Photography by Eva Kolenko

Thai Fried Chicken with Crispy Garlic (Kai Thot Kra-Thiam Krop)

  • 2 heads garlic, cloves separated, unpeeled
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro roots or stems, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon white peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 large skin-on chicken leg quarters, 1 to 1¼ pounds each
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • Warm sticky rice, for serving
  • ¾ to 1 cup of Peach Chili Sauce, recipe follows

Peel 4 cloves garlic. Mix with cilantro stems and peppercorns in mini chopper or mortar and pestle; mince to fine paste. Stir in salt and mix well. Rub paste over chicken, covering completely and taking care not to tear skin or loosen it from meat.

Put chicken in a gallon-size plastic food bag, press out air and seal. Refrigerate 12 to 24 hours.

Pound unpeeled garlic in a mortar and pestle or chop in a mini chopper to coarse pieces about size of a match head.

Remove chicken from refrigerator and wipe off paste with paper towel; bring to room temperature.

Pour oil to 3-inch depth in large wok or Dutch oven; heat to 300 F. Line sheet pan with paper towels. When oil is hot, working in batches if needed to prevent crowding, gently add chicken, flesh-side down. Adjust heat as needed to maintain 260 F to 280 F heat. Without turning, cook until skin is light brown and darker brown at edges, 10 minutes. Turn heat to high, turn chicken and continue to cook until skin is golden brown and small cracks are visible at “ankles,” about 10 minutes. Transfer chicken, skin-side up, to lined pan.  Return wok to high heat and bring to 300 F. Have a mesh skimmer ready.

Carefully scatter pounded garlic over oil; oil will foam up 2 to 3 inches. When it does, quickly stir down oil with mesh skimmer. Cook, stirring constantly, just until it turns color of honey, about 20 seconds. Turn off heat; immediately use skimmer to transfer garlic to pan with chicken.

Sprinkle chicken with garlic; serve with rice and peach chili sauce. Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from “Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand,” by Leela Punyaratabandhu, Ten Speed, 2017.