Summer!  Time to fire up the grill and take the cooking outdoors.  You will actually find us in our backyard cooking quite a bit and not just during the summer. Yes, we are that family that uses the barbecue at Thanksgiving or before the Rose Bowl game on New Year’s Day.  While much of the country is shoveling snow we are shoveling barbecued ribs and chicken into our mouths.  One of the perks of living in California.

Wes is the go to barbecue guy in our family.  I realized long ago that I should stick to indoor cooking.  In my defense I can make some pretty mean marinades for whatever our pit-boss is grilling.  A family favorite is grilled Vietnamese Chicken.  The marinade has so many bold and bright flavors characteristic of Southeast Asia-lemony, garlicky, sweet from honey and salty from fish sauce, its a taste explosion.  It has definitely become one of my standard marinades for barbecue chicken.  I hope it will become one of yours too.  The inspiration for my marinade comes from two wonderful cookbooks I have had on my shelf for years, The Foods of Vietnam (Nicole Routhier) and The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking (Mai Pham).  Both are great primers for Vietnamese cooking.


Don’t let the list of ingredients scare you off.  Most are readily available at Asian markets and at Whole Foods or Safeway.  In a pinch I have used lemon peel for lemongrass.  Though not as nuanced as lemongrass, lemon peel will add that citrusy flavor to your chicken.  Fish sauce adds umami (flavor) and a bit of pungency that kicks it up a notch.  Just thinking about this is making my mouth water!

Grillin’ and Chillin’ Vietnamese Gilled Chicken


    For marinade:
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 shallots,
  • 1/4 cup lemon grass diced (or substitute lemon peel if not available, zest of1/2 lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons nuoc mam (fish sauce)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 quarter -sized slice of ginger minced
  • 1/4 cup mild flavor honey
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • Approximately 2-3 pounds of chicken- breasts and thighs or drumsticks
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced or cut into wedges
  • 1 lemon halved
  • 5-6 sprigs of cilantro (optional)


  • Place marinade ingredients into blender or food processor and process until marinade is emulsified. Garlic, lemongrass and shallots should be finely minced.
  • Place chicken in a ziplock bag or large non-reactive bowl. Pour marinade over chicken
  • Add onion, lemon and cilantro and mix thouroughly.
  • Marinade for up to 2-6 hours or overnight in fridge.
  • Bring to room temperature before grilling.
  • Wes's Barbecue tips:
  • Gas grill: Preheat grill for 12 minutes, Inside burners on low and outside burners on high.
  • Place chicken pieces in center of grill, skin down.
  • Turn off middle burners either right before or right after placing chicken on grill
  • Cook covered for 12 minutes (temperature will be approximately 400 degrees)
  • Flip chicken and grill for additional 15 minutes. Check for doneness.
  • Remove and let stand for 5 minutes.
  • We like our chicken on the edge, as in just done..nothing worse than dry chicken, so you may find you need to grill a little longer.
  • Enjoy!
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