Sweet and Sour Bangkok-Style Chicken with Chiles


Andrew Zimmern re-creates the dish he was enthralled with at a Thai cafe in Penang on his first visit to Malaysia.

Sweet and Sour Bangkok-Style Chicken with Chiles
Photo: © Stephanie Meyer
Total Time:
1 hr

On my first visit to Malaysia, I found myself in Penang sitting in a small Thai café near New Lane, and I ordered something called Bangkok Chicken. I almost ate the plate, and when I was done, I began interrogating the chef about the dish and came up blank. Language barriers were one issue. The fact that I was a foot taller and twice this guy’s weight didn’t help, either. So I returned the next day with my crew, ordered the dish again, and this time positioned myself at his elbow while he made this dish.

Now, in most of Asia, when someone is stir-frying, they have a dozen or so sambals and sauces already cooked, seasoning purees of all kinds already pounded in a mortar and so on, so it took me ordering this dish several times that day to figure it out, but it was worth it. This recipe serves four to six people as an entrée and can also be made with any protein imaginable. I have done this dish with halved lobsters, pork chops, quail, shrimp, even lamb chops, to much applause from the assembled hordes.

The funniest part about this recipe is the joy it brings to people who notice that Simply Heinz ketchup is part of the recipe. I love to use Heinz’s corn syrup-free ketchup as an ingredient in cooking; the stuff is awesome and very traditional in many parts of southern Asia, where tomato-vinegar-sugar sauces have been used for centuries. The heat-sweet factor here is phenomenal, and I think this recipe is the one my friends clamor for the loudest when we plan dinner parties. Serve it with plenty of Asian short-grain or Thai sticky rice, a tart salad (anything from arugula with lemon and oil to spicy green papaya works superbly) and some steamed green vegetables. — Andrew Zimmern


  • 5 dried árbol chiles, split lengthwise and seeds removed

  • 1 cup boiling water

  • 3 Thai red chiles

  • 4 lemongrass stalks, tender inner white part only, minced (about 1/3 cup)

  • 8 shallots, chopped (2 cups)

  • 8 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 12 small skinless, boneless chicken thighs (3 pounds)

  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

  • Kosher salt

  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil

  • 1 cup ketchup

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice

  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed

  • 1/2 cup lightly packed mint leaves, coarsely chopped


  1. In a heatproof bowl, soak the árbol chiles in the boiling water until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain the chiles. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the árbol chiles with the Thai chiles, lemongrass, shallots and garlic and puree until smooth.

  2. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with the turmeric, cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add half of the chicken thighs and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 8 minutes total; transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

  3. Add the chile puree to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the ketchup, vinegar, sugar and 1/2 cup of water and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken to the skillet and simmer over moderately low heat until the chicken is tender and cooked through, about 15 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, in a medium pot of salted boiling water, cook the carrots until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes; drain. Add the carrots and peas to the chicken and simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mint and season with salt. Transfer the chicken to a platter and spoon the sauce over the top.

Make Ahead

The cooked chicken can be refrigerated in the sauce overnight.

Serve With

Steamed rice.

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