February 6, 2024

Grilled Chicken with Lemongrass and Siling Labuyo Chili

Recipe: Alexandre Vovan

“Traditionally, this dish is served with skin and bones, and that it’s much more tender and flavourful this way.  Our special recipe is printed here, and we hope it will make you fall in love with Vietnam and with locally grown lemongrass.” – Alexandre Vovan


  • 8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 5 whole lemongrass stems (double quantity if using local lemongrass because it is thinner)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 French shallot
  • 6 Siling labuyo chilis (or 1 Thai)


  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) fish sauce (nước mắm)
  •  1 tbsp (15 mL) light soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) rice vinegar or fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) liquid honey
  • 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) water
  • Ground black pepper, to taste


  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) liquid honey



  1. Cut and discard surplus fat on thighs (leaving as little fat as possible). Wash thighs well under cold water, drain, and put in large bowl.
  2. Cut and discard thin green layers of lemongrass stems, keeping tender white flesh near root (pull fibrous layers of lemongrass stems same way you remove dry skin from an onion).
  3. Crush lemongrass flesh with back of chef’s knife (or meat tenderizer), and mince as finely as possible. Finely chop garlic, shallot, and chilis.
  4. Add lemongrass flesh, garlic, shallot, chilis, and marinade ingredients to large bowl with chicken. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or overnight for maximum flavor).
  5. Grill chicken for 30 to 45 minutes over high heat until browned, and then over indirect heat, turning and brushing it with marinade every 5 to 10 minutes. Toward the end of cooking, glaze with honey to lacquer meat. Remove  chicken when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).
  6. Serve with broken rice or noodles and vegetable dish.

Notes and Variations

  • We like to wash the chicken in cold water to remove residue like bits of feather.
  • You can brush the marinade between the skin and the flesh by slicing an opening at one side of the chicken so that the skin stays attached to the flesh on the other sides.
  • The Siling labuyo chili is a very spicy, small, triangular chili from the Philippines. In Vietnam it is called “forest chili” because it grows easily in nature. In Tagalog, the main language spoken in the Philippines, Siling labuyo means “wild chili.” This chili grows very well here but is difficult to find, even in Asian grocery stores.
Author: Alexandra Whyte

Excerpted from Asian Vegetables by Stéphanie Wang, Caroline Wang, and Patricia Ho-Yi Wang. Translated by J.C. Sutcliffe. ©2023 Stéphanie Wang, Caroline Wang, and Patricia Ho-Yi Wang. Published by House of Anansi Press