Grilled chicken with peppercorn cilantro root paste is something you’re going to make again and again. The marinade and dipping sauce both come together quickly and are full of the big flavors of chile, garlic, fish sauce, and cilantro root.
North Americans have come to love Southeast Asian food for its bright, fresh flavors. But beyond the dishes themselves, one of the most attractive aspects of the food is the life that surrounds it. In Southeast Asia, people eat for joy. The palate is wildly eclectic, proudly unrestrained. We celebrate this great culinary region with all the passion, color, and life that it deserves.–Naomi Duguid
Grilled Chicken With Peppercorn Cilantro Root Paste
For the chicken
- 2 tablespoons cilantro root paste*
- 2 to 3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
- 3 pounds bone-in chicken breasts or breasts and legs chopped into 10 to 12 pieces
- Sticky rice to serve
For the hot and sweet dipping sauce
- 1/2 cup rice or cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 to 2 cloves garlic finely minced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
Marinate the chicken
- In a large bowl, combine the cilantro root paste and fish sauce. Place chicken pieces in the marinade and turn to coat well. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.
Make the hot and sweet dipping sauce
- In a small nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the vinegar to a boil. Add the sugar, stirring until it has completely dissolved, then lower the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, using a mortar and pestle or a bowl and the back of a spoon, pound or mash the garlic and salt to a smooth paste. Stir in the red pepper flakes and blend well.
- Remove the vinegar mixture from the heat and stir in the garlic paste. Let cool to room temperature. Store sealed in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Finish the chicken
- Heat a grill to 400°F (200°C) with cooking grates set 4 to 5 inches (10 to 13 cm) from the flame, or preheat the broiler to medium with the rack set 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) from the element.
- If using a grill, clean and oil the cooking grates. Place the chicken pieces bone side down, and grill until the bottom side is starting to brown, about 6 minutes.Flip the chicken pieces and cook until golden brown on the other side and the juices run clear with the meat is pierced and the internal temperature has reached 165°F (74°C), about 6 minutes more. If using a broiler, lightly coat a broiler pan with oil. Broil until the chicken is starting to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the pieces over and broil until the juices run clear and the internal temperature has reached 165°F (74°C), 4 to 10 minutes more.
- Arrnage the chicken pieces on a platter and serve with the dipping sauce and plenty of sticky rice.
*What is cilantro root paste?Cilantro root paste is a nearly all-purpose barbecue rub or marinade that takes its flavors from the southeast Asian cuisines of Thailand and Vietnam. Cilantro (coriander) plants are at their peak in late spring and early summer and once they've gone to seed, the roots are ripe for use. This paste enhances chicken and fish particularly well. It is reminiscent of cilantro but it's quite a bit more pungent, with a peppery, lemony, and earthy flavor. If you're unable to get your paws on any roots, you can absolutely use cilantro stems instead. There will be a subtle difference but it will still taste fantastic.
Originally published May 29, 2021