- Posted June 15, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
My favorite Thai dish
Fried Chicken Thai Style
If there’s one thing the whole world can agree on, it’s fried chicken, and Thailand has its own variation on it. Interestingly, within Thailand, both regionally and family to family, you’ll find as many different recipes for it as you would in the American South.
Some days when I need a quick fix for home, I pick up a drumstick-thigh combo or a couple wings of Thai fried chicken (“gai tawt”) with a half kilo of fresh warm sticky rice (“khao niyao”). Usually the best places are food stalls set up alongside the road with a few other stalls set next to them. That makes it easy for me to pick up a few other bits of this-and-that to eat with my chicken – vegetable something or curry something, usually.
The secret to Thai fried chicken is in the marinade it soaks in for anywhere from a few hours to overnight. The formula starts out pretty basic. There has to be some kind of salt used, usually fish sauce or light soy sauce, but sometimes it’s just plain old salt. Other ingredients that make it taste distinctly Thai are cracked coriander seeds and pounded lemongrass. From there on, every person adds their own variations on the theme, with differing amounts of the coriander seeds and lemongrass making a large contribution to the flavor differences between each person’s gai tawt.
I have my favorite guy (plus his family) on Hang Dong Road south of Chiang Mai. He’s open from about 4pm until about 10pm and he does business like gangbusters with loads of cars double parking and messing up traffic cramming in to grab dinner on the way home ! His chicken is perfectly coated golden brown with a hint of reddish hue to it. It comes out of the fryer crispy and salty, with the meat inside juicy and tender. There’s nothing like cracking that first bite of chicken and seeing the steam rise out of the meat. The simple, clear taste of great fried chicken is like a prayer and worthy of slow reflection.
All gai tawt places will offer you a chili dipping sauce (“naam jim”) to go with it, though for me, it’s not always necessary. My favorite kind are the sweeter, clear types, though many places make a roasted red chili sauce which is earthier and way less sweet. That roasted one’s pretty darn good too, though often hot enough to make me have to take my glasses off for a few minutes.
For an easy taste comparison, there’s also the Thai Muslim version of fried chicken which has an ace up its sleeve to sway me to seek it out some days – it’s served with crispy fried shallots sprinkled all over it. Yum ! Super yum ! There are days I just need my Muslim fried chicken and I WILL travel for it. I go to one stall that sets up inside the moat, just before the Chiang Mai Gate Market if I’m in town, or if I’m south of the city, there’s one lady who does a really good one about 150 meters from my usual fried chicken guy I mentioned earlier. But be forewarned of potential awkward feelings though, as it always makes me feel a little guilty passing one fried chicken stall I feel friendly with, when they know I’m going to the competition down the way that day.....