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Thai Grilled Chicken: The Basics

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This is the first part of the Thai Grilled Chicken: The Heroine Upstaged by Her Sidekick series.

It’s difficult – no, impossible – to define “traditional” Thai-style grilled chicken, because there are so many types of it. Each region does its own thing. Then we also have a handful of shops and stalls from different regions whose grilled chicken recipes became so famous that they have not only spawned franchises and knockoffs all over the place but also established some very prominent grilled chicken traditions (cult followings?). Because of this, in my opinion, we cannot categorize the various Thai grilled chicken traditions solely on the basis of geography; we must also take into consideration the businesses that have played a part in defining Thai grilled chicken in the modern days. I’ll talk more about this in subsequent pertinent posts.

But if we have to start somewhere when we talk about traditional Thai grilled chicken, I think Isan, the northeastern region of Thailand, deserves our primary attention for this is the region where the majority of Thai grilled chicken traditions were born. And although it’s not accurate to say that all famous grilled chickens in Bangkok come from Isan, Bangkokians definitely have the Isan migrants to thank for the proliferation and popularization of grilled chicken in the city. Continue Reading →

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Thai Grilled Chicken: The Heroine Upstaged by Her Sidekick

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When people think of Thai cuisine, images of coconut-based curries, warm herbal soups, and stir-fried noodles are often the first to pop up in their minds. Meanwhile, balking indomitably from a place of neglect is a vast repertoire of grilled chicken traditions from every region of Thailand. It is noteworthy that Thai sweet chili sauce, arguably the most famous Thai condiment the world over, is known to the Thai people as “nam jim kai” (น้ำจิ้มไก่) literally, “dipping sauce (for) chicken” with no other formal name.

This points to one thing: the sauce’s raison d’être is to accompany grilled chicken. The fact that the sidekick’s international fame has surpassed that of the heroine adds insult to her injury and puzzles the local observers. Continue Reading →

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How to Eat Satay


Not too long ago, as I was sitting all alone at table number 10 in the middle of one of my favorite places in all of Bangkok, Or Tor Kor Market, I thought of you.

Sure, I was eating alone, but, no, I wasn’t lonely. One cannot possibly feel lonely with a bag of mangosteens and a bag of durian nestling against one’s left hip — or right hip, for that matter. I was just thinking that you might be interested in how the Thai people eat their satay. I could be totally wrong about that, but I’m already four and a half sentences into this post and I’m not a quitter.

Disclaimer: there’s no canonized set of rules when it comes to eating satay in Thailand. Heck, there’s no canonized set of rules when it comes to eating anything anywhere. My role here is to report what’s usually done. Also, I’m a fan of personal freedom. Though I might avert my eyes when seeing someone eating Thai food with rice with a pair of chopsticks and firmly believe that it is a less than optimal way to enjoy Thai food, I will defend their right to eat that way.

So, anyway, in general this is how most Thai people eat their satay. Take it for what it’s worth.  Continue Reading →

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