Sambal Chicken Skewers & Apricot, Kale and Quinoa Salad


Sambal Chicken Skewers  |  Apricot, Kale & Quinoa Salad

Intro Collage


I distinctly remember the morning I first saw the photo of these chicken skewers gracing the cover of the July 2013 issue of Bon Appétit


I was standing in the checkout line at our local market around 11:00am and one of the clerks was putting the new issues in their place on the magazine rack.  My breakfast that morning had consisted of a nectarine and a cup of coffee so you can imagine the longing in my eyes {and stomach} as I stared at those wonderfully sticky, tender nuggets of charcoal-singed meat on a stick.  At that moment, if I had to choose my last meal it would have been those kebabs.

I hesitate using that word…kebab…in describing this dish.  Images of undercooked chicken or steak sandwiched between burnt pieces of green pepper, onion and cherry tomatoes unfortunately come to mind.  But these skewers are different…very different.  I am convinced that adding fish sauce to meat dressings and marinades elevates the simple to the sublime.  In the  blog “White on Rice Couple” {which he authors with his wife, Diane Cu}, Todd Porter writes:

“I know what a lot of you people are thinking, “Fish sauce?  Um, hell no.”  But wait, my dear skeptics, and listen to my confessional. For many years when I first joined up with this beautiful, crazy Asian, I avoided fish sauce.  Let’s face it, it stinks like something most of us are not used to.  It is, after all, fermented anchovies.  Mmmm, tasty! Not. At least so I thought, but man, was I ever wrong.

One fine meal while dining on a grilled shrimp ball, I dipped it into the Vietnamese classic Nuoc Cham (Viet Fish Sauce Dip) and I suddenly saw the umami.  There was no nasty wired fishiness, instead the fish sauce’s own flavor virtually disappeared and many of the other flavors within the grilled shrimp ball became heightened.  Everything was good before, but after the addition of the the fish sauce everything was incredible.  I was instantly converted.”

The recipe is wonderfully simple {click here to view the original recipe at Bon Appé} and I doubled it with no problems.  One other slight adaptation of mine was to allow the chicken to sit in the marinade for a few hours in the refrigerator before bringing the chicken mixture to room temperature before threading on the skewers and grilling.  I don’t know if this marinating time enhanced the flavor but what I can tell you is that the final result was just as wonderful as what I had imagined that morning in the grocery store.

Sambal Chicken Skewers {adapted from Bon Appétit, July 2013}

  • 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2/3 cup hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
  • ½ cup fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • ½ cup Sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated, peeled ginger
  • 3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1½-inch–2-inch pieces
  • 12-16 bamboo skewers soaked in water at least 1 hour
  • IMG_3304
  1. Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Whisk brown sugar, vinegar, chili paste, fish sauce, Sriracha, and ginger in a large bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for up to three hours.  Let chicken mixture come to room temperature for 20-30 minutes before cooking.
  2. Thread 4 or 5 chicken pieces onto each skewer.
  3. Transfer marinade to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced by half (about 1½ cups), 7–10 minutes.
  4. Grill chicken, turning and basting often with reduced marinade, until cooked through, 8–10 minutes.




The salad I chose {most notably the apricots} paired especially well with the sauce on the chicken.  I followed the recipe exactly from the blog, “Get Off Your Tush And Cook” {click here for the recipe} but here is what it looked like as it came together in my kitchen…





And our dinner plate this evening…



K Initial




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