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Author Notes: Very lightly adapted from Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid's "Hot Sour Salty Sweet." A few notes: 1) If you cannot find the (semi-mythical) cilantro roots, and you have not grown them in advance and frozen them for this very moment, do not despair. You can still make this—just chop up some cilantro stems instead. 2) If you are making this for small humans, you may want to reduce the number of black peppercorns in the flavor paste and red pepper flakes (and/or garlic) in the dipping sauce. (I have done both. I've even made an entirely separate dipping sauce; it's hardly any more work.) —Nicholas Day
For the peppercorn-cilantro root paste:
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
- 3 tablespoons cilantro roots, chopped
- Pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- In a mortar and pestle, or a small blender or food processor, pound or blend the peppercorns and garlic into a paste. Add the cilantro roots and salt and pound everything into a paste again. Stir in the 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
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 3 pounds chicken parts, cut into 10 to 12 pieces total
- For the dipping sauce: In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar to a boil. Add the sugar, stirring until it dissolves, then lower the heat to a simmer for 5 minutes. In the meantime, pound or mash the garlic and salt into a paste in a mortar or on a cutting board with the side of your knife. Stir the red pepper flakes into the sauce. When the vinegar and sugar mixture is done simmering, stir in the garlic paste and fish sauce and let the sauce cool to room temperature.
- For the grilled chicken: After you've stirred the fish sauce into the peppercorn-cilantro root paste, toss the chicken parts in the mixture and marinate at room temperature for at least an hour or up to three hours in the fridge.
- Prepare your grill. Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill until it is a beautifully golden brown and its juices run clear. Serve alongside the dipping sauce.
- This recipe is a Community Pick!