Kai Hor Bai Tong (Chicken in Banana Leaves)

In this variation of Thai kai hor bai toey, which traditionally calls for pandan leaves, banana leaves are used to insulate the chicken pieces as they cook.

Kai Hor Bai Tong (Chicken in Banana Leaves)
Photo:

Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

Active Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
1 hrs 45 mins
Servings:
4 servings

In this recipe, thin strips of banana leaf are wrapped around chicken pieces and secured with wooden picks to encase the meat while it bakes. The banana leaves lock moisture into these snackable morsels of well-seasoned chicken, and impart additional flavor and aroma as they cook. The recipe, from F&W Editorial Fellow Alexandra Domrongchai’s grandmother Amy Domrongchai, yields small, tender bites of chicken that pack a very aromatic, flavorful punch thanks to a citrusy and peppery marinade made from lemongrass and ginger. Because of their small size, it’s important to keep an eye on the pockets while they bake as they cook quickly. Aim to pull them at around 160°F — carryover cooking will ensure they reach a food-safe 165°F temperature. As an alternative to the traditional dipping sauce, the vinegar in this sauce adds a nice balance.

Ingredients

Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce (such as Healthy Boy) (see Note)

  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce

  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar

  • Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Chicken

  • 5 medium garlic cloves, peeled

  • 3 (5-inch) cilantro stems

  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled

  • 1 small lemongrass stalk, trimmed and finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)

  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper

  • 2 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 20 [1-inch] pieces

  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 (20- x 10-inch) banana leaf pieces

Directions

  1. Make the dipping sauce: Combine 1/2 cup water, sweet soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a small bowl; let cool completely, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

  2. Make the chicken: Smash garlic, cilantro stems, ginger, lemongrass, and white pepper using a mortar and pestle, or in a mini food processor, until mixture is a uniform paste. Transfer paste to a large bowl, and add chicken. Stir until well combined. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes.

  3. Whisk together light soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, oyster sauce, and salt in a bowl. Pour over chicken; stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate 20 minutes. Cut banana leaves into 40 (10- x 1-inch) strips; set aside.

  4. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place 1 piece of chicken at one end of a banana leaf strip. Roll up chicken in leaf strip, leaving 2 sides exposed. Place wrapped chicken, with 1 exposed side down, onto end of a second banana leaf strip, and roll up to enclose chicken and create a small parcel. (The chicken might be slightly exposed in places where the strips don’t fully meet.) Secure with a wooden pick. Repeat process with remaining chicken and banana leaf strips.

  5. Transfer chicken parcels to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet, spacing at least 1 inch apart. Roast in preheated oven until chicken is cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes, flipping halfway through roasting time. Transfer chicken to a large platter. Garnish dipping sauce with toasted sesame seeds, and serve.

Note

Sweet soy sauce is a Southeast Asian condiment made from soy sauce and palm sugar. Find it at Asian grocery stores or online at umamicart.com.

Suggested pairing

Brisk, minerally, dry white: Vadiaperti Coda di Volpe

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