Kai Yang is known more commonly as Thai Grilled Chicken, and is one of my favourite street foods in Asia. It originated in northern Thailand but is now commonly eaten throughout the whole of the country. The dish is a standard staple of street markets and readily available at all times, though evening meals are the most typical time to see people tucking into their chicken. It is often paired with som tam and sticky rice.
I never used to find Thai food that interesting until recently, when all of a sudden I visited Chiang Mai for the first time, and I began to understand that it is that city – not Bangkok – which is the culinary capital of Thailand. All of a sudden, I found that I am overloaded with senses when I walk the street markets and night markets, and see delicious sai ua (Chiang Mai Sausages), khao niao mamuang (sticky rice with mango), and a whole host of grilled meats, such as lamb and pork, on sticks! But kai yang, otherwise known as grilled chicken, could potentially be the best of the lot!
To prepare and barbeque kai yang, a whole chicken is often halved and pounded flat. It is marinated and then grilled over a low heat on a charcoal flame for a long time. The marinade typically includes fish sauce and garlic. Compared to many of the original Isan chicken dishes from the north, a lot of kai yang found in Bangkok nowadays is mild and somewhat sweeter, as if to cater to western tourists’ palettes – but I am not complaining!
I am always salivating when I think about kai yang, so you can imagine how I must feel when I am actually lucky enough to be eating it! Good kai yang is actually hard to come by – in my experience anyway – and as such only really in Thailand itself have I ever had the authentic stuff. Soi 38 and Khao San Road in Bangkok, as well as in the night markets of Chiang Mai, is where the best chicken is found, and a Chang Beer and a portion of sticky rice are perfect accompaniments!
The smells – as well as the sights – are often too much for me and my wallet, and I end up spending WAY TOO MUCH for lunch and dinner. Still, at least I discovered kai yang, which is a typically Thai way to cook my favourite meat!