Long Reads

A Chicken Recipe That Stands to Make You Rich

May 21, 2015

Every other Thursday, we bring you Nicholas Day—on cooking for children, and with children, and despite children. Also, occasionally, on top of.

Today: A chicken dinner that tastes like success—for both the young and the not so young.

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Deep within The Breakfast Book, in the glorious “Doughnuts and Fritters” chapter, there is this unimprovable recipe heading: “Dewey Buns are plump squares of light dough filled with vanilla cream. A Dewey Bun business could make someone rich.”

So a couple of things:

1) I regret to say that this is not a column about Dewey Buns. I have never even made the recipe for Dewey Buns, in part because of this recipe heading. What if I made Dewey Buns and realized I had no choice but to found a wildly profitable Dewey Bun business? Every time I read the Dewey Bun recipe I think, but am I ready to upend my life?

2) "A Dewey Bun business could make someone rich" is exactly how I feel about this Thai grilled chicken recipe. 

Even if there is no Dewey Bun food truck, there should really be a truck serving nothing but the Thai grilled chicken from Hot Sour Salty Sweet by Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford. The truck part is optional, really. A Weber set up off the sidewalk would be enough to make someone rich. This, a beer, a curb to sit on: Only an ingrate could want more.

You take your chicken, coat it with a classic cilantro root-garlic-black pepper paste, let it sit for a bit, grill it. Dip it in a radiant, easy-peasy, sweet-spicy sauce. Sigh a lot. 

This is the sort of recipe that’s highly adaptable for small humans, as long as you’re willing to be shamelessly untraditional. Just cut down on the pepper in the paste or the chili flakes and garlic in the dipping sauce. I’d highly recommend making a full-strength version too, though; it hardly takes any more time. And once your new business is up and running, let me know where I can find you.   

Thai Grilled Chicken with Hot and Sweet Dipping Sauce

Serves 6

For the peppercorn-cilantro root paste:

teaspoons black peppercorns
tablespoons garlic, chopped
tablespoons cilantro roots, chopped
Pinch of salt
teaspoon fish sauce

For the grilled chicken with sweet and hot dipping sauce:

1/2 cup rice or cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons dried red pepper flakes
tablespoons fish sauce
pounds chicken parts, cut into 10 to 12 pieces total

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here. 

Photos by James Ramson

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I'm the author of a book on the science and history of infancy, Baby Meets World. My website is nicholasday.net; I tweet over at @nicksday. And if you need any good playdoh recipes, just ask.


Melissa June 15, 2015
Really good- a keeper. I thought about cutting back the amount of red pepper flakes in the dip but didn't.....it was perfect as is, the sweet heat is great, and I found it was the perfect amount after all.
angelclark May 24, 2015
This had become a regular. Substituting cilantro for the root works fine. There are a lot of powerful flavored here, it's not a fussy dish. It's great.
Midge May 21, 2015
A summer staple in my house. Thanks for highlighting it!
Nicole F. May 21, 2015
Yum, but I will need to wait for my garden cilantro to grow a few more months before I can harvest roots like that! Where can I find cilantro root? I've never seen it! Is there an alternative? I am writing from Rhode Island, clams we have, cilantro root not so much. Thx!
Nicholas D. May 22, 2015
It's an issue! You can find it sometimes, but not often, and almost never when you need it. You can do a couple of things: 1) When you do find roots, or if you've grown them, you can freeze them for later. 2) Cheat and use well-chopped stems instead. It won't be as powerful, but it will be far better than not making it at all.
Matilda L. May 21, 2015
An amazing recipe that I haven't made in years. (Why not? It's hard to find cilantro roots where I live...) Thanks for the reminder--It's high time to make this chicken dish again.
Peony May 21, 2015
How funny, I was thumbing through this cookbook yesterday afternoon and considered making this chicken but realized I was too short on time.
Sarah J. May 21, 2015
I won't rest until I've made those Dewey Buns!!!
Nicholas D. May 22, 2015
mrslarkin May 21, 2015
Another wonderful column, Nicholas Day. I think we have enough to compile a Dinner vs Child cookbook, you know.
Nicholas D. May 22, 2015
Dinner vs Cookbook?