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Thai Stir-Fried Chicken with Chile Jam recipe

I was recently interviewed about cookbooks that I like and when I thought about the ones I’ve been most intrigued with, a few stood out. They were single-subject books that explore a single topic, which I find useful when looking for a straightforward recipe to try out. But the more complex, thorough books help me understand cuisines that I’m not all familiar with. For example, I have a massive, magnificent 688-page book on Thai cuisine that is the ne plus ultra of Thai cookbooks. But every time I’ve cracked it open, I feel like if I don’t get all twenty-seven ingredients called for in the recipe, it’s not going to work. Or that I’m doing something wrong and I’ll be cursed by a thousand Thai grandmothers (or the internet) for the rest of my life.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great book and I love sitting in am armchair, reading about food traditions and so forth. But in reality, and in the kitchen, it’s a different story. And often we have to make compromises or make do with what we can, if we want to make a dish.

Thai Chiles

It can quickly become tiresome having the authenticity police breathing down your neck, with people picking out anything that you’re doing wrong when making dinner. (As I wrote in my recent book, cultures and traditions change over time. Italians didn’t always have tomatoes, chiles weren’t always part of Thai cooking, and hamburger meat didn’t originally come from America.)

So it’s a true pleasure to have a reassuring voice like Leela Punyaratabandhu, in her terrific book, Simple Thai Food, telling you that – you know what? – you don’t need to make yourself crazy to cook Thai food. We can all breath a sigh of relief. And, if necessary, you can make a few adjustments and still retain the original flavors of the dish.

Thai Stir-Fried Chicken with Chile Jam-2

Not everyone wants to spend the afternoon in the kitchen and a good example of her non-compromising compromises are the two side-by-side recipes for satay sauce, one is “The Easy Version” and the other, “The Less-Easy Version.” Although both look pretty easy to me.

Before the book came out, I got a sneak preview as they asked me for a quote. (When my publisher was looking for a Thai cookbook author, they mentioned Leela, whose site I’ve always enjoyed and gave her an enthusiastic thumbs-up.)

Thai food is something that people don’t often make at home since it requires a few ingredients that you might not necessarily have on hand, or have to hunt down. I was able to gather the two things I didn’t have – oyster sauce and the chiles – at an Asian supermarket in Paris pretty easily. So they shouldn’t be all that challenging anywhere else. But I had thought that my jar of Thai chile paste in the refrigerator was, in fact, “jam.” Because, well, I don’t read Thai. However, on closer inspection, the ingredients were in French (which I do read) and noticed that it was, indeed, different from Thai chile jam.

Thai Stir-Fried Chicken with Chile Jam-3

So I used chile paste and, lo and behold, the dish was a huge success. In spite of the fact that I love spicy foods, I cut the amount in half because that chile paste is pretty intense. (And for those who think the French don’t like spicy food, my French other-half recently confessed to me that Thai food was his cuisine préferée, or preferred cuisine.)

The fire in those long Thai chiles can sneak up on you as well, even though they’re not nearly as crazy-hot as the tiny bird’s-eye chiles that are frequently used in Thai cooking. But without a lot of fuss, and less than ten minutes of work, we had a great Thai meal that I’d stirred up myself. How crazy is that?

Thai Stir-Fried Chicken with Chile Jam-4

Stir-Fried Chicken with Chile Jam

Adapted from Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen by Leela Punyaratabandhu This recipe gives you all the authentic, fiery flavors of Thai cuisine, with just a few simple ingredients. And you can have a meal for two on the table in less than ten minutes. (The original recipe said that it makes enough for 4, but we have a big appetite when it comes to Thai food, and I’d say it’d serve four people if there were other dishes served with it.) Make sure you have a batch of rice on hand to serve with the chicken, to provide some relief from the heat. When I made this, I cut the chicken a bit on the thicker side. So next time, I’m going to slice it thinner than in the photos, so it’ll cook faster and soak in more of the flavor of the sauces. Leela notes that if you can’t get Thai peppers, swap out one bell pepper instead. At the risk of infuriating the purists, if you can’t get chile paste or chile jam, another thick chile sauce, like Sriracha, would probably work fine. Don’t tell.
Servings 2 generous servings
  • 12 ounces (340g) boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2 or 3 chicken filets, depending on size)
  • salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 yellow or red onions, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch (2cm) slices
  • 2 red or green Thai long chiles, sliced in half, seeded and deveined, cut diagonally
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) Thai chile jam, or 2 tablespoons Thai chile paste
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • Slice the chicken breasts diagonally into strips about 1/3-inch (1cm) wide. Put them in a bowl, seasoning them with a little salt.
  • Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they start to wilt, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken, sliced chiles, chile jam or paste, oyster sauce, and fish sauce.
  • Continue to cook everything together, stirring frequently, until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Related Recipes

Thai Green Curry

Simplest Beef Curry

Thai Chile Jam (She Simmers)

How to Make Perfect Asian Rice

Olympic Seoul Chicken

Teriyaki Chicken



    • Rodolfo

    You mean chilli jam not Chile jam!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      House style for publishers differ. Ten Speed Press (Random House) uses “chile” rather than “chile,” which the author chose to use in her book. More here: Chili or Chile? Dispute Never Seems to End (Los Angeles Times)

    • Jennifer

    Now I’m curious about Thai chile jam. Not sure I’ve ever used it, but it sounds fabulous!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I did a scan of the shelf at the Asian food store and didn’t see it. But the recipe worked great with Thai chile paste. Leela does have a recipe in her book and on her website for chile jam, which sounds like something nice to have on hand.

    • Gretchen

    I just picked up that cookbook at my local library! I love Thai food but cooking it at home seems daunting. Sounds like this cookbook is right up my alley!

    • Steve Martin

    Nice catch, Rodolfo.

    I was in a bad jam in Santiago, once…on Route 5.

    I should have thai’d taking the train instead.


    Made some Thai garlic chicken the other night. Tre magnifique!

    • Susan B

    Hmm, an errand this morning takes me close to Chinatown–I see a detour ahead, not that I ever need an excuse. Nam Prik Pao, here I come…

    • Ksenia @ At the Immigrant’s Table

    I completely agree with you about one-subject cookbooks, and the perceived intimidating factor of long (and exotic) ingredient lists. It took me a while before I was comfortable enough with Indian cooking to start improvising, and though I know it’s probably not “authentic”, it tastes close enough for my palette. Now, I just need to find a recipe to use exactly those hot bird’s-eye chiles my partner brought home….

    • Caroline

    I think the Thai chili jam is also called nam prik pao. It’s a delicious sauce that is very easy to make at home. I once bought a jar in a Thai store and it was not bad but the homemade one is way better. I always have some in the fridge because it’s great for stir-frying and in soups too. Your recipe is very similar to the one I make with my nam prik pao except that I add a bit of lime juice because I am addicted to lime juice :)

    • Elizabeth

    Wow, love it! I have some amazing house made chili jam that is made fresh at this killer Chinese restaurant here in Chicago. Sun Wah BBQ. I go through it like water. Now I will make this recipe with it. It is a great middle of week meal. Yum.

    • lagatta à montréal

    That sounds delicious (though I’ll use thigh meat). I’m not sure I’d call a cookbook on a national cuisine a “one-subject book” – certainly nobody would be likely to say that about French or Italian cuisine. But I know what you mean about authenticity. I borrowed James Osland’s excellent book on Indonesian cuisine, “Cradle of Flavor”, and he was adamant about not using jarred sambals. While I was thrilled to learn how to make fresh sambals, Indonesians I know do use premade sambals and other ingredients as a shortcut. They have busy lives too!

    Oh dear, chile, chili, chilli… The origin of the South American country’s name comes from an utterly different Indigenous language. And in French that country is “Chili”.

    Psst, cuisine préférée… I don’t want to be the proverbial Grammar Nazi, but you should remember that la cuisine is feminine. ;-)

    I’ll be making this soon!

    • Didier

    “nec plus ultra” David… The “c” is missing!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I used this spelling.

    • Samantha M.

    Also I think you might mean Satay sauce not stay sauce. Though I could be wrong my knowledge of Thai food is limited. I am totally making that for dinner tonight I have all the ingredients, and if I can find them here in the standard supermarket deep in the Mid West bland food belt they should be pretty easy to find elsewhere.

    • Tom L

    Thanks for the recipe and tip. I just ordered her cookbook, it sounds so good!

    • Didier

    My apologies David! I’m old school: I had no idea that a more modern version existed… I owe you one, and a meal! ;) After all, you are our “ne plus ultra” American living in Paris!

    • Natalie @ In Natalie’s Shoes

    I LOVE Thai food! I have always been intimidated to try it, but this sounds totally doable! I may have to go out and grab Leela’s cookbook.

    • Cooking in Mexico

    Re: the different spellings of chile. When I lived in New Mexico, where Hispanics outnumber Anglos, I was corrected (by a native New Mexican) on not only the spelling of chile, but my pronunciation.
    Pronunciation guide if you want to pronounce it like those who speak Spanish do:
    Spelling in the southwestern US and Mexico, land of 10,000 chiles: CHILE.

    • Vicki B

    You hit the world of cookbooks squarely on the head. My family calls my collection “fictional reading” for just this reason but I enjoy them immensely and consider them educational. Whenever I find one that stresses simplicity, I jump for joy!

    • Bebe

    Kudos to David for another good recipe (and simple) and an interesting cookbook on that many feel is a daunting cuisine.

    Let’s cut David some slack and lay off the spelling and typo nannying. There are many spellings for many foreign (to us in America) terms and many of our fingers slip on the keyboard once in a while. Constantly correcting others in “their house” is not really courteous, nor is it a way to win friends.

    • Bebe

    (waiting for someone to jump on my “that” for “what”. Argh.)

    • Dan T

    For most Americans, “chili” is a Tex-Mex stew, and “chile” is the pepper or its preparations. Fortunately, they’re all delicious no matter how you spell them!

    • Rick

    Thank you Bebe – my thoughts exactly!

    • Karen

    I think I know that Complex Thai cookbook ;) I can recommend Thai Street Food by David Thompson though, much more realistic

    • Sandra Alexander

    Spot on, Bebe. Cripes, I just made a typo in my own name when I started this comment! And spellcheck changed “cripes” to “crimes”. David, whatever the typos and regional spellings you bring us all laughter and joy. And good tucker (regional usage alert!)

    Aaaaanyway, what I set out to write – for a straightforward but authentic Asian cookbook, can’t go past Charmaine Solomon’s COMPLETE ASAIN COOKBOOK. first published in 1976, many revisions, still in print, and available online. My own (original edition) copy is, like all good cookbooks, splattered and tattered, and held together with duct tape. Can’t bear to replace it. She taught generations of Australians how to cook the wonderful food of our near neighbours, and was central in driving the passion for Asian food that makes our present restaurant scene so vibrant. Highly recommend.

    • lagatta à montréal

    Sandra, yes, I agree – wonderful book!

    Bebe, I certainly agree about grammar nanny (or Nazi) ism- was teasing David a bit as after all, “cuisine” is what he does. I have to avoid correcting spelling, grammar or syntax as it is one of the things I do all day long, for $€£

    • lagatta à montréal

    Notice absence of full stop – period – dot – at the end of my sentence. Arrrrrrgggghhh!

    • luis t moscoso

    Please David, what’s the name of the Thai cookbook ne plus ultra?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      It’s Thai Food by David Thompson, and is truly a spectacular book. (A friend of mine who is Thai, and a great Thai book, says it’s a great book because of the way he researched his recipes.) I own it and keep wanting to make something from it. But it is a bit daunting. So I’m glad I have both his book, and Leela’s, in my collection.

    • Kelly

    I love Thai food, but never it cook it myself because I find it intimidating. Thanks for sharing this recipe! I’ll give it a shot!

    • Gavrielle

    It’s fascinating what cultural differences turn up through food. I was surprised to read that people don’t often make Thai at home, as in New Zealand, Thai is huge. Even with a long list of ingredients (as you would expect, they’re easy to find here) I don’t find Thai slow to prepare – pretty much the opposite, especially if you (shh) use a food processor to make the paste rather than a mortar and pestle. But if people elsewhere have less experience, it’s great to give an easy introduction to a fantastically delicious cuisine.

    • MsJeVA

    Thai, followed closely by Vietnamese, are two of my all my time favourites! The flavours are so fresh! Just downloaded the cook book and can not wait to try out a few of the recipes at home!

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    As much as I wish I could write all the blog posts that I do and not have any typos, those little bugs are bound to happen. (Which are particularly hard to detect when I’m writing in html code.) As I wrote a while back, the nature of blogging is meant to be more casual and less-structured. So while I read, and re-read, each blog entry multiple times before hitting the “Publish” button – and a few times after – I’m bound to have missed a letter in a word every once in a while, or spelled something incorrectly, especially in French.

    (In case anyone things French is easy, even the French have trouble with French because it’s so nuanced. And there is the Académie Française, which has been around since 1635, that is in charge for making sure the French language is used correctly.)

    I decided that I need to spend a portion of my time stepping away from the computer, going outside, and exploring. And writing about place or things to do in Paris that I think would be interesting for readers and visitors. Or being in the kitchen, baking and cooking, and sharing recipes with you, rather than worrying about writing “its” instead of “it’s” I explored working with a proofreader and seasoned editor, but the back-and-forth between us added an extra two to three days before I could publish a post, and that was not in the spirit of why I started the blog way back in 1999, and why I continue to enjoy doing it today.

    I don’t mind people pointing out typos (in fact, I welcome it as I want things to be correct! – and you have no idea how many times I read, and re-read, Leela’s last name before I published this post, to make sure I got it right…), but I do insist that people be respectful of me and others when leaving messages on the site. I want the site to be a place where people feel comfortable interacting with me and others, in a friendly manner. And it’s great to hear from so many of you in the comments, and I’m happy that people like visiting the site.

    I’m also happy when people have other opinions about subjects, or suggestions, which may differ than mine. I certainly like to interject my opinion and ideas on posts. Heck, we’re all different and that’s what makes the internet a fascinating forum – it’s a great place to share and exchange ideas (and occasionally, recipes) with people who are similar, and different, than we are. That’s what its all about.

    Oops, I mean “it’s.”
    : )

    And yes, in British English, the comma should be after the parenthesis. But in American English, it goes inside. Another difference we can all agree to disagree on!

    • Heather

    I absolutely adore your writing style and this post. I just moved to Casablanca two months ago with my husband, and it has been an adventure trying to find certain items for different recipes. I have searched high and low, and for the love, I cannot find celery ANYWHERE. It simply does not exist. C’est n’existe pas. I also cannot find a good French knife, sour cream, goat’s milk, cilantro, chocolate chips (mon dieu!) and I nearly swooned yesterday when I went to the local market and found a head of broccoli for the first time in over 50 days. All this to say, part of the joy of cooking is to learn what you can substitute, or that you do not have to have all of the ingredients in a dish in order for it to come out tasting incredible. I have found that I feel similar to you reading the Thai cookbook when I read the books Plenty, Jerusalem, or Ottolenghi. Preserved lemon? Sumac? Sometimes you just need to give it a whirl and do what you can. I found that I could make their Spicy Moroccan Carrot Salad by subbing parsley for the cilantro, creme fraiche for the sour cream, and it still came out amazing. Intuition in the kitchen is a tool that should not be dismissed!

    Thank you for your writing, your recipes, and for all the pictures on the blog that make me drool. I fell in love with your writing and recipes when I bought the Perfect Scoop a few years ago and have been hooked ever since!

    • Lin

    Well, since you said that you welcome an exchange of ideas, I was thinking of trying your dish with tofu instead of chicken….maybe browning the tofu before putting it in the stir fry?

    • heather

    hah! authenticity police. love it. looks like they are alive and well in the comments too!

    • Bebe

    Lin, at a very old (1920s) vegetarian restaurant in Shanghai where all the “mockmeats” are really some treatment of tofu (and even I couldn’t tell) they’d probably do exactly that.

    I don’t know how to deal with tofu, but someone used to using it could probably work out substituting it in this recipe.

    • Cheryl in Lyon

    Quick question- the red and green peppers are called what in French? Are they just the generic ‘piments forts’ I’ve seen at Carrefour/Auchan/Leclerc?

    In almost 13 years in France I have never once seen a jalapeno, which I find disappointing… BUT today I picked up a hot sauce that was chipotle-garlic, so that’s a step…

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Heather: Absolutely. A lot of the world’s great cuisines are the result of people using and adapting, and evolving to what it is today. (And who knows what it’ll be tomorrow?) It’s nice to preserve tradition, too. As a cook, you often have to use your intuition to see/learn what’ll work, and what won’t. Or give it a try and see!

    Bebe/Lin: Yes, firm tofu would work.

    Cheryl in Lyon: They just called them piments forts in the Asian shops in Paris. I’ve not seen chile peppers labeled by variety, except for fresh piment d’Espelettes. (Although I’ve not seen those in Paris.) I’d say use the ones you mentioned. btw: Jalapeños are elusive, sometimes you can get them in England and pickle them, to keep them longer. I have a recipe coming up shortly on the blog that I’ll share for them, in addition to this one.

    • Tim

    I’ve had good luck preserving cayenne peppers in sherry. Just wash and dry the peppers and pack them into a jar. Then fill the jar with (cheap) sherry and put it in the refrigerator. Not only does the sherry preserve the peppers, it also picks up some of the spiciness to create a lovely sweet/spicy seasoning that you can use it in cooking.

    About grammar and typing. Someone once told me that it was a poor man who could only spell a word one way. I treasure that!

    • Susan B

    Sometimes auto-correct creates those typos. I just watched “its” morph into “it’s”. Wouldn’t be surprised if “satay” got corrected to “stay”. A pox on software with a will of its own!

    I used a version of this recipe last night as a marinade for chicken wings — scrumptious!

    • Paul

    This sounds delicious. A good excuse to use the first of my chillies that I’ve been growing on the balcony :)

    • Dan K.

    Just curious if by “thai chilli jam” you mean nam prik pao? I love that condiment and it can me used in all sorts of every day applications!

    You can use the jam in plain white rice or as a topping on toast or in a sandwich. It can be part of late night dessert or as a topper in a coconut thai soup.

    It’s strange because it’s savory and sweet at the same time and could be used in stir fry dishes like yours above.

    Nam prik pao is one the best investments you can make in an Asian grocery store.

    • Z

    This is my first time commenting but I love reading your blog. I know that I’m probably missing the vast majority of the point of this post, but I just wanted to say how tickled I was to read the small bit about cooking traditions evolving and changing. I teach archaeology, and whenever we get to the domestication of plants my go-to slide is to put up a McDonald’s meal with lines to a map detailing how this quintessentially American meal would not have been possible without global trade since almost none of the foods originated in North America (with the exception of the corn for the corn syrup!) It’s always kind of mind-blowing! Have you ever read anything on the archaeology of food? There are several publications out there if you are interested!

    Please don’t hate me for calling McDonald’s quintessentially American. I realize McDonald’s belongs to more than just America and that America has developed its own cuisine and that McDonald’s might not be considered food by some…but you know, it’s easily recognizable and fun as an exercise and also, I’m sorry, sometimes you just want some fries.

    As far as the actual point of the post, aka Thai cooking, I’ve always shied away from cooking Asian foods because it seemed difficult and too foreign to master, but your blog and other cookbooks are slowly but surely convincing me this isn’t the case!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      That’s right, that most of the foods didn’t originate in the United States. A number of dishes are like that – foie gras originated in Egypt, hot dogs in Germany, bagels in Poland, croissants (probably) in Austria, macarons in Italy, etc..and were either adapted or adopted by other cultures.

    • Z

    totally pulling out the foie gras fun fact on excavation in the Dordogne! cool and thanks!


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