Thai barbecue at home

We love to go for Thai barbecue at a local Thai restaurant where many Thai people and other expats converge on the weekends. It's all-you-can-eat (and all-you-can-drink San Miguel) for about US$10 a person. That's actually expensive by Thai standards, but a pretty good price in Taiwan for what always turns out to be an epic meal.

Thai barbecue with friends at one of our favorite local spots.

They offer a lot of the same ingredients that we expect to see at any other all-you-can-eat Taiwanese hot pot or Taiwanese barbecue restaurant: thin slices of pork belly, frozen curls of beef, chicken breast, shrimp, seafood, and lots of vegetables like cabbage and morning glory. 

However, Thai barbecue is cooked a little differently: the meat is grilled on a metal dome laid like a lid over the clay grill full of burning charcoal. A piece of pork fat is placed at the top of the dome and you can run it over the surface as it melts to keep the meat from sticking. The dome is rimmed by a moat of broth into which you stuff the vegetables. The heat from the charcoal grills the meat and the smoke flavors it. As the meat cooks, the juices run down the dome into the broth, flavoring the vegetables. It's a flawless system that results in perfect, flavorful grilled meats and cooked veggies.

Action shot of Thai barbecue grill top. This one is aluminum, but ours is cast-iron. Same same but different.

At the restaurant we go to, they also provide little clay grills (konros) with conventional grill tops, perfect for cooking up chicken wings, sausages, and other items that won't fit on the dome. Check out our page on konro grills to learn how to use and care for these cool tabletop grills! 

Grilling sausages and wings on the konro/clay grill at the Thai barbecue restaurant.

As with so many of our favorite tabletop-cooked dishes, what really makes this are the dipping sauces. The sweet chili sauce provided at the restaurant is totally different from the savory sacha-based sauce we love having with our Taiwanese barbecue. It's sweet and a little spicy. You can find it in Asian grocery stores and even some supermarkets in the US, but it's also easy to order online. 

The incomparably cool Jaden at Steamy Kitchen has a recipe for sweet chili sauce you can make at home. Without all the additives and preservatives, it's a healthy alternative to buying it already bottled. 

Buuuut...if you don't want to cut up quite so many peppers, just chop up a few super-spicy Thai bird peppers (wear rubber gloves if you got 'em!) and make this Thai dipping sauce with fish sauce and lime juice. 

Thai dipping sauce

This is excellent for chicken, fish, pork, and vegetables, but I'd try it on just about anything grilled or fried! Beware: the Thai bird chilis are no joke. Wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after touching them. Removing and discarding some or all of the seeds will reduce the intensity of the spice. 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 cups fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup finely minced cilantro
  • 1/2 cup finely minced Thai sweet basil
  • 1/2 cup finely minced mint
  • 2-4 Thai bird chilis, finely (and carefully) minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots or garlic (1-2 cloves)
  • Brown sugar to taste

Directions:

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl, adding more sugar or chilis according to your taste. Make ahead and let set for at least 10 minutes before serving. 


There are countless other sauces you could also use for dipping, such as peanut/satay sauce or a flavorful teriyaki sauce. What you choose depends on how authentic you want to be, but it's also a matter of taste. 

I'm going to awkwardly insert a pro-tip about the meat right here: if you can get to an Asian grocery store that has hot pot meat or grilling meat sliced credit-card thin, that's ideal. But if not, you can get a bigger cut of meat and slice it thin. It's easiest to do this after the meat has been partially frozen, so toss it in the freezer for an hour or so. Use your sharpest knife to cut it just about as thin as you can. 

Mr. Tabletop Cook and I are planning on going to Thailand next year for our summer holiday, and we'll definitely be looking to try different Thai hot pot and Thai barbecue restaurants while we're there!

Various meats and vegetables on the grill top.

Keep reading to learn how you can recreate the Thai barbecue experience at home

Thai barbecue

Equipment:

  • konro grill
  • grill top
  • a pair of tongs or a pair of chopsticks per guest (for cooking)
  • chopsticks or spoons for each guest (for eating)

Get your own grilling dome from Amazon.com--this is where I got mine!

Ingredients

Please have a piece  of pork fat or some lard available to grease the grill top as you're cooking. 

Choose your own adventure:

  • Thinly sliced chicken and/or beef
  • Thinly sliced pork belly or uncured bacon
  • Assorted other proteins, including firm tofu 
  • Seafood and/or firm-fleshed fish pieces, like tuna or salmon
  • Cocktail weiners 
  • Leafy greens, especially water morning glory,baby bok choy, or napa cabbage
  • Assorted mushrooms
  • Squashes, cubed
  • Corn on the cob, sliced an inch or two thick
  • Root vegetables, sliced thin to cook quickly
  • Rice noodles

Directions

  1. Put the konro in a dry, flat area where nothing can catch fire, and light it up. Get the coals burning good and hot--either outside or in a /very/ well-ventilated area. Exercise good judgment!
  2. Put the grill top on top of the konro. Pour some broth or water into the moat around the edge. You just need enough to cook some vegetables, so don’t overfill it. When the grill top is super hot, put the pork fat right on top of the dome. Use tongs to drag it over the surface and grease it up. 
  3. Put any raw vegetables or cocktail wieners and maybe your tofu into the moat. Lay your thin slices of meat over the dome using tongs or a chopsticks. 
  4. As the meat cooks and the pork fat melts, the oil will run down and flavor the vegetables cooking in the moat. 
  5. Guests can use tongs or a pair of chopsticks to move and cook the meat and vegetables. Take each piece off the dome as it’s ready, dip it in the delicious dipping sauce, and enjoy! 
  6. You can let the rice noodles soak in the hot broth at the end of the meal, then pull them out with chopsticks for a hearty finish. 

Serving

Every guest should have a bowl or plate, some chopsticks or a tong, and if you like, a fork and a spoon for eating and serving. 

Want wine? Try pairing your Thai barbecue dinner with a slightly sweet Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, or Traminette. A very fruity dry red could also work, but a little sugar goes a long way in helping the wine and the spice of the dipping sauce get along. Of course, we usually skip the wine in favor of some cold Singha beer if we can get it. 

Just for laughs: Here's the bathroom at the restaurant. Are you a scallop or a chili pepper?

New! Comments

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