~ Sweet & Hot Chili-Sauced Thai-Style Fried Chicken ~
Oh-My-Thai-style snacky-type appetizers. Truth told, I could easily make a meal out of these, and, frankly so could every person I've ever served them to -- every sweet-heat-seeking man, woman and child (every last one of them). Every now and then I get a hankering for fried-chicken -- the good old-fashioned batter-dipped and deep-fried kind -- crunchy on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside. When the hankering hits, I've just gotta have it. What could be better?
Fried chicken with all the bold, bright flavors of Thailand.
Simply irresistible indeed. This is perhaps my favorite of all the Thai-style condiments I use for dipping and drizzling. Next to spicy and slightly-salty peanut sauce, I could and do put it on and add it to almost anything Thai. I got my first taste of sweet and hot Thai chili sauce (Mae Ploy) back in the 1990's and it rocked my food world. That's why there's always sweet chili sauce in my refrigerator, and, I won't lie, it's often store-bought. That said, sweet chili sauce is not hard to make. If you're a purist, or simply curious, you should try making it at home at least at least once.
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon pressed garlic, about 4 large cloves run through a press, or 1 tablespoon store-bought garlic paste
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cornstarch, stirred together with:
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
1 tablespoon cold water
~Step 1. In a 1-quart saucepan, stir together the sugar, vinegar and water. Just stir long enough to combine, not to dissolve the sugar completely (that will come later). Set aside. Run the garlic through a press and set aside. Stir together the cornstarch, fish sauce and cold water. Set aside.
~Step 2. Bring sugar mixture to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Add and stir in the pressed garlic and crushed red pepper. Adjust heat (lower it a bit), to a steady simmer and cook, stirring constantly for 1 full minute. Re-stir the cornstarch mixture. Adjust heat to a gentle simmer (lower it more) and drizzle in the cornstarch slurry. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until nicely thickened, about 30-60 seconds. Remove from heat, cover the saucepan, and set aside 15-30 minutes.
Note: Homemade chili sauce made the way I'm making it today, using red pepper flakes, is not as red colored as the mass-produced, pasteurized, store-bought. That's because store-bought sweet chili sauce is made using loads of pulverized, bright-red, pickled, Thai bird chile peppers. Some recipes instruct to add Sriracha sauce to achieve the red color, but I find that product to vinegary for this culinary application. For me, 4 drops of red food coloring works perfectly.
~ Step 3. Transfer to a food storage container, cool to room temperature and store in refrigerator.
2-4 pounds whole, boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins, about 10-20 large tenderloins, each tenderloin sliced into 4-5 nugget-sized pieces.
1/4 cup each: honey, lime juice, &, Thai seasoning soy sauce
2 tablespoons each: Thai fish sauce & sesame oil
1 tablespoon each: garlic paste & ginger paste
1 teaspoon Sriracha seasoning blend
~Step 1. Slice each chicken tenderloin into 4-5 nuggets, placing them in a 1-gallon food storage bag as you work. Even size = even cooking time, so decide, up front, on 5 smaller or 4 larger sized nuggets and cut every tenderloin the same way. Place ingredients for marinade in a 1-cup measuring container with a tight-fitting lid and a pourer top, then vigorously shake to combine. Pour all marinade into bag of chicken. Seal the bag and marinate in the refrigerator for about 4-6 hours, overnight or up to two days. Remove from refrigerator 1-1 1/2 hours prior to deep-frying. Clip a hole in the corner of the bag, then drain and discard all excess marinade out of the bag.
1 cup pancake mix, for dredging
1 1/2 cup pancake mix, for batter
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1/2 cups beer, your favorite brand (club soda may be substituted)
2-4 tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce, to taste
8 ounces panko breadcrumbs or sweetened flaked coconut, or a combination of both
all of the marinated chicken nuggets, from above recipe, drained of all excess marinade
Medium bowl containing 1 1/2 cups pancake mix whisked with 1 can coconut milk, 1/2 cup beer and 2-4 tablespoons soy sauce, to taste.
An 8" x 8" x 2" dish containing 8-ounces panko or coconut or a combination of both.
Deep-fryer w/corn or peanut oil heated to 360º according to manufacturer's specifications.
Misc: 3-minute timer, fork, spoon, wire cooling rack, paper towels, sea salt grinder.
~ Step 1. To make the batter, whisk together the pancake mix, coconut milk, beer and soy sauce. Set aside for about 5 minutes before starting the frying process. This will give the batter time to thicken to a drizzly consistency. If batter is too thick, or at any point the batter gets too thick, whisk in a little more beer to maintain a drizzly consistency. If the batter seems too thin, whisk in 1-2-4 tablespoons pancake mix.
~Step 2. Working in batches of 5-6 nuggets at a time, dredge each in the dry pancake mix to coat on all sides. Note: I work and fry 5 at a time because that is what fits comfortably in the basket of my fryer without overcrowding it. With the aid of a fork, move up the assembly line and dip each nugget into the batter. As you lift each one out of the batter, hold it over the bowl for a second or two, to allow the batter to drizzle back into the bowl. After dipping each nugget, place it into the dish of panko or coconut or a combo of both. With the aid of a spoon, coat nuggets in the panko/coconut/combo.
~Step 3. Carefully place nuggets in fryer basket, then lower basket down into the hot, 360° oil. Close lid and fry at 360º for 5-6 minutes (5 minutes for smaller cut nuggets, 6 minutes for larger cut nuggets. Lift basket of golden nuggets out of fryer and allow a few seconds for excess oil to drip back into the fryer. Invert the basket onto a wire rack that has been placed atop a few layers of paper towels -- using tongs is a mistake, as it's an easy way to damage their crust. Season each batch of nuggets with a light grinding of sea salt the moment they are inverted onto the rack. Repeat the dredging, dipping and coating process until all fingers are deep fried. Serve hot (almost immediately), warm (within 30 minutes), or at room temperature (within 1 hour). There's more: trust me when I tell you, nuggets will remain crunchy well past the six hour mark.
Special Equipment List: garlic press; 1-quart saucepan w/lid; spoon; 1-cup food storage container w/tight fitting lid; cutting board; chef's knife; 1-gallon food storage bag;
Cook's Note: Peanut sauce is common to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Africa. The main ingredients are roasted peanuts or peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce and palm sugar. Pulverized spices (red chiles, coriander, cumin, garlic, galangal and/or lemongrass, are also added. Purchase it, but, it's so easy to make, I don't know why you would. Try my ~ Thai-Style Spicy Peanut Sauce for Poultry or Pork ~.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)