Last week I was doing a deep clean-out of my fridge which included throwing away many old expired jars of condiments — bye bye third jar of horseradish — when I found my adored little jar of sambal oelek. If you ask me, this should always be in your refrigerator door. It is a spicy chile condiment widely used in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, that adds both heat and flavor to a dish. To be clear, I am not into adding a huge amount of fiery heat to all my dishes and though sambal oelek is indisputably spicy, it also has a chunky and thick consistency, with visible chile pieces throughout, which not only adds heat but serves the purpose of flavour and texture as well. Less sweet and a little tangier than sriracha, I simply love adding it to almost any sauce that calls for a bit of heat. You can find sambal oelek at any Asian store and almost all main grocery stores. If you live in my area, Vincenzo’s also carries a few brands; I always prefer glass jars to plastic so the one pictured below is the one I usually get.
The recipe for these skewers is an oldie adapted from Bon Appetit that I have been making for years. Fast, simple and super flavourful they are great as an appetizer or a as a main. I don’t like sounding bossy but you really need to use chicken thighs here. Chicken breast just aren’t as flavourful and will almost always be dry when grilled. You don’t have to cut up the chicken thighs and skewer them, they will be great if you grill them whole. But they do cook faster when skewered and I find them a little more fun and perhaps more flavourful since each little piece is coated with lots of sauce. Try not to skip the glazing step, you will miss out on a lot of caramelization and overall extra deliciousness. I like to serve my skewers with a simple steamed vegetable, some hot, fluffy rice and numbingly cold beer that helps kill the heat. Enjoy!
- 3 Tablespoons cane sugar or maple syrup, or sweetener of choice
- 1/4 cup sambal oelek or other hot chile paste
- 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce I use Tamari
- 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
- 4 garlic cloves peeled and finely grated, or minced
- 1 1- inch piece fresh ginger peeled and finely grated, or minced
- 1 lime juiced (optional)
- 2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1½-inch to 2-inch pieces
- 8-10 bamboo skewers soaked in water for at least 20 minutes
- In a large non-reactive bowl, whisk sugar, sambal oelek, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, and lime juice if using. Add chicken and toss to coat. Marinate for 15 minutes, or one hour if possible.
- Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Remove chicken from marinade and thread 4-5 pieces onto each skewer.
- Transfer leftover marinade to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 5-7 minutes until reduced and thickened to the consistency of a glaze.
- Grill chicken skewers on the barbecue, turning a few times and basting with the reserved glaze until the chicken is lightly charred and golden brown all over. Transfer skewers to a serving plate and serve.