With a recipe inspired by Chef Andy Ricker's friend in Chiang Mai, this lesson teaches you how to brine, stuff, marinate, and baste for a truly unforgettable dish. Plus: learn to make two incredible (and versatile!) Thai dipping sauces from scratch.
Make the Sweet Chile Dipping Sauce: To a small saucepan, add water, vinegar, and sugar; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, roughly slice chiles and garlic. Place in a food processor with salt and pulse to a rough chop; add to the pot. Turn heat to low to maintain a steady simmer and cook, uncovered, until the liquid thickens slightly and becomes just slightly syrupy, 8–12 minutes. Cool to room temperature. The sauce will thicken further as it cools. Makes ¾ cup. You can store it in the refrigerator in a sealed container for months; the flavor improves as the ingredients continue to meld.
Make the Tamarind Dipping Sauce: To a small saucepan, add water, palm sugar, fish sauce, and tamarind paste. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer. Add chile powder; whisk to break up the palm sugar and tamarind pulp. Continue cooking on a low simmer, 5-8 minutes. Pour dipping sauce into a bowl and cool to room temperature. Makes about 1½ cups. You can store it in the refrigerator in a sealed container for weeks.
Make the Fried Shallot Oil: Set a fine-mesh strainer over a heat proof bowl. Set aside. Pour oil into a shallow pan a half-inch high. Set pan over high heat until oil is lightly bubbling, about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the shallots by peeling, slicing in half, then thinly slicing with the grain into a julienne. When the oil is bubbling, turn heat to low and add the shallots and stir. Don't be tempted to rush the process with high heat: cook, stirring and scraping the sides occasionally and adjusting the heat to maintain a gentle sizzle, 5-10 minutes.
When the oil stops bubbling and the shallots are starting to brown but still look raw, turn off heat. The residual heat will continue cooking the shallots. Continue stirring and flipping the shallots until they are a deep golden brown and crispy, another 1–2 minutes. Pour shallot oil through the strainer, reserving the flavorful oil. Gently shake the strainer to remove as much oil as possible, then transfer the shallots to paper towels to drain and cool in an even layer. As they cool down, they’ll crisp up. Makes about ¼ cup fried shallots and ½ cup shallot oil. Storage: Fried shallots can be stored in a container, uncovered, at room temperature for up to 2 days. Alternatively, cool the shallots completely, then place into an airtight container with a silica gel packet (available online) to keep fresh for several weeks. Shallot oil can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.
Brine: Whisk salt and sugar with 10 cups water in a large mixing bowl until the sugar and salt fully dissolve, 5 minutes.
Slice lemongrass into 2-inch pieces; slice a 1-inch piece of ginger; place in mortar. Add white peppercorns, then lightly pound to bruise and slightly crush. Add to the brine. Place garlic cloves in the mortar; lightly pound and add to the brine. Roughly chop cilantro stems, briefly pound in mortar, and add to brine. Cut green onions into 3-inch pieces and add to brine.
Place chicken breast-side down in a Dutch oven. Pour brine over the chicken to submerge. (If chicken isn’t completely submerged, weigh it down with a plate.) Cover and refrigerate, 4-6 hours.
Stuffing: Trim lemongrass ends and remove woody outer layer; slice into ⅛-inch rings. Firmly pound in the mortar until fragrant, 10 seconds. Add the salt and pepper, pound briefly. Roughly chop garlic with peel, add to mortar and pound, about 10 seconds. Roughly chop cilantro stems before adding to mortar and pestle; pound to lightly bruise. (Note: You can also use a food processor and pulse a couple times.)
Remove chicken and discard the brine. Place chicken upright, cavity-side down, in a colander to drain. After draining, place chicken on a rimmed baking sheet fitted with a wire rack; tuck wings under the breast. Spoon stuffing into the cavity. Place chicken, uncovered, back into the refrigerator to dry out, 6-8 hours.
Marinade: In a small bowl, stir fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and pepper until the sugar is fully dissolved. Remove chicken from refrigerator after 6 hours. Brush liberally with marinade on the top and sides (it’s not necessary to brush the underside). Place chicken back in refrigerator, uncovered, 2 more hours.Basting glaze: In a small bowl, stir together honey and water. Set aside. 1 hour before roasting chicken, preheat oven to 350 F, preferably convection. (If your chicken is on the larger side, raise the heat to 375 F.)
Roast chicken: Remove chicken from refrigerator, place directly into the oven, and roast for 15-20 minutes. Raise temperature to 400 F, baste chicken with fried shallot oil, rotate pan and continue roasting, 15 minutes. Raise temperature to 425 F, baste again with shallot oil, rotate pan and continue roasting, 15 minutes. Baste with honey glaze, rotate pan and roast for a final 7-8 minutes. (Total roasting time will be about 1 hour.)
Chicken is done when skin is glossy and golden brown, and a thermometer inserted between the leg and thigh registers 155 F. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes. (Chicken will continue cooking as it rests.)
Serve: Place rested chicken on a cutting board. Using a cleaver or sharp knife, split chicken down the center of the breast bone. Turn chicken halves onto their sides; one half at a time, cut the wings off, followed by legs and thighs at the joint. Then, cut between the joint of each leg and thigh. Cut each breast into three pieces. Serve on a platter with Sweet Chile Dipping sauce and Tamarind Dipping Sauce. (Note: Stuffing is meant to be an aromatic—it's not inedible, but it shouldn't be eaten.)
To save time, you can make the two dipping sauces and fried shallot oil while the chicken is brining in Step 3.