Thai Grilled Chicken

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The marinade for this chicken is true to the authentic Thai grilled chicken (Gai Yang). Traditional Gai Yang is served with a dipping sauce but I find chicken thighs so juicy that it doesn’t need it. Instead, I incorporate the flavour into the Marinade. Traditionally this is cooked over charcoal which gives it a wonderful smokey flavour. But it really is fantastic even cooked on the stove or in the oven, though my preference is to cook it on the outdoor grill. The key ingredients are the lemongrass and fish sauce – don’t omit or substitute these!


  • 2lb / 1 kg chicken thigh fillets (skinless, boneless) (Note 1)


  • 1 large lemongrass stalk, white part only very finely chopped (about 2 tbsp) (Note 2)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp finely chopped red chili (optional but recommended)
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine, sherry or sake (Japanese cooking wine) (Note 4)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar or palm sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey (or 1 tbsp brown sugar)
  • ½ tbsp black pepper (adjust to taste – this adds spiciness)

To Serve:

  • Lime wedges
  • Red chili, finely sliced (optional)
  • Cilantro / coriander leaves (optional)


  1. Place Marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag. Massage to mix.
  2. Add the chicken into the ziplock bag and massage to spread the marinade over all the chicken. Marinate for a minimum of 3 hours, preferably overnight (up to 24 hours).
  3. Remove chicken from the Marinade and discard the Marinade (unless baking in the oven – refer Note 3).
  4. Heat the outdoor grill on medium high. Or heat ½ tbsp oil in a non stick pan over medium high heat on the stove.
  5. Cook the chicken until golden brown – around 3 minutes each side.
  6. Rest for a few minutes before serving with lime wedges on the side, and garnished with fresh chilies and cilantro, if using.


  • This recipe can be made with any cut of chicken, just adjust the cooking time to suit. If using chicken breast, I recommend adding 1 tbsp of oil to the marinade to help with the caramelisation.
  • Lemongrass is readily available in supermarkets in Australia (Coles, Woolworths, Harris Farms). Peel the outer green layers off to expose the white part at the bottom of the stalk. Only use the white / very pale green parts – the other parts are tough and “reed” like.
  • This can also be baked in the oven at 180C/350F for around 35 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of your fillets. Turn once and baste at least once (preferably twice) using the remaining Marinade.
  • The cooking wine is an important ingredient in this so I really urge you to use it if you can. But if you cannot, then use chicken broth.

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