foodFood & Drink

In the Kitchen With: Melissa Clark’s Sticky Tamarind Chicken

by Kristina Gill

Sticky Tamarind Chicken with Crisp Lettuce

Food writer and cookbook author Melissa Clark’s name is synonymous with easy-to-make, delicious food, in my book. When I heard the news that Melissa’s new book, Dinner, would be coming out this year, I was counting down the days until its release. Upon opening the book, I was immediately drawn to the Sticky Tamarind Chicken with Crisp Lettuce recipe because it includes many of the flavors I so love in Asian food. If you don’t already keep fish sauce, tamarind paste, and sesame oil in your pantry, now’s the time to start! This incredibly easy recipe comes together in 40 minutes, including cooking time. A perfect recipe to add to your arsenal! —Kristina

Why Melissa loves this recipe: The joy of this recipe really rests in the tamarind paste. Just one dab lends such a brightness that’s both mouth-puckering-ly tart, but also fruity and sweet. It also lasts forever in the fridge after you open the jar. So it’s a handy ingredient to keep around. In this recipe, it really gives these juicy roasted chicken thighs a lift, making them highly complex without actually requiring you to do any work. I just love recipes that do that.

Dinner by Melissa Clark

Food photography by Eric Wolfinger | Portrait by Amy Dickerson

with Crisp Lettuce

Total time: 40 Minutes + Optional 24 hours marinating
Serves 6

Sticky, zesty, and ridiculously easy to make, part of the pleasure of this dish is how the juicy tamarind-glazed chicken contrasts with the cool, crisp lettuce and, for chile lovers, the zingy heat of a sliced jalapeño. It’s got a sweet-and-spicy appeal similar to eating chicken wings, but the chicken thighs make it more knife-and-fork friendly for your dinner plate.

If you want to make this with skinless, boneless breasts or thighs instead of bone-in meat, you can; just reduce the cooking time by five to ten minutes. Or use the tamarind glaze on wings, and, after roasting, run them under the broiler to crisp the skins.


— 3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
— 2½ tablespoons soy sauce
— 3 tablespoons honey
— 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
— ½ tablespoon tamarind paste or concentrate
— ½ teaspoon red chile flakes
— Grated zest of 1 lime
— 1 garlic clove, grated on a Microplane or minced
— 3 pounds bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
— Freshly ground black pepper to taste
— 1 jalapeño, sliced (optional)
— Crisp lettuce leaves, such as Bibb or romaine, for serving


1. Heat the oven to 425°F.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, tamarind, chile flakes, lime zest, and garlic.

3. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Add the chicken to the sauce in the bowl, and turn to coat the pieces well. Arrange the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet, and pour the sauce over it. (If you like, you can refrigerate the chicken at this point, covered, for up to 24 hours.) Roast, turning the chicken occasionally, until it is cooked through and caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes.

4. Top the chicken with plenty of black pepper and jalapeño slices if desired. Serve over lettuce leaves.

Reprinted from Dinner. Copyright (c) 2017 by Melissa Clark. Photographs copyright (c) 2017 by Eric Wolfinger. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

About Melissa: Melissa Clark is a staff writer for the New York Times, where she writes the popular column “A Good Appetite” and stars in a weekly complementary video series. The recipient of both the IACP and James Beard awards, Clark lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and daughter. Dinner is Melissa’s most recent cookbook. You can find out more about her other books at MelissaClark.net. Melissa can also be found on Twitter and Instagram.

Portrait of Melissa Clark

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  • Not only is the dish itself a total winner, but if you have extra chicken it is fantastic as the foundation of a barbecue chicken pizza (just save the sauce/juice from the broiling pan)