Grilled Lemongrass Chicken with Nuoc Cham

4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1 stalk lemongrass, bottom half only, finely chopped
2 Tbsp neutral oil
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp water
1 lb chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
Jasmine rice or rice vermicelli, for serving

Nuac Cham Dipping Sauce:
1 small garlic clove
1 Thai chili, or to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 Tbsp fish sauce

Pound the garlic and black peppercorns in a mortar and pestle until fine.

Add the lemongrass and pound into a rough paste.

Add the oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar and water and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the marinade onto the chicken and mix well. Let marinate overnight, or at least 2 hours; stirring halfway in between if you can to make sure marinade is well distributed.

To Grill:

Preheat the grill on high heat.

Oil the grill grates well then place the chicken on the grill, presentation side down, and cook with the lid closed for 1-2 minutes or until the chicken has nice grill marks. Rotate the chicken 90 degrees to get the crosshatch grill marks, and let them grill for another 1-2 minutes. Tip: Skinless chicken can be sticky, so use a grill spatula to scrape the chicken off the grill rather than grabbing them with tongs which could tear the meat.

To Broil:

Set the oven rack to the top position, about 3-4 inches away from the element, and preheat the broiler on high for 5 minutes. Line a baking sheet with foil (not parchment!) and place the chicken on the baking sheet, pretty side up.

Broil the chicken for 7-10 minutes, or until you have nice browning with little charred bits on the chicken. By the time this happens the chicken should be fully cooked. Don’t flip the chicken; if you try to broil both sides the chicken will not have enough time to develop any browning—it’s better to get a good char on one side than none!

For the dipping sauce:

Pound together the garlic and chili into a rough paste. Add the sugar and grind in a circular motion to break up the chilies further. Add all remaining ingredients and stir until the sugar is dissolved. This can be stored in the fridge for a few weeks.

Notes: You can grill or broil the chicken in the oven, and the sweet and sour nuoc cham dipping sauce couldn’t be simpler. Serve with rice or noodles, or put it in a banh mi sandwich!

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