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A Thai Chicken for Sauce Lovers

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When our Managing Editor Kenzi and I visited Portland, Oregon for the Feast Food Festival, we fell hard. For the city, of course. But also for an unassuming chicken dish (and its broth and dipping sauce) served out of a truck called Nong's Khao Man Gai.

The Chicken of My People (Khao Man Gai)
The Chicken of My People (Khao Man Gai)

The chicken had been boiled in water spiced with ginger, then served over a bed of rice and alongside a container of chicken broth to sip separately or pour over the rice. As a result of the boiling, the chicken was incredibly tender and moist—and flavorful. But just in case over-the-top-unbelievably-flavorful is your thing, they served it alongside a ginger-spiked sticky soy sauce.

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I wrote unpublished love poems for the chicken, took eight-hundred photos of it (see below), and paid $30 to check my bag so that I could bring a bottle of the magical sauce that came with it back to New York City.

As close to chicken love at first sight as it gets.
As close to chicken love at first sight as it gets.

Fast-forward several months, when I discovered a recipe for the same chicken on Food52.

And then imagine my excitement when—one chicken boiled in ginger, garlic, and black peppercorns later—I discovered that the recipe was delicious! From vvvanessa, it's actually a hybrid of the Chinese and Thai versions of the dish, called Hainanese chicken rice and Khao Man Gai, respectively.

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She describes it best:

My mom is Chinese and my dad is Thai, so is it any wonder that simple chicken and rice is one of my favorite dishes? For this recipe, I've streamlined the process considerably and made a simple mishmash of the two styles: Instead of cooking the rice in the chicken broth made by the cooking the chicken, I just [cook the rice in water, then] spoon a little of the savory liquid over the top. The condiment I use is heavy on the green onions. [...] This recipe also employs the use of residual heat to cook the chicken, which warms the cockles of my energy-efficiency-loving heart.

To review: Energy-efficient chicken, delicious broth-soaked rice, and a condiment of champions on the side. I know what I'll be making tonight (and always).

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The Chicken of My People (Khao Man Gai)

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Serves 4
  • One 3 1/2-pound chicken
  • 4 slices of fresh ginger (peeled or unpeeled) plus 2 tablespoons finely minced (or grated on a Microplane) ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • Coarse-grain sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced green onions (both green and white parts)
  • 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
  • 1 Thai chile, seeded and finely minced (optional)
  • 4 cups cooked rice (white or brown, cooked in water or chicken stock)
  • Optional garnishes: salted and roasted skin-on peanuts, cucumber slices, fresh cilantro leaves, tomato slices, fried shallots or garlic, sliced green onions, chile sauce like Sriracha, soy sauce

Have you ever eaten this chicken? Are you as excited as we are about energy-efficient chicken? Tell us in the comments below!

Tags: comfort food, boiled chicken, thai chicken, dipping sauce, chicken sauce