Indonesian Grilled Chicken with Spicy Peanut Sauce Recipe

Heat things up this grilling season with bold Asian flair for a little neighborly entrée envy
Indonesian Grilled Chicken with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

The deliciously smoky scent of grilling is once again beginning to waft through our neighborhoods. But chances are the neighbors haven’t been kicking up their chicken with a little Indonesian heat like you will be. The cooking of Indonesia is bold and makes full use of chilies, coconut milk, and ground nuts such as peanuts and ginko nuts in many dishes, says meat expert and cookbook author Bruce Aidells, who created this recipe for Real Food. For layers of flavor, he first seasons the chicken pieces with a spice paste made with a little chunky peanut butter. If you can, refrigerate up to 8 hours so the flavors soak in, but if time doesn’t allow you can just keep moving with the recipe at that point.

Serve the chicken with plenty of steamed Jasmine rice. Aidells also likes to serve it with cucumbers marinated in sweet vinegar. (See recipe below.) To top it off, a pairing with an ice-cold lager beer would make a great match, as would your favorite punch recipe. Your neighbors will be sniffing around to see what smells so delicious.

For more grilling inspiration this season, check out the Minnesota Monthly Grill Fest May 4 and 5 at CHS Field in St. Paul! Besides the recipes and tips, you’ll also spend an afternoon sampling delicious food, wine, and specialty beers for the perfect kick off to summer.

Indonesian Grilled Chicken with a Spicy Peanut Sauce

Makes 4 Servings

For the Lemongrass Spice Rub
1 tablespoon tender inner leaves of lemongrass, finely chopped or 2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon chunky peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 pounds assorted chicken pieces (about four thighs and two breasts)

For the Spicy Peanut Sauce
2 teaspoons peanut oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon finely chopped lemongrass (tender inner leaves) or 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or more to taste
1/4 cup chunky unsalted natural peanut butter
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce, or more to taste
water as needed
salt, to taste

  1. Combine all the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to blend, creating a paste.
  2. Rub the paste all over the chicken pieces and arrange on a plate or sheet pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 8 hours so the flavors soak in, or proceed with the recipe if time does not allow.
  3. While the chicken is marinating, make the peanut sauce by heating a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil and onions. Cover and cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and lemongrass and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add remaining sauce ingredients and cook and stir until well blended. The mixture should be thin enough to just nicely coat a spoon—if mixture is too thick, stir in water as needed. Adjust sauce to your taste by adding more lime juice, sugar, Sriracha sauce, and salt. Set aside.
  4. Heat one side of a gas or charcoal grill to produce a medium-hot fire. Scatter chicken pieces over the heat, skin side down. Cover the grill and sear for 2 to 4 minutes until the chicken is nicely brown. Turn and cook the other side for the same time or until it begins to brown. If the grill starts to flare up, immediately move the chicken to the part of the grill that has no fire so the chicken does not burn. When all the pieces have been nicely seared, space them over the unlit side of the grill. Cover and cook for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the area near the bone is no longer red. Breasts will take less time than legs and thighs.
  5. When chicken is done, arrange the pieces on a warm serving platter. Gently reheat the peanut sauce and spoon over the chicken. Serve with the marinated cucumbers and rice.

Marinated Cucumbers

Makes 4 Servings

1 English cucumber, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
pinch of salt, or more to taste
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar, or more to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves (optional)

  1. Stir the cucumber with the salt, vinegar, and sugar. Stir in the optional cilantro. Taste and add more sugar and salt if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Nutrition info Chicken with Peanut Sauce & Marinated Cucumbers (per serving): CALORIES 604 (338 from fat); FAT 39g (sat. 12g); CHOL 130mg; SODIUM 1454mg; CARB 19g; FIBER 4g; PROTEIN 48g

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Mary Subialka
Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her school-age son, who used to eat beets and Indian food, will one day again think of real food as more than a means to a treat—and later share this with his younger brother.