I have never been to Laos but I have a Laotian friend when I lived in the Bay Area. I remember one of the potluck parties at the office, she prepared a delicious grilled chicken that got me hooked. The chicken was marinated with lemongrass and the fish-sauce dipping sauce was so delicious I got a second helping of the chicken. I never asked her for the recipe.
A few months ago, when my copy of Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2012 arrived, the lemongrass cilantro chicken immediately caught my eyes. The recipe headnote states that the chicken is called pings, or simple grilled dishes that are very popular all over Laos, and that the lemongrass cilantro chicken is a great example of pings.
I immediately earmarked the recipe and made it over this past weekend. While I can’t say that the recipe is exactly what my Laotian friend made, but it was pretty close. The taste and flavors are what I remember: the aroma of lemongrass, the fragrance of cilantro leaves, and the sweet, savory, sour, and pungent dipping sauce. I just love it.
I styled the photos almost identical to the magazine. Serving on a sheet of banana leaf, drizzling some of the dipping sauce on top of the chicken pieces, and top them off with some mint leaves and cilantro leaves. The dish is as pleasing to the eyes as it is to the stomach.
Adapted from: Food & Wine 2012
Serves 4 | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 15 minutes
4 boneless chicken breast halves with skin
2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, cut into 1-inch pieces, pounded and bruised
1 cup packed chopped cilantro
4 large shallots, coarsely chopped
8 tablespoons (~120ml) vegetable oil
Honey Dipping Sauce:
5 tablespoons (~75ml) water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup small mint leaves for garnishing
1 lime, sliced for garnishing
Combine the ingredients for the Marinade in a shallow dish. Transfer the chicken into the dish and coat well with the Marinade. Cover the dish and marinate overnight.
Prepare the Honey Dipping Sauce by combining the water, sugar and honey in a small saucepan and heat it over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolved. Pour the mixture into a bowl and add the crushed red pepper. Let it cool to room temperature before adding the white vinegar and fish sauce. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Refrigerate until use.
To grill the chicken, scrape the marinade off the chicken breast. Season the chicken with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Grill the chicken with skin side down for about 3-4 minutes, until the skin is lightly burned and crisp. Reduce the heat or move the chicken to another part of the grill with lower heat. Let it cook for another 2 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook until desire tenderness, about 4-5 minutes.
Let it rest for 3-5 minutes before slicing the chicken. Serve with warm steamed rice.
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