Chicken in Pandan Leaves, or Gai Hor Bai Toey, is another popular Thai dish with chicken marinated wrapped in pandan leaves steamed, then deep-fried, and serve with sesame sauce. This dish is more a restaurant food from middle class restaurants to high end restaurants because it is more delicate in preparing and appearing.
Pandan leaves or Pandanus Amaryllifolius, and or Bai Toey (in Thai), is a tropical plant and is used widely in Southeast Asian cooking as a flavoring and coloring. In Thailand we use commonly and wildly in dessert more than in savory food. Pandan leaves are availableiin the frozen food section at Asian grocery stores.
Pandan chicken is typically served with a sweet and salty sesame dipping sauce which complements the subtle spice of the chicken nicely. However, if you’re a devoted sweet chili dipping sauce (nam jim gai) then please feel free to serve it as as well. And if you are serving these fantastic hicken bites for a party, giving your guests a choice in dipping sauces would make eating them even more fun!
Serves 2 to 3
For the Chicken:
5 boneless, skinless, free-range chicken thighs
1/4 cup of roughly chopped cilantro (coriander) stems
5 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil for blending
2 1/2 cups vegetable oil for frying
20-25 pandanus leaves, fresh or frozen and thawed
For the Sesame Sauce:
4 Tablespoons thick sweet soy sauce*
1½ Tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½teaspoon ginger, chopped very fine
½ teaspoon roasted sesame seeds
For the Sesame Sauce:
In a pot, heat sweet soy sauce, white vinegar and soy sauce on medium heat until sweet soy sauce dissolved and add ginger. Combine well.
Remove from heat and transfer to a sauce bowl.
Garnish with sesame seeds and set aside.
For the Chicken:
Place the cilantro (coriander) stems into the blender with garlic cloves, salt, white pepper and sesame oil. Blend for about 30 seconds and then add the 1/4 cup of vegetable oil. Blend for about a minute or until ingredients are paste-like.
Cut the chicken into slightly bigger than bite-sized pieces. Make sure they are kind of square-shaped. Add the oyster sauce and paste to the chicken. Mix well, cover and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours.
Once the chicken is ready, take a pandanus leaf and put a piece of chicken in the middle of it.
To wrap the chicken in the pandan leaves, follow the diagram below. First, fold the pandan leaf like you would to make a yellow ribbon, leaving one side longer than the other (Image 2). Place the chicken in the middle of the ribbon (Image 3) and fold the longer pandan length back over the chicken, securing it by threading it through the other pandan length (Image 4). Turn the chicken over (Image 5) and do the same thing with the longer pandan length on this side (Image 6). When you turn the chicken back over to its front, it should be wrapped fairly securely in the pandan leaf, with a little tip peeking out through the top. See the video below in the Cook’s Notes for further instructions.
Place the parcels in a bamboo steamer and steam the parcels for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the steamer and allow the to sit for a minute or two to allow excess water and marinade to drip off. This will spare you some serious oil popping later.
Heat the oil in a wok or a saucepan over a medium heat. Test the oil with a piece of leaf – it is ready if it starts to sizzle.
Gently place several chicken parcels into the oil and fry for about 5-6 minutes. Remove the parcels with tongs and shake off any excess oil. Place the parcels on paper towels to drain.
Serve with the dipping sauce of your choice.
*There are two kinds of thick soy sauce; sweet and salty. If thick sweet soy sauce is not available, Hoisin sauce can be used as a substitute.
The chicken cooks rather quickly and you will know when it is done when the pandan leaves become crispy and acquire a more golden hue than green. You can always take a piece out and cut into it to be sure.
Video Tutorial for Preparing Gai Hor Bai Toey