Iconic Thai Flavors
On my first visit to Malaysia, I found myself in Penang sitting in a small Thai café near New Lane, and I ordered something called Bangkok Chicken. I almost ate the plate, it was that good. I returned the next day with my crew, ordered the dish again, and this time positioned myself at the chef’s elbow while he made this dish. This recipe is my interpretation.
I love to use ketchup as an ingredient in cooking; the stuff is awesome and very traditional in many parts of southern Asia, where tomato-vinegar-sugar sauces have been used for centuries. The heat-sweet factor here is phenomenal, and I think this recipe is the one my friends clamor for the loudest when we plan dinner parties. Serve it with short-grain or Thai sticky rice, a tart salad (try arugula with lemon and oil or spicy green papaya) and some steamed green vegetables.
Sweet & Sour Bangkok-Style Chicken with Chiles
- 5 dried árbol chiles, split lengthwise and seeds removed
- 1 cup boiling water
- 3 Thai red chiles
- 4 lemongrass stalks, tender inner white part only, minced (about 1/3 cup)
- 8 shallots, chopped (2 cups)
- 8 garlic cloves, chopped
- 12 small skinless, boneless chicken thighs (3 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- Kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1/2 cup lightly packed mint leaves, coarsely chopped
Total Time: 1 hour
In a heatproof bowl, soak the árbol chiles in the boiling water until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain the chiles. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the árbol chiles with the Thai chiles, lemongrass, shallots and garlic and puree until smooth.
In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with the turmeric, cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add half of the chicken thighs and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 8 minutes total; transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
Add the chile puree to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the ketchup, vinegar, sugar and 1/2 cup of water and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken to the skillet and simmer over moderately low heat until the chicken is tender and cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium pot of salted boiling water, cook the carrots until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes; drain. Add the carrots and peas to the chicken and simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mint and season with salt. Transfer the chicken to a platter and spoon the sauce over the top.
MAKE AHEAD The cooked chicken can be refrigerated in the sauce overnight.
SERVE WITH Steamed rice.