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Garlic-Lemongrass Roast Chicken

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lemongrass roast chicken
Erik Bernstein

Living at home with my parents, I looked forward to my mom’s marinated chicken, orbing gai, every week. Drawing on the bright, bold flavors commonly found in Laos, where my mom grew up, it was the go-to easy dinner in our house. The key ingredients are lemongrass and cilantro, two herbs we used a lot—my mom always had both growing in our Wisconsin garden (along with tomatoes, long beans, shallots, ginger, cucumbers, and more). 

Lemongrass is underrated: With a strong citrus scent and floral flavor, it adds serious zing to this marinade.Fish sauce, which magnifies the deliciousness, and two heads (!) of garlic also do a lot heavy lifting here. 

Before immigrating to the U.S., my mom only grilled this chicken—she didn’t own an oven. This was one of the first recipes from her home country that she learned how to expertly adapt for roasting. I serve it with sticky rice, like my mom always did, which you definitely don’t want to skip for the full experience.

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Yields: 4 servings
Total Time: 1 hour 35 mins
4 lb.

whole chicken


stalks lemongrass, outer layers removed


heads garlic, cloves peeled

1 c.

cilantro leaves and tender stems

1/4 c.

oyster sauce 

1/4 c.

chili garlic sauce

3 tbsp.

fish sauce

3 tbsp.

seasoning soy sauce

3 tbsp.

lime juice (from 2 limes) 

1 tbsp.

black pepper

1 tsp.

MSG, optional

1/4 c.

granulated sugar


large onion, quartered

1 pt.

cherry tomatoes

1/2 c.

low-sodium chicken broth

Sticky rice, for serving

  1. Pat chicken dry. Remove neck and innards from inside cavity and place chicken in a large bowl. 
  2. Roughly chop the white parts of lemongrass (typically the bottom third of the stalk—reserve the tops for the cavity). Add to a food processor with half the garlic, cilantro, oyster sauce, chili garlic sauce, fish sauce, seasoning soy sauce, lime juice, black pepper, MSG, if using, and sugar. Process until combined and pourable.  
  3. Pour marinade over chicken and massage all over (avoid getting too much in the cavity). Smash reserved lemongrass tops with the bottom of a knife and place in cavity. Tie legs together and let chicken marinate 1 hour or up to overnight in the refrigerator. 
  4. Preheat oven to 450º. Place onion, tomatoes, remaining garlic cloves, and chicken broth in a roasting pan or baking dish. Add chicken, breast side up, and roast 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 400º and roast, basting twice, until juices run clear and a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the thigh reaches 165º, about 1 hour 15 minutes. (After 40-ish minutes, cover chicken with aluminum foil to prevent skin from burning.) 
  5. Heat broiler. Baste chicken again and broil until skin is crispy, 2 to 3 minutes. 
  6. Transfer to a cutting board and carve. 
  7. Serve chicken with roasted vegetables and sticky rice

Erik Bernstein
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