smackingly succulent! It's so easy to make and these will be your new favourite way to grill or roast chicken. This is a pushy recipe Dear Reader!

Thai Barbecue Chicken Gai Yang

Gai Yang is originally from Laos and North Eastern Thailand. It is a very popular street food where chicken is marinated in a turmeric and lemongrass marinade and then grilled. The Laotian name for the dish is pīng kai (ປີ້ງໄກ່) and means "roast chicken" while in Thai Gai means "chicken" and Yang means "grilled". Gai Yang can be cooked over charcoal grill or if you don't have a barbecue this also comes out beautifully roasted in the oven. I think roasting it keeps it more moist than grilling it too. On Thai restaurant menus it will usually be called Gai Yang or Kai Yang or Thai barbecued chicken.

Thai Barbecue Chicken Gai Yang

I had some Gai Yang in Thailand recently that just renewed my love for the dish. We were walking along a beach and saw a street seller grilling some chicken. The smell of the chicken cooking was making my mouth water so I stopped and we bought a serve. The chicken was actually flattened and cooked on thick skewers and served with sticky rice and green papaya salad. The chicken was served on the bone and was so succulent and the flavour permeated through the chicken. It was one of the best things we ate on the trip full of amazing food!

Thai Barbecue Chicken Gai Yang

While Gai Yang is usually done with a whole chicken cut into pieces and flattened, I wanted to recreate that juiciness so I used chicken thighs with the skin on. But feel free to use your favourite cut of chicken. Make it a fillet if you prefer too. I often make this with skin on chicken thigh fillets. Thigh fillets also take less time to cook.

Tips For Making the BEST Gai Yang or Thai Grilled Chicken

Thai Barbecue Chicken Gai Yang

1 - Use coriander roots - these add a lot of flavour. If you don't have coriander roots (some countries sell coriander or cilantro without the roots) use the stems or leaves.

2 - Gai yang is usually made using a whole chicken cut into pieces with the bones kept in. However for quicker grilling you can use boneless chicken. I recommend using boneless chicken thighs.

3 - Slash the skin of the chicken so that the marinade permeates through to the meat.

4 - Marinate the chicken overnight to really infuse the chicken with the flavour. I've tried it with a quick marinade and while it's nice the flavour doesn't really go through to the meat.

5 - You can grill this over a charcoal or gas barbecue. If you have charcoal I recommend using it as it imparts a really nice smokey flavour to it. Otherwise you can very easily roast this in the oven if you don't want to get the barbecue involved (and honestly we only have a charcoal bbq so it can be a production).

I made this Thai chicken for a spring barbecue at our house. I was so inspired to cook some Thai food after our recent holiday there that I invited Valentina and Peter over as well as Queen Viv (Miss America had to work so he couldn't come). They arrived at 2pm with Valentina and Peter bearing gifts of fresh herbs, lemons and a giant potted plant while Queen Viv brought a bottle of sparkling wine. Mr NQN was at the barbecue busy grilling some pork and finishing off this chicken. I know that Valentina prefers her chicken really charred and cooked well so while the ones above were really cooked through as they had had 45 minutes in the oven, I asked Mr NQN to put them on the barbecue to really char them. That's the great thing about bone in thighs, they won't dry out and while I wouldn't necessarily do that with breast, the chicken was still succulent and juicy with a really nice char at the end.

Thai Barbecue Chicken Gai Yang

Even though it's spring it wasn't that warm two weekends ago and everyone had to keep their coats on even while we were sitting in the sun. When I saw this meme I had to laugh because this is actually very true about Sydney weather. While people say that Melbourne has 4 seasons in one day, Sydney definitely has its own 12 seasons a year. And while the calendar may say that it's September and Spring I agree with the phrase "Spring of Deception" because we are still wearing our winter coats. Before we reach actual Spring we have to get through magpie season aka the Swooping and then the Pollening!

So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever tried Gai Yang? What is the weather like where you are right now? And if you are in Sydney, do you agree with the 12 seasons?

Thai Barbecue Chicken Gai Yang

Gai Yang Thai Barbecued Chicken

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An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott

Preparation time: 10 minutes plus overnight marinating time

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Makes 6 chicken thighs to serve 6

  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 stick, 20g/0.7ozs lemongrass
  • 1 red shallot
  • 1 inch coriander root*
  • 1 small red chilli
  • 50ml/1.7flozs peanut oil or rice bran oil (or neutral oil)
  • 30ml/1floz light soy sauce
  • 30ml/1floz kecap manis
  • 30ml/1floz oyster sauce
  • 30ml/1floz fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
  • 2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1.4kgs/3lbs chicken thighs, skin on (or your favourite cut, dark meat is preferable if you are grilling it)

If you are unable to get coriander root then use around 6x 1 inch stems)

Step 1 - Blend the garlic, lemongrass, shallot, coriander root, chilli, oil, soy sauce, kecap manis, oyster sauce, fish sauce, palm sugar, turmeric, ground coriander, white pepper and salt together to form a paste.

Thai Barbecue Chicken Gai Yang

Step 2 -Cut slashes into the skin of the chicken thighs. Place the chicken and marinade into a ziplock bag and distribute the marinate by massaging the bag. Allow to marinate overnight in the fridge.

Thai Barbecue Chicken Gai Yang

Step 3 -One hour before you want to cook this, take the chicken out of the fridge and place on the bench to take the chill off it. Preheat oven to 180C/350F and place the chicken in a parchment lined baking dish and roast for 45 minutes. Brush the juices on top of the skin once or twice. You can also cook this on the grill if you prefer. I actually like to finish this off on the charcoal to give it that extra amount of char to it while still keeping it moist. Serve this with sweet chilli sauce.

Thai Barbecue Chicken Gai Yang

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