Braised Chicken in Thai Aromatic Paste Recipe (gai dtai naam)
Prep time
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This northeastern- (Issan) style Thai braised chicken in coarse aromatic paste is very easy to prepare and requires only basic cooking skills.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Thai
Serves: 4
  • 1 free range chicken (about 1 kg), or any of your favorite cuts
  • 17 large garlic cloves (65 gr)
  • 8-13 shallots (70 gr)
  • 10-16 Thai bird’s eye red chilies (15-30 gr)
  • 20 small green Thai chilies (6 gr)
  • 1 tablespoon white peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 5 slices of galangal (30 gr)
  • 16 kaffir lime leaves
  • 3 lemongrass stalks (40 gr)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup coriander leaves, chopped
  • 1/3 cup saw coriander leaves , chopped
  • 1/3 cup spring onions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup holy basil leaves
  1. In this demonstration, we use a free-range chicken, complete with its internal organs, head, neck and feet. I find that adding the chicken feet and the head to the pot create a thicker and richer sauce.
  2. Remove and discard the skin; this allows the essential oils from the paste to permeate the meat. Chop the entire chicken, including the bones, into bite-size pieces.
  3. Prepare the ingredients for the aromatic paste.
  4. Place the garlic, shallots and chilies into the mortar.
  5. Add white peppercorns.
  6. Add salt.
  7. Add galangal.
  8. Add the hand-torn kaffir lime leaves.
  9. Pound all the ingredients together to form a rough paste.
  10. Add the lemongrass stalks and, with the pestle, bruise them to help release their fragrance.
  11. Season with fish sauce.
  12. Add oyster sauce.
  13. And add sugar.
  14. Mix everything.
  15. Place the chicken in a pot.
  16. Add the paste.
  17. Mix everything. You do not need to add water.
  18. I will cook the dish as it traditionally done - on a Thai charcoal stove, outdoors. But you can use different setups: this picture shows a simple setup on a gas stove.
  19. Make sure the gap between the two pots is sealed properly. This picture demonstrates how wet tissue paper is used to seal the gap.
  20. Here is my setup, using the charcoal stove and the two pots. I use a kitchen towel to seal the gap between the two pots.
  21. Place the pots on the stove, and turn the heat to medium low. Make sure that the top pot is filled with iced water.
  22. Check that there are no steam leaks, and cook until all the ice in the upper pot has melted. Do not allow the water in the upper pot to warm.
  23. When all the ice is melted, remove the upper pot and discard the water.
  24. Reposition the top pot, and re-fill it with cold water.
  25. And ice.
  26. Continue cooking until the ice has again melted completely. Repeat this step – changing the water and replacing it with ice, then melting the ice - three times. Cook the chicken for about 1 1/2 hours.
  27. While the chicken is cooking, roughly cut the holy basil, coriander, saw coriander and the green onions; set aside.
  28. When the chicken is done, remove the top pot.
  29. Add the herbs.
  30. Mix the herbs with the cooked chicken.
  31. If you are cooking outdoors on a charcoal stove, be aware that your neighbors may become entranced by the aroma and join you for the meal.
  32. Prepare a papaya salad, hot sticky rice and a bottle of Thai whiskey to go with the meal - enjoy the eating and the company!
Recipe by Thaifoodmaster at