Thai Barbecue Chicken

Thai menus universally feature ‘sate’ or ‘satay’ dishes. These are foods that are barbecued or placed on skewers and grilled. Thus, ‘sate’ refers to the technique rather than to a specific food. However, some authorities believe that the word ‘sate’ derives from a corruption of the English word ‘steak’, and we may assume that meat and fish are most often involved in such dishes.

Although the technique originated in Indonesia, it is widespread in Southeast Asia and plays a prominent role in Thai cookery. The streets of Thai cities and towns are redolent with the aromas of the ‘sate’ style. The secret of excellence is in the marinating process and the marinade sauce. The sauce must suffuse the meat or fish before cooking takes place, and I recommend marinating the food overnight. Much of the work involved here can be done ahead of time. The result is a delicious grilled treat. It is a memorable picnic dish or summer meal, served at room temperature.

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  • 900 g (2 lb) unboned chicken thighs


  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce or light soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 small fresh red or green Thai chillies, seeded and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons tinned coconut milk


Blot the chicken thighs dry with kitchen paper and place in a large bowl.

In a blender or food processor, combine the marinade ingredients and purée. Pour over the chicken and mix well. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.

When you are ready to barbecue or grill the chicken, remove it from the refrigerator and leave at room temperature for 40 minutes.

Make a charcoal fire in the barbecue or preheat the oven grill to high. When the charcoal is ash white or the oven grill is very hot, grill the chicken thighs for 10 minutes on each side or until cooked. Baste the chicken with leftover marinade during grilling.

Place on a warm platter and serve immediately, or allow to cool and serve at room temperature.