Baby chicken chargrilled with kaffir lime leaf

Baby chicken chargrilled with kaffir lime leaf

Michael Fountoulakis

Variations of this dish appear on bia hoi menus across the country, but it is the version from the centre of Vietnam I enjoy most. The galangal, lemongrass and chilli in the marinade give it a wonderful perfume when grilled and create a complex taste sensation on the palate.


Quantity Ingredient
1 small free-range chicken
12 kaffir lime leaves
2 garlic cloves
1/2 long red chilli, seeded
2cm knob of galangal, peeled
1 lemongrass stem, white part only
2 red asian shallots
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Lime, chilli and salt, to serve


  1. Remove the wing tips from the chicken with a sharp knife. Cut the chicken in a straight line either side of the backbone. Take the backbone in one hand and hold the breast with the other. Pull the backbone towards you. If you have cut all the way through the skin and tendons, the bones should come away easily. Discard the wing tips and the backbone and lay the chicken flat in a dish while you prepare the marinade.
  2. Roughly chop the lime leaves, garlic, chilli, galangal, lemongrass and shallots. Add to a mortar or a food processor with the five spice, sugar, pepper, fish sauce and oil and pound or process to form a thick paste.
  3. Rub the paste all over the chicken and allow to marinate, covered in the refrigerator, for 4 hours.
  4. Heat a grill or barbecue to high heat. Place the chicken, skin side down, onto the hot grill and cook for 15 minutes, or until char lines appear. Turn the bird over and continue cooking for a further 15 minutes, or until cooked through.
  5. Cut the chicken into 8 pieces and arrange on a platter. To serve, dip the chicken into the lime, chilli and salt.
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