Thai-Style Grilled Chicken (Gai Yang)
Thai-Style Grilled Chicken (Gai Yang) is chicken marinated in garlic, lemongrass, cilantro, and fish sauce. The result is tender, golden brown, crispy skin chicken with layers of flavor. As the name implies, the chicken is usually grilled, but we’ve provided an oven roasting method that is nearly as good as the original.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time40 mins
- 2 stalks Lemongrass (just use the lower few inches of the stalk, discard outer layers)
- 1/2 cup packed Cilantro stems and leaves
- 6 cloves Garlic
- 2 cloves Shallot
- 2 Tbsp Light or “White” Soy Sauce
- 2 Tbsp Sweet Soy Sauce
- 2 Tbsp Fish Sauce
- ¼ cup Cooking Oil (I use grapeseed or avocado)
- 2 lbs Bone-in and Skin-on Chicken pieces (wings, breasts, thighs, or legs)
- Lime wedges
- 1/4 cup Cilantro leaves, chopped, for topping
Marinate chicken: Combine lemongrass, cilantro, garlic, and shallot. Finely chop them with a knife or, better yet, combine them in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (roughly the size of sesame seeds). Stir in light soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, fish sauce, and cooking oil. Add chicken and marinate for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.
Remove chicken from marinade (reserve marinade if cooking in the oven) and lightly season the chicken with some salt and black pepper.
To grill chicken: Heat a grill, leaving one half over direct heat and one half over indirect heat. Brush the grates with some oil. Place chicken pieces over direct heat, cooking both sides until golden brown and lightly charred. Move the chicken to indirect heat, skin-side up, and close the lid. Continue grilling until an instant read thermometer reads 165° F (large, bone-in chicken breast, legs, and thighs can take 30-40 minutes; wings take 15 to 20). Remove each piece when ready.
To oven roast chicken: Heat oven to 400° F. Line a sheet pan with foil (the drippings will burn, so this will make clean-up easy) and top it with an oven-safe cooling rack (the cooling rack is optional but will allow air and heat to circulate under the chicken, helping it to cook more evenly). Add chicken, skin-side up. Spoon marinade over of chicken. Roast until an instant read thermometer reads 165° F (large, bone-in chicken breast, legs, and thighs can take 30-40 minutes; wings take 15 to 20). Remove each piece when ready.
Let chicken rest, covered, for 5 minutes.
Serve on its own or like we do with spicy dipping sauce (Sweet Chili Sauce
is a crowd favorite) and sticky rice.
Lemongrass - Peel off the outer layers and use only the lower few inches of the stalk (there should be a hint of purple in the center).
Cilantro stems and leaves - Cilantro roots are most authentic. If you can find cilantro with the roots intact you can just use those (6 to 8 stems will be enough) or add them in alongside the stems and leaves. Leaving the stems in along with the leaves will also give the dish added flavor.
Light or “White” Soy Sauce - This is a salty soy sauce that is light and thin in color and is probably close to the Japanese-style soy sauce you most often use for cooking. For Thai cooking, it’s worth seeking out a Thai brand of this soy sauce for the most authentic flavor, but you can also use whatever style of soy sauce you have on hand.
Sweet Soy Sauce - This thick, sweet soy sauce gives Gai Yang a hint of sweet flavor. It’s available at any Asian / international market - a Thai brand will give the most authentic flavor. While there’s no real substitute that gives the dish quite the same flavor, you could substitute something else sweet like honey, molasses, or brown sugar. (I’d use half as much as the recipe indicates if using one of these.)
Fish Sauce - I prefer Red Boat.