My go-to marinade for pork or chicken is Asian-style. That means soy sauce, cooking sherry and lots of shredded ginger and garlic: four essential items I like to have in my kitchen despite ginger’s proclivity to go into hiding. That spicy root likes to sneak behind a box of cereal or get buried in my crisper thus a couple of chopped green onions often must substitute. Add a little sesame oil, sambal oelek and sugar and this marinade transforms into a rich teriyaki sauce that is soaked up by the meat and translates into something caramelized and super-moist on the barbecue.
Chicken thighs are a perfect place to begin. I’m talking bone-in, skin-on to ensure real flavour. Forget those fat and expensive chicken breasts that often taste no better than the Styrofoam they are packaged on. We want dark, flavour-filled meat and you’ll find that with the thighs.
Barbecuing chicken with the skin-on may create flare-ups if cooked on direct heat. But any BBQ-pro knows to use indirect heat, heating the two outer grills on high and leaving the middle grill off. According to my in-house BBQ specialist, you need to pre-heat the outer grills for 5- 10 min (lid closed) then lay on the thighs, skin side up, along the centre grill. Wait a couple of minutes, turn them over, basting with the remaining marinade. A long cooking time, lid closed, with constant turning and basting are the keys to success, says my BBQ king.
Dark juicy meat calls for 30-40 min depending on the size of the thighs and heat of your grill. Be sure to test one thigh before serving, making sure the juices run clear and the meat is well cooked, especially near the bone. You aren’t apt to overcook or dry out an Asian marinated chicken thigh but you might be tempted to say the cooking is over before it is. Give these babies the time they need and know that they can rest covered with aluminum foil for up to 10 minutes before serving, too.
Chances are you’ll be drinking some beer or wine while you cook and perhaps entertaining. Despite all that partying, promise me you’ll keep food safety first and remember that barbecuing is the number one cause of a dreadful affair called cross-contamination.
Remember that dish you carried the raw meat or poultry out to the barbecue in? Send it (and its raw juices/contamination) right back to the kitchen once your marinated meat is cooking. Use a new, clean platter to receive your cooked goods and alas, you will cross over into a land free of food poisoning and full of Asian barbecue flavour.
I like to serve Asian bbqed chicken with hot, steaming Jasmine rice, stir-fried Shanghai bok choy and/or a quick cucumber salad. This meal is quintessential summer food, in my books.
Asian BBQed chicken thighs
While sambal oelek (or any Asian-style chilli paste such as Lee Kum Kee’s chilli and garlic sauce) is essential to this marinade, it does not produce a spicy chicken thigh. Trust me.
½ cup cooking sherry
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sambal oelek
1 inch knob ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, pressed or grated
8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
In a bowl, combine cooking sherry, soy, sesame oil, sugar, sambal oelek, ginger and garlic. Pour over chicken thighs (I like to marinate in a glass casserole with thighs in a single layer). Marinate for at least 30 min and up to overnight, in the fridge.
Barbecue thighs on indirect heat (as described above) for 30-40 minutes or until juices run clear and meat is thoroughly cooked.
Stir-fried Shanghai bok choy
Most Asian markets carry this green leaf, green stem bok choy (about 8 inches long).
2 tbsp canola oil
1-inch knob ginger, grated
1 large bunch Shanghai bok choy, stems and leaves separated, washed thoroughly and chopped
½ tsp salt
Heat a wok on high. Add oil and swirl around the sides of the work. Add ginger and stir rapidly for 10 seconds, add bok choy stems, stir 2 minutes. Add leaves, salt and ¼ cup water and cover with lid. Leave to steam/cook until leaves are wilted and stems are tender. Serve.
Easy Asian cucumber salad
English cucumbers are long and thin, wrapped in plastic and greenhouse grown, versus the pudgy, thick-skinned field-grown cucumbers.
1 English cucumber, sliced thinly
2 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
Pinch hot pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped fresh coriander
Salt to taste
In a medium bowl combine all ingredients and serve.