Spiced chicken and pandan leaves (Gai haw bai toey)

These deep-fried parcels of spicy chicken loveliness make a great starter for a dinner party. You will need 20 cocktail sticks for this recipe.

Image © Andrew Hayes-Watkins

Photographer: Andrew Hayes-Watkins


makes about 20
Prep time
30 mins to 1 hour
Cooking time
10 to 30 mins


  • 500g skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 10g coriander root, washed and finely chopped
  • 15g galangal, coarsely grated
  • 1 tbsp crushed palm sugar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges, for serving
  • freshly ground white pepper

For the sauce:

  • 40g fresh root ginger
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1⁄2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 1⁄2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1⁄2 tbsp rice vinegar


  1. First make the sauce. Peel the root ginger and grate it finely into a bowl lined with muslin. Gather up the muslin and squeeze the juice from the ginger into the bowl, then discard the pulp. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well, then pour the sauce into a serving bowl, cover with cling film and set aside.

  2. Cut the chicken breasts in half lengthways, then into bite-sized pieces.

  3. Put the garlic cloves, coriander root and galangal in a small blender or food processor or a pestle and mortar. Add the palm sugar and blitz or pound to make a smooth paste. Tip the paste into a large mixing bowl and add the lime juice, sesame oil, Thai fish sauce, soy sauce and a good grinding of white pepper. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and mix thoroughly so they’re all covered with the marinade. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for half an hour.

  4. While the chicken is marinating, bring a large pan of water to the boil. Gently ease in the pandan leaves, and blanch them for 30–40 seconds. Remove and pat them dry with some kitchen paper.

  5. Remove the chicken from the fridge. Lay a blanched pandan leaf on the work surface and place a piece of chicken on the leaf, about 3cm from the end. Fold the pandan leaf over the chicken, then fold again in the same way. The next fold needs a little twist so that you cover the ends of the chicken that are sticking out and not already enclosed by the pandan leaf. Repeat these folds and rolls until the chicken is tucked up snugly in its pandan blanket and secure the ends with a cocktail stick. You should end up with a little bite-sized parcel of chicken entirely covered in pandan leaf. Repeat until you’ve used all the chicken.

  6. Heat enough oil in a wok to deep fry or use a deep-fat fryer. Heat the oil to 180°C. Don’t allow the oil to overheat and never leave hot oil unattended. Fry the chicken parcels in batches for 8 minutes or until the leaf takes on a golden hue. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Serve with the sauce and wedges of lime. (