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Sugarcane chicken with pineapple and coconut salad

Australian Gourmet Traveller recipe for sugarcane chicken with pineapple and coconut salad.

By Emma Knowles
  • 45 mins preparation
  • 30 mins cooking plus marinating
  • Serves 4
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Sugarcane chicken with pineapple and coconut salad
Gai yang is one of our favourite barbecued chicken dishes, especially when cooked over coals in the traditional way. If you can't get sugar cane (available at select Asian grocers), you can skewer the chicken on thick bamboo skewers or chopsticks instead. We've opted for the tang of slightly underripe pineapple in the accompanying salad, but the traditional som dtum is a beauty too. Begin recipe a day ahead to marinate the chicken.


  • 1 tbsp white peppercorns
  • 8 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 50 gm fresh turmeric, coarsely chopped
  • 6 coriander roots, scraped and soaked to remove grit
  • 3 lemongrass stalks (white parts only), thinly sliced
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp finely crushed light palm sugar
  • Juice of 1 lime, plus extra halves, to serve
  • 1 chicken (about 1.8kg), butterflied, skin slashed twice on each halfv
Tamarind sauce
  • 2 red shallots, unpeeled
  • 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 tbsp tamarind purée
  • 30 gm finely grated palm sugar
  • 120 ml fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp roasted chilli flakes
Pineapple and young coconut salad
  • 1 birdseye chilli, coarsely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely grated palm sugar
  • 1½ tbsp each lime juice, fish sauce and rice vinegar
  • ½ slightly underripe pineapple, thinly sliced
  • Flesh of 1 young coconut
  • ½ cup each (loosely packed) mint and coriander
  • 1 red shallot, thinly sliced


  • 1
    Pound peppercorns with a large mortar and pestle, then transfer to a large bowl. Pound garlic, turmeric, coriander and lemongrass in batches to a medium paste, add to peppercorns along with fish sauce, palm sugar and lime juice, mix well, then add chicken and rub all over to coat, rubbing well into the incisions. Cover and refrigerate overnight to marinate.
  • 2
    For tamarind sauce, char shallots and garlic over an open flame, turning occasionally, until tender (4-5 minutes for shallots, 2-3 minutes for garlic; or you can put them under a hot grill). Coarsely chop, then pound with a mortar and pestle to a smooth paste. Stir in remaining ingredients, adjust to taste with extra lime juice, fish sauce or sugar and refrigerate until required. Dressing can be made a day or two ahead.
  • 3
    Heat a coal barbecue to high. Remove chicken from marinade and thread a piece of sugar cane or a thick bamboo skewer through each side (this helps keep it flat and makes it easier to turn during cooking). Barbecue chicken, skin-side down, until golden and slightly charred on the edges (8-10 minutes), then turn and cook until cooked through and juices run clear when chicken is pierced (10-12 minutes).
  • 4
    Meanwhile, for pineapple and coconut salad, pound chilli, garlic and sugar with a mortar and pestle, then stir in lime juice, fish sauce and vinegar and adjust to taste (it should taste salty, sour, sweet and spicy). Combine pineapple, coconut flesh, mint, coriander and shallot in a large bowl, drizzle with dressing to taste, toss to combine and serve with chicken, tamarind sauce and lime wedges.


Drink Suggestion: Full-bodied perfumed white, such as Alsace pinot gris. Drink suggestion by Max Allen