This crispy chicken skins with spicy chicken mince recipe makes a fantastic starter for a Southeast Asian themed dinner party. When the chicken skins firm up in the oven, they form a perfect ‘crisp’ and an excellent vehicle for this classic minced dip found in Cambodia and Thailand.
Perfecting crispy chicken skin and in particular refining this crispy chicken skins with spicy chicken mince recipe has been one of my many cooking projects in recent months while we’ve been staying home and quarantine cooking here in our kitchen in Cambodia’s Siem Reap.
After a couple of months of recipe testing for our Cambodian street food cookbook (not to be confused with the epic Cambodian culinary history and cookbook we’ve been working on for years and are seeking patrons for on Patreon), we’d been largely cooking traditional Cambodian food, everything from Cambodian barbecue recipes to Cambodian soups, so I’ve been itching to experiment again.
Perfecting these crunchy chicken skins have kept me occupied. They are a fantastic vehicle for dips and are ideal for finger food if you’re entertaining. They also make an elegant amuse bouche or appetiser if you’re making a multi-course menu for a dinner party. When I’m testing these tasty morsels, I will often serve them as a late afternoon snack or pre-dinner nibble, much to Lara’s delight.
I’m pretty satisfied with this crispy chicken skins with spicy chicken mince recipe, but do let me know what you think. Now to move onto a whole chicken skin…
Crispy Chicken Skins with Spicy Chicken Mince Recipe
This crispy chicken skins with spicy chicken mince recipe was born from my fascination with chicken skin that was piqued after our first meal at Err (‘urban rustic Thai’), the more casual Bangkok Old Town eatery by chefs Bo and Dylan of Michelin-starred Bo.Lan in the Thai capital.
The dish that inspired my crispy chicken obsession was nang kai tort, or, as it appears on the menu, “chicken movie with home-made See-ra-cha sauce”, a fantastic crunchy, fried, whole chicken skin.
My guess was that the chefs were looking at how much chicken skin was being discarded every day and came up with dish featuring a whole chicken skin with a home-made Sri Racha sauce.
The finger-licking dish has long been a hit at the restaurant. After that meal, every time I have made a skin-off chicken curry, I’ve seen it as an opportunity to refine my recipe for perfect crispy chicken skins.
So how do we end up with enough discarded chicken skin to make this crispy chicken skins with spicy chicken mince recipe?
Well, most Cambodian and Thai chicken curries use thigh meat, because it’s the best meat for curries, but rarely do they require that you use the chicken skins. This is the opposite of Southeast Asian fried chicken where the crispy skin is arguably the best part of the chicken piece.
The spicy minced dip on my crispy chicken skins is inspired by the Cambodian dip natang, which also has a cousin in Thailand called khao tang na tang, which are spicy pork mince dips served with rice crackers.
You can read more about natang in the recipes I just linked to. Natang is normally made with minced pork, but like a good larb, the Southeast Asian minced meat salad found in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, you can make natang with chicken mince.
You could easily replace the pork with chicken mince in this Cambodian pork larb for instance. The reason I’m using chicken mince for this crispy chicken skins with spicy chicken mince recipe is because it’s obviously a natural match and the chicken skin is very rich, so I thought pork mince would be too heavy with it.
These crispy chicken skins carried many toppings before I decided to use them as a vehicle for spicy chicken mince.
My favourite for a pre-dinner snack – until now – has been pâté, particularly this pâté de Canard aux Cèpes, which is popular amongst our Cambodian friends, who spread it thickly on their num pang pâté.
Num pang is Cambodia’s Vietnamese banh mi. But I reckon this crispy chicken skins with spicy chicken mince recipe is the best match – so far.
Tips for Making Crispy Chicken Skins with Spicy Chicken Mince
One of my top tips for making this crispy chicken skins with spicy chicken mince recipe is to get somebody else to debone the chicken if it’s not your thing.
It’s good to be handy at deboning and removing the skin of chicken thighs. This is something I do at least twice a week.
If I’m in a hurry I usually grab the skin in the middle of the thigh, work my way across the thigh and lift it up. This usually allows me to work my way to both ends of the skin without ripping it.
Often one end of the thigh will be easy to lift off the meat and then you’ll have to carefully use a very sharp utility knife to lift and separate the rest of the skin from the meat. It’s important to be patient when doing this.
Another one of my best tips for making this crispy chicken skins with spicy chicken mince recipe is to use an oven thermometer. Oven temperature is critical with this recipe.
If you don’t have an oven thermometer, now is a good time to buy one. If you’re also a baker, you’ll know just how critical getting a correct temperature reading from your oven is.
Even at 10˚C over what is recommended for this recipe, you will overcook the skins. A little overdone and the skins become bitter. Any more than that and they’ll burn quite easily.
Also, when finishing the skins using the top element (or grill), do not leave the kitchen. Don’t ask me how I know…
Crispy Chicken Skins with Spicy Chicken Mince Recipe
- 4 pieces chicken thigh skin
- 1 tsp salt finely ground
- 200 g minced chicken
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- ¼ cup coconut cream
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 30 g peanuts roasted, pounded
- 5 cloves garlic chopped
- 4 pieces shallots sliced
- 6 pieces dried red medium chillies
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp palm sugar
- 4 Kaffir lime leaves
Crispy Chicken Skin
- Preheat the oven to 170°C.
- Make sure the skins have no residual fat or meat. The skins should be almost translucent.
- Place a sheet of greaseproof paper on a baking sheet. Spread the chicken skins flat on the greaseproof paper. Sprinkle liberally with salt. Place another greaseproof paper sheet on the skins and flatten out any wrinkles. Place another baking sheet on top of this. I like to weigh this down with a small mortar.
- Place on the centre tray of the oven and cook for 8-10 minutes. At this stage the skins should have some colour on them, if not cook for another couple of minutes.
- Remove the top tray and the greaseproof paper on top of the skins. Change the oven settings to just the top element. If you have, or are using a toaster oven, this is easier to check on the chicken skins.
- Cook the tops of the skins until just under golden brown – they will still cook a little after removing them. When ready place these on a cooling rack with a pan underneath.
- Allow to cool and firm up before using.
- Do not throw away the chicken fat! Use this for the next stage of the dish.
Spicy Chicken Mince (Natang)
- Remove the seeds and chop the end off the chillis and slice the chillis. Soak the chilli pieces in hot water for 15 minutes. Break down the pieces either with a mortar and pestle or in a food processor.
- Add the chicken fat to a wok over medium heat and stir-fry the shallots. When translucent, add the garlic and cook for one minute.
- Add the mince and cook through. Add the red chilli paste and cook for 1 minute before adding the coconut cream.
- Stir-fry constantly for about 3 minutes more until the coconut cream is incorporated into the mixture.
- Add the coconut milk and season with fish sauce to taste. If the mix tastes a little bland add some more fish sauce. Do not add salt. If you want the dip to be a little sweeter, add the palm sugar. Add most of the crushed peanuts, reserving some to garnish. Remove from heat.
- To serve, top the individual pieces of crispy chiken with the dip. Sprinkle the rest of the crushed peanuts and top with Kaffir lime leaves and sprigs of coriander leaves.
Do let us know if you make our crispy chicken skins with spicy chicken mince recipe in the comments below, on Instagram or by email. We’d love to know how these turn out for you.