Grilled chicken that only takes 1 hour to marinate for an unbelievably juicy result fresh off the grill! A mix of fresh herbs such as cilantro, garlic and ginger along with sauces such as soy sauce, fish sauce and lime make this dish a flavourful weeknight meal you’ll want to cook over and over again!
Time to dust off your BBQ! Spring is here and why not make your first grill be these tender Vietnamese grilled chicken? Many locals in Vietnam favour this dish as a quick bite to eat for lunch and now you can make this popular dish at home. Chicken thighs are deboned and pounded flat for maximum flavour absorption and for even grilling. If you have a charcoal grill, definitely use it! It will add even more flavour to this recipe!
*Good To Know*
- Can I use drumsticks and chicken breast?
You can use both. Just a word of caution though, chicken breast is usually not my go-to choice for grilling as it is a leaner cut and most times will end up dry. You can try to flatten it with a tenderizer and marinate it for 2 hours. For best results, use drumsticks and/or chicken thighs.
- Can I freeze marinated chicken?
If you’re like me and buy chicken in bulk from costco, this would be a great way to marinate and freeze it. Use freezer friendly plastic ziploc bags to freeze chicken up to 8 weeks. Leave a bag of frozen chicken to thaw in your fridge overnight until you’re ready to grill it the next day. This is a great way to give it extra marinating time while it thaws.
- Do I have to use boneless chicken thighs?
No you don’t, however, tenderizing your chicken will allow the marinade to be absorbed better for more flavour and also helps your chicken grill evenly which is why the chicken should be deboned (save and freeze the bones for making broth another time. Double use! #winning!). Having said that, if you are using chicken with bone in, marinate your chicken for at least 2 hours and remember that grilling time will be longer.
- How do I choose a good Fish sauce?
A good Fish sauce should taste salty followed by a slight sweet taste and is dark amber in colour. It should not taste bitter or very diluted. Always choose a premium Fish sauce in a glass bottle (not plastic) at a higher price. On the label, look for Fish sauce from “Phú Quốc”. It is the name of an island in southwest Vietnam that produces premium Fish sauce using only premium anchovies (unlike other brands that use squid or oysters).
Ingredients you will need
- 4 lbs chicken thighs (boneless, skin on is optional)
- green onion
- lime juice
- fresh red thai chili or chili flakes (optional)
- soy sauce
- fish sauce
- brown sugar
- ground coriander
- neutral oil (ie. vegetable or canola)
How to prepare chicken
Rinse chicken with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. To ensure maximum flavour infusion and even grilling, debone your chicken thighs (I leave the skin on but you can remove it if you prefer leaner chicken). If using drumsticks, you can leave the bone in. Use the grooved side of a meat tenderizer and pound both sides of your chicken thighs to flatten. No need to pound chicken drumsticks.
How to make the Marinade
In my house, a mortar & pestle is my go-to tool for crushing spices. Sure you need a little elbow grease to crush the spices, but boy, the fragrance you smell is undeniably good! Crush the following (in this order):
- Thai red chili (skip this if you prefer it mild)
- green onions
Make sure to crush each spice very well before adding the next one. If it’s too full after crushing ginger in your mortar use a rubber or silicone spatula and scrape this mix into a medium bowl. Then continue crushing the Thai chili, cilantro and green onions until fragrant and soft. Combine this together with the garlic and ginger. Once you have your spice paste, mix in lime juice, brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce and oil. If you don’t have a mortar & pestle, you can blend everything in a food processor as well.
Want to know what makes the chicken so tender and juicy in a short amount of time? It’s the lime juice! The acid from the lime juice helps break down the protein in your chicken and helps the marinade infuse into the chicken better.
When marinating chicken, a plastic ziploc bag is your best friend. Add your chicken and marinade into the bag, zip it closed but leaving enough air inside in order for you to massage your chicken together with your marinade. Once done, release all of the air through a small opening, zip it closed again and place your bag into the fridge for 1 hour. That’s it! No extra dishes to clean after the chicken is done marinating! Simply throw the bag into the garbage. How good is that??
How to grill the Chicken
Preheat your BBQ oven to 400°F (204°C). Start by searing your chicken, skin side down for 1 minute (leave BBQ lid open). Then flip your chicken over and turn heat down to medium or medium high to reach 350°F (176°C). Close BBQ lid and grill for 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on your chicken as flare up may occur, if that happens, leave your BBQ lid open and move chicken away from the flare up area. Continue flipping your chicken every 5 minutes. Chicken is done and fully cooked when internal temperature is 165°F (74°C). Serve with rice and vegetables or your favourite sides.
Vietnamese Grilled Chicken
- 4 pounds (2 kg) chicken thighs, boneless, skin on (optional)
- 1 Tablespoon (15 g) garlic (3 cloves), peeled
- 1 Tablespoon (15 g) fresh ginger, peeled & sliced
- 1 whole (3 g) Thai red chili (optional), or 1/2 Tablespoon chili flakes
- 2 Tablespoons (30 g) green onion (1 stalk), roughly chopped
- ½ cup (8 g) fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) lime juice (1/2 lime)
- 2 Tablespoons (30 g) brown sugar
- ½ Tablespoon ground coriander
- 3 Tablespoons (44 ml) fish sauce
- 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) neutral oil, vegetable or canola
- Debone chicken thighs and leave skin on (optional). Pound both sides of meat with a meat tenderizer (use the grooved side). Set aside in a large mixing bowl.
- In a mortar, crush garlic with pestle. Add ginger slices and crush into garlic. Add thai chili and crush into garlic/ginger paste. At this point, if mortar is too full, scrape mixture into a medium mixing bowl with a rubber spatula. Then, add roughly chopped cilantro to mortar and crush / grind with pestle until fragrant and soft. Add green onions and crush / grind into cilantro until soft. Scrape into bowl and combine with garlic/ginger/chili mix. Add fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, ground coriander, oil to paste and stir to combine well.
- Place chicken into a large ziploc bag. Pour marinade into bag, zip bag closed (leave enough air inside) and gently massage marinade into chicken to distribute evenly. Release all of the air inside the bag through a small opening, then close the bag and refrigerate chicken for 1 hour.
- Preheat BBQ oven to 400°F (204°C). Place chicken, skin side down to sear for 1 minute (leave BBQ lid open), flip meat over and turn heat down to reach 350°F (176°C). Close lid and grill for 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on your chicken as flare up may occur, if that happens, leave your BBQ lid open and move chicken away from the flare up area. Continue flipping meat every 5 minutes. Chicken is done when internal temperature is 165°F (74°C). Serve with rice and vegetables. Enjoy!