Friday, March 1, 2013

Grilled Five-Spice Chicken - Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table

1 whole chicken (about 2 1/2 pounds), preferably free range, rinsed
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
4 whole star anise, lightly toasted in a dry pan for 3 minutes, pound or ground into a fine powder
1/2 cup soy-lime dipping sauce (Recipe to follow)

Cut the chicken into 6 pieces and make 1 or 2 slashes in each piece for faster cooking. Trim and discard any excess fat. Pat the chicken dry.

In a bowl, combine the oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sugar, turmeric, five-spice powder and salt. Stir well to blend. Add the chicken pieces and turn several time to coat them evenly. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Start a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill to moderate heat. (You can also use a broiler.) Thirty minutes before cooking, add the freshly toasted star anise powder to the marinated chicken, turning so the meat is coated evenly.

Place the chicken, skin side up, on the grill. Cook 10 minutes, then turn over and grill until the chicken is cooked and the juices run clear, another 10 minutes, depending on the thickness. While grilling, move the chicken pieces around so they cook evenly. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Serve with the dipping sauce.

Soy-Lime Dipping Sauce

1 clove garlic
2 fresh Thai bird chiles (or whatever hot chiles available)
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice with pulp
1/4 cup water or to taste

Place the garlic, chiles and sugar in a mortar and pound into a paste. (You can also chop the garlic and chiles by hand.) Transfer to a small bowl and add the soy sauce, lime juice and water. Stir until well blended. This sauce will keep up to 3 weeks if stored in the refrigerator in a tight-lidded jar.

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