When I woke up this morning, I had no idea that today I would eat the best chicken I've ever had in my life.
The blessed event took place at a less-than-mediocre-looking open air eatery at the side of a highway on the eastern outskirts of Bangkok. It's called something in Thai, which translates roughly as "Madame's Papaya Salad and Crispy Skin Chicken". My cousin Ann, who drove, came across this place because she teaches at a nearby university.
The signature chicken dish consists entirely of thigh-meat. The thigh bone is removed. The meat is pressed flat and grilled over a low and smokey charcoal fire, alongside the bones.
It seems like a straightforward way of making grilled chicken, but somehow the skin becomes UNBELIEVABLY crispy. Crispier than the crispiest Peking duck I've ever had. It's like eating lacquer or light bulb glass or maybe chicken brittle. The flavor of the skin is very savory with a hint of black pepper. The meat becomes super intense and toothsome (though not dry or tough) during the grilling process, reminding me of really good jerky or barbecue or even confit. Very concentrated flavor. Even if there were no crispy skin involved, this chicken meat would still be near the top of my Best Chicken List. The crispy skin just sends this dish off the scale.
A further bonus is the pile of grilled bones on the side, which makes for tasty gnawing while you're waiting for your third and fourth plate of chicken to arrive.
We were trying to figure out what they do to the chicken to get it so tasty and crispy. Brining? Air-drying? MSG? We asked one of the cooks, and she sort of shrugged and said that she didn't do anything special. I don't blame her for guarding her secret.
It takes about a half hour on the expressway (assuming no traffic) to get to this place. Kind of out of the way, but it's actually not far at all from the new Suvarabhumi Airport (which is scheduled to open later this year, and will supposedly become Thailand's major airport).
According to Ann, this restaurant has a nearby competitor (who was closed that day) who also specializes in crispy-skinned chicken. If I have a chance to go there, I'll report back.
Below is a picture of the chicken. I'll follow up this post with a photo of their business card, so you can call them and get better directions.