Make Ahead

Slow Cooked “Beggar’s’” Chicken Thighs

January 31, 2018
1 Ratings
Photo by AntoniaJames
  • Serves 3 - 4
Author Notes

Here’s an easier, scaled-down version of the “Beggar’s” roast chicken that’s been a family favorite for many years. The aromatic paste in this recipe can be used with slow cooked pork shoulder, or simmered on the stove and then used to cook fish. We like all of these options wrapped with freshly cooked roti, but wheat tortillas or any other flatbread can be used if you prefer. I hope you like this. ;o)

What You'll Need
  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1” cube tamarind pulp
  • 1 small handful cilantro, leaves and stems separated
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 small onion (or an equivalent amount of shallots, sliced)
  • 8 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce (or 1 ½ tablespoon regular), plus more, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste, or 2 small anchovies, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  1. A day, or the evening, before you plan to cook the chicken, remove the skin and any visible fat; sprinkle generously with kosher salt, rub it in and refrigerate, covered or tightly wrapped, until ready to cook.
  2. When ready to cook, turn on the slow cooker to high. NB: You’ll be turning it down to low before leaving it to cook.
  3. Put the tamarind pulp in a small bowl with about ¼ cup of very hot water.
  4. Peel and quarter the onion; put it into a microwave safe bowl or Pyrex-type measure. I find the 2 cup works best because it’s a good vessel to use with an immersion blender.
  5. Add the garlic, cover tightly, and microwave for 2 minutes. (This gives the aromatics a better flavor and texture when cooked in a slow cooker. I thank Cook’s Illustrated for this tip.)
  6. Add the soy sauce, lime zest, anchovy paste and brown sugar. Use your fingers to squeeze the tamarind pulp, to check for seeds, and remove any that you find. Add the tamarind and soaking liquid and, using an immersion blender, blend to a coarse paste.
  7. Put the chicken in the slow cooker. Cover each thigh with the aromatic paste.
  8. Cover the slow cooker and turn it down to LOW. Cook for 3 ½ to 4 hours, until the meat is at an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t worry if it goes a bit higher; thigh meat is quite forgiving in that regard.
  9. Scrape off the tamarind paste into the cooking liquid; pour it off into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook to reduce by 1/3, or more if desired. Chop the cilantro leaves and add them to the saucepan while the sauce is reducing, along with some freshly ground black pepper.
  10. Remove the meat from the bones. When the sauce is reduced, taste and add a dash of soy sauce if it needs salt, and the juice of a lime to brighten it up. Gently stir the meat into the sauce. Serve wrapped in roti or other flatbread, or over rice. ;o)
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • SL
  • aargersi
  • AntoniaJames

Recipe by: AntoniaJames

See problem, solve problem. Ask questions; question answers. Disrupt, with kindness, courtesy and respect. ;o)

9 Reviews

SL February 10, 2018
Looks delicious! Would this be good with ginger added, or would that be overpowering?
AntoniaJames February 10, 2018
I wouldn’t. You’ve got enough going on there with the tamarind, cilantro and garlic; I worry that the ginger might be too much. Thank you for your kind words. ;o)
SL February 11, 2018
Made this last night by braising the chicken on the stovetop (the oven being out of commission at the moment), but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. It was DELICIOUS and a huge hit! Tangy, mouthwatering, and totally addictive. I took your advice and doubled the marinade, freezing half for future use. Can't wait to use it in the future!
AntoniaJames February 12, 2018
Thank you, SL. I'm so glad this was such a success - and that you cooked once to eat twice. I have a small container of this in my freezer, as we speak . . . ;o)
SL February 10, 2018
Looks delicious! Would this be good with ginger added, or would that be overpowering?
aargersi February 1, 2018
I almost don’t have to read past tamarind and chicken thighs. Those two things are absolute favorites. If using the oven what do you think about temp? 200 maybe? Or just lowest possible? Mine goes 180
AntoniaJames February 1, 2018
Actually, I'd do an about face on this, sort of . . . . . let me explain.

I first discovered Beggar's Chicken in the mid-90's, in a recipe by Dana Jacobi in a little book written for cooking in clay pots. (Thanks to my brother-in-law, Brian - SallyCan's husband - who happens to be a terrific cook.) I made that clay pot roast chicken for years. The technique there, driven by the properties of the clay cooker, has you put the whole chicken into a cold clay pot and then into a cold oven, which you heat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. It's done in an hour and half, or thereabouts.

What I'd do here is this: slather the paste on the chicken and cover it loosely in the fridge for an hour and a half, and then take it out for about half an hour. Put it in a tightly covered braising pot, ideally one with low sides, along with a cup of very hot water; put it in the cold oven, turning the heat on to 450. Check the internal temperature of the thighs with a thermometer after one hour. The advantage of doing it this way is you can remove the thighs and reduce the sauce right there in the braising pan. I hope you give this a go. If you do, let me know how it turns out! ;o) P.S. I'd do it myself, but with multiple testing and tweaking for this and a similar recipe (not posted - great recipe but life, especially the gorgeous weather, kind of got in the way) for pork shoulder, we have enough "Beggar's Chicken" pork and chicken in our freezer to last us many months. ;o)
aargersi February 1, 2018
Better still! I will for sure try it soon and post results! Thanks for all of the info!
AntoniaJames February 1, 2018
And here's another tip: Make a double batch of that paste and freeze half for the next time. I do that all the time - particularly helpful when I want dinner on the table in short order, typically on those "Plan B" nights when whatever was scheduled just won't work that evening for whatever reason. I pull out a cup of this sauce, along with a package of frozen cod pieces (TJ's special - love them), thaw in barely cool water while I make my sides (heat up rice, also from the freezer, and make a salad), simmer down the sauce with a handful of cilantro leaves to brighten it up and a couple crushed garlic cloves because, well, why not; cook the fish pieces for 3 - 4 minutes, stir in the juice of a lime, and ta da! Dinner.

If I'm feeling particularly energetic, I'll slice an onion and sweat that while microwave-thawing the sauce.

Another great side with anything "Beggar's Chicken" style are Momofuku Brussels sprouts. They're "Plan-B perfect" because they take so little time and taste so good, and you're squeezing limes anyway. ;o)