This is the basic recipe for a dish that allows great variation. Some cooks add a large pinch of powdered turmeric to the paste; others add some fresh lemongrass or a little black pepper. To my mind, the best version comes from a village called Si Saket, in the northeast of Thailand.
3 coriander roots, scraped and chopped
Pinch of salt
4 garlic cloves, peeled
10 white peppercorns
1 small chicken, about 400g (12 oz.)
3 tablespoons fish sauce
Large pinch of palm sugar
1/2 cup scraped and chopped coriander root
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup long red chiles, deseeded if desired
4 cups white vinegar
3 cups white sugar
4 cups water
Using a pestle and mortar, pound coriander roots, salt, garlic, and peppercorns into a fine paste. Cut chicken in half along the breastbone. Flatten out, wash and dry. Work in the paste, fish sauce, and sugar and leave to marinate for a few hours.
For the sweet chile sauce, pound coriander root, salt, garlic, and chiles into a paste. Combine vinegar, sugar, water, and salt in a pot and bring to the boil. Add paste and stir to dissolve. Simmer sauce until reduced by half, skimming as necessary, then set aside to cool.
Char grill chicken for about 15-20 minutes, turning regularly. Serve with a bowl of the sauce. Eat with raw vegetables, especially cucumber.
Adapted from Thai Food by David Thompson (Ten Speed Press, 2002). Copyright 2002 by David Thompson.
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