Braised Chicken in Thai Aromatic Paste (ไก่ใต้น้ำ ; gai dtai naam)

By: Hanuman
Click to listen to the Thai name pronunciation Listen to the Thai name pronunciation
Braised Chicken in Thai Aromatic Paste (ไก่ใต้น้ำ gai dtai naam)

ไก่ใต้น้ำ (gai dtai naam) literally: under water chicken

Gai dtai naam, which means “under water chicken” in Thai,  consists of braised chicken in a coarse, aromatic paste made from lemongrass, galangal, garlic, chilies, kaffir lime leaves, holy basil, coriander and spring onions. In the home-cooked dish popular among the Thai working class, the entire chicken – including the bones – is chopped into bite-size pieces, and served with a bottle of rice wine accompanied by local country-style music (luktung) at high volume.

The dish originated in the rural areas of the semi-arid and salt-rich Issan plateau. In a region where food shortages are both a threat and a reality, the Issan farmers are known for their positive attitude and calm demeanor, even while struggling to make a living.

Thus, every house in upcountry Issan has its own kitchen garden where vegetables and local herbs are grown. Chickens roam at will around the house; the yellowish meat of these free-range birds is denser, leaner and more flavorful than that of commercially raised chickens.

Free-range chicken (ไก่บ้าน ; gai baan)
Free-range chicken
(ไก่บ้าน ; gai baan)

this content is locked

This Content is Locked

Join Today to unlock the content! 

Login

Forgot password? 

Incorrect username or password.

New account

Incorrect username or password.

The name of the dish – “under water chicken”- refers to the cooking setup, where two metal pots are stacked on top of each other. The lower pot is for braising the chicken with the aromatic paste, while the upper one, filled with ice-cold water, acts as the lid. Any gaps between the two pots are sealed tightly using banana leaves, wet towels or even wet tissue paper.

Thaifoodmaster.com
Reflux distillation: a simple science found in folk cooking.

This method allows the meat to retain a moist, tender texture, perfumed by a generous amount of the aromatic paste. Without adding any water, the juices from the meat, the paste and the herbs create a delicious sauce with an extraordinary flavor.

Gai dtai naam applies simple science to folk cooking, using the same principle of ‘reflux distillation employed in a lab to extract essential oils. Here, the cooking vapors condense onto the chilled lid, locking smells and flavors in the pot to produce an incredibly fragrant and tender chicken dish.

Braised Chicken in Thai Aromatic Paste Recipe (gai dtai naam)
Hanuman
This northeastern- (Issan) style Thai braised chicken in coarse aromatic paste is very easy to prepare and requires only basic cooking skills.
4 from 1 vote

Add your own recipe notes

You must be a member to use this feature

Add to Collection Add to Shopping List
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 45 mins
Course Main
Cuisine Thai
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 free-range chicken (ไก่บ้าน) about 1 kg, or any of your favorite cuts
  • 17 Chinese garlic (กระเทียมจีน) 65 gr
  • 8-13 shallots (หอมแดง) 70 gr
  • 10-16 fresh red Thai bird’s eye chili (phrik kee noo) (พริกขี้หนููแดง) 15-30 gr
  • 20 fresh green Thai bird’s eye chili (phrik kee noo) (พริกขี้หนูเขียว) 6 gr
  • 1 tablespoon white peppercorns (พริกไทย)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt (เกลือทะเล)
  • 5 slices galangal (ข่า) 30 gr
  • 16 kaffir lime leaves (ใบมะกรูด)
  • 3 lemongrass (ตะไคร้) 40 gr
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (น้ำปลา)
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce (ซอสน้ำมันหอย)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (น้ำตาลทราย)
  • 1/3 cup coriander leaves (ใบผักชี) chopped
  • 1/3 cup sawtooth coriander (ผักชีฝรั่ง) chopped
  • 1/3 cup spring onion (ต้นหอม) chopped
  • 1/3 cup holy basil (ใบกะเพรา)

Instructions
 

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Prepare the ingredients for the aromatic paste.
  • Place the garlic, shallots and chilies into the mortar.
  • Add white peppercorns.
  • Add salt.
  • Add galangal.
  • Add the hand-torn kaffir lime leaves.
  • Pound all the ingredients together to form a rough paste.
  • Add the lemongrass stalks and, with the pestle, bruise them to help release their fragrance.
  • Season with fish sauce.
  • Add oyster sauce.
  • And add sugar.
  • Mix everything.
  • Place the chicken in a pot.
  • Add the paste.
  • Mix everything. You do not need to add water.
  • 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.
  • Make sure the gap between the two pots is sealed properly. This picture demonstrates how wet tissue paper is used to seal the gap.
  • 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.
  • Place the pots on the stove, and turn the heat to medium low. Make sure that the top pot is filled with iced water.
  • 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.
  • When all the ice is melted, remove the upper pot and discard the water.
  • Reposition the top pot, and re-fill it with cold water.
  • And ice.
  • 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.
  • While the chicken is cooking, roughly cut the holy basil, coriander, saw coriander and the green onions; set aside.
  • When the chicken is done, remove the top pot.
  • Add the herbs.
  • Mix the herbs with the cooked chicken.
  • 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.
  • Prepare a papaya salad, hot sticky rice and a bottle of Thai whiskey to go with the meal – enjoy the eating and the company!
Tried this recipe?We’d love to see it – tag it #THAIFOODMASTER on Instagram! Please leave a comment to let us know how it was!

Get Access – Join Thaifoodmaster Today

Practical and kitchen-tested recipes with a mix of theory, history, psychology, and Siamese culture tidbits.

  • Get access to everything right away. Unlock more than 30 Masterclasses, over 150 recipes and Articles

    Access to Thaifoodmaster’s constantly growing library of prime professional classes, articles, recipes and videos on Siamese culinary topics, available nowhere else in English.

  • GET EXTRA - New Monthly Masterclasses and Recipes

    Gain access to NEW MONTHLY masterclasses as they become available. 

  • 1-1 support from Hanuman

    1-1 support from Hanuman to help you achieve your professional Thai culinary goals

  • Live Q&A Sessions

    The opportunity to join a monthly live two-hour videoconference where I can answer your questions.

  • Great Value!

    one year access for the price of 3 days in-person training.

You will get everything you need to:

  • To Get inspired

    When you design or build a new menu for an event or restaurant or even prepare for dinner with friends.

  • To Satisfy your curiosity.

    Finally !

  • To Master Your Craft

    Master your Thai cooking skills and expand your repertoire.

It is truly brilliant with a revolutionary approach introducing aspects and concepts never broached by cookbooks.
Ian Westcott
Ian Westcott
Sourcing Wines for Discerning Private Clients
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of

Previous:

Next:

9
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x
Get a Free copy of my eBook "49 Classic Thai Stir Fry Dishes"

Subscribe to our newsletter that will keep you up to date with stories and events taking place at Thaifoodmaster!