Thai garlic pepper chicken also known as gai tod kratiem also known as one of my favorite Thai dishes ever.
Most of you know I grew up in Thailand. Most of you also know I used to figure skate, which ironically, I started in Bangkok, one of the hottest places on earth. The ice rink almost always had an inch of water on it. I loved the ice skating rink because I loved to skate (obviously) but I also loved it because of the little restaurant inside the rink. The restaurant served up the best gai tod kratiem on the planet. I have no idea if the other items on the menu were any good, or what the other items on the menu even were, because I always ordered gai tod kratiem, aka grlic pepper chicken. It’s funny the things you remember from childhood. This dish is something I remember vividly and it brings back all kinds of nostalgia for me. To this day, it’s still one of my favorite things to eat.
Garlic pepper chicken is definitely one of the more mild Thai dishes. I will warn you though, it has LOADS of garlic in it, like 20 cloves worth, but that’s part of what makes it so good. The garlic, and the garlic skins, are fried and they get really sweet and crispy. This dish can also be made with pork (moo tod kratiem) and is equally delicious. In fact, I’m not quite sure which variety I like more.
Although I’d eaten this chicken many times, I’d never attempted to cook it before last night. My brother happens to be in culinary school in Bangkok right now so I texted him for some tips and ideas on how to make it. He gave me some great advice and this recipe, I feel, is pretty traditional and very similar to how they make it in Thailand. It came pretty close to my beloved garlic pepper chicken from the ice skating rink.
Please see my notes* at the bottom about the garlic cloves and the peppercorns in this recipe.
4 chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup sugar
20 cloves of garlic (eek!) – leave the cloves whole with the skin on!*
1/8 cup of black pepper corns*
1 cup of canola oil for frying
1. Start by marinating the chicken. Combine the chicken slices, oyster sauce, soy sauce and sugar in a bowl. Mix well and let the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator.
2. Next, make the garlic pepper mixture. Coarsley grind the peppercorns in either a spice grinder, mortar & pestle, or by putting them in a zip lock bag and smashing them with a rolling pin or heavy pan. Add the ground peppercorns and the garlic cloves to a food processor or blender and pulse until the garlic and pepper have been chopped finely and are nicely combined.
3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. The oil MUST be hot before you add the chicken. Add half of the chicken to the oil and stir-fry for about 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and some of the edges are slightly crispy. Add in half the garlic/pepper mixture and stir-fry with the chicken for 1 more minute. Remove the chicken and garlicpepper mixture and lay on a paper towel lined plate. I did this with one of these nifty spider utensils, but you could do this with a slotted spoon as well. Leave the rest of the oil in the pan on the burner.
4. Let the remainin oil get hot again and repeat step 3. Add in the remaining chicken, stir-fry for 5 minutes, and then add the remaining garlic and pepper and stir-fry for 1 more minute. Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Combine with the first chicken batch.
Serve this with white rice and garnish with some Thai basil.
*Note about grinding the peppercorns – I totally did not grind the peppercorns before adding them to the food processor and it was a huge mistake! You have to coarsely grind them before you add them in with the garlic because they don’t get fully ground in the food processor.
*Note about the garlic – If you can find it, Thai garlic is highly recommended for this recipe. The cloves are smaller and it smells a bit more mild than regular garlic. If you can’t find it, regular garlic works fine too.