Our best roast chicken recipe makes a fragrant, flavoursome and moist roast chicken thanks to a Cambodian inspired herb butter and a stuffing made with yellow kroeung, an aromatic Khmer herb and spice paste pounded from fresh lemongrass, kaffir lime zest, galangal, turmeric, garlic, and shallots. Baby carrots, corn, potatoes, and shallots are cooked with the chicken for a comforting Cambodian-inspired roast.
My best roast chicken recipe will make you a moist, aromatic roast chicken thanks to a Cambodian herb butter and a chicken stuffing made with a Khmer yellow kroeung, a perfumed herb and spice paste pounded from fresh lemongrass, kaffir lime zest, galangal, turmeric, garlic, and shallots. I cook the chicken with baby corn, carrots, potatoes, and purple shallots for a Cambodian-inspired feast.
This roast chicken recipe is one I’ve created with the help of the master chicken roaster in our house, Terence, and like so many of our recipes this year, this crazy year – from Terence’s Cambodian-inspired Aussie meat pies and sausage rolls to my Southeast Asian flavoured pesto and Southeast Asian-inspired Japanese furikake, all recipes developed as cooking projects while staying at home quarantine cooking here in Siem Reap this year – this roast chicken recipe is the result of a longing for home, nostalgia, and an eagerness to experiment. I’ll tell you more about this chicken roast recipe below.
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Best Roast Chicken Recipe with Aromatic Cambodian Herb Butter and Stuffing
My best roast chicken recipe makes a chook that is incredibly moist, full of flavour and intensely fragrant thanks to a Cambodian inspired herb butter and a chicken stuffing made from yellow kroeung, an aromatic Cambodian herb and spice paste pounded from fresh lemongrass, kaffir lime zest, galangal, turmeric, garlic, and shallots. I’ve added baby potatoes, small purple shallots, baby corn, and young carrots, all of which are cooked with the chicken and roast in its juices for a fantastic Cambodian-inspired feast.
Roast chickens were a big part of my childhood growing up in Australia in the 1970s. Everyone from my mum and my Russian baboushka to my Australian nanna and aunties and great aunties in country towns and on farms all had their own takes on the classic roast chicken, which we got to tuck into at Sunday lunches and holiday meals on Christmas Day and Boxing Day when family got together.
As a child I loved roast chicken with veggies and gravy. But during our 22 years living abroad, sampling roast chickens right around the world, I have to confess that I didn’t really fall in love with roast chicken again until Terence and I returned to Australia some years ago and got to savour French-Australian chef Guillaume Brahimi’s sublime roast chicken at Bistro Guillaume in Melbourne.
We’d interviewed Guillaume after doing a photo shoot for a story for an Asian magazine, and after that we got to dine at the restaurant. Guillaume insisted we have the roast chicken and after polishing the lot off we could see why. The next day, no doubt gushing, we asked the chef for his roast chicken recipe and Terence has been making that roasted chicken recipe ever since.
Because Terence had mastered the art of roasting the perfect chicken, I’d not bothered. But a couple of weeks ago I found myself making the roast chicken dinner after Terence cut his finger. It was so heavenly, I immediately wanted to make another, but I wanted to do something a little different.
Terence and I had been planning to test some traditional Cambodian roast chicken in rice wine recipes but hadn’t got to them yet, however, I was keen on experimenting with Terence’s roast chicken recipe and giving it a Cambodian twist. We had some Khmer yellow kroeung left from making the Cambodian lemongrass chicken stir-fry, so I used that to make both the herb butter and the roast chicken stuffing. And it was wonderful.
I have to admit that I am missing the family rituals of my childhood growing up in Australia… Sunday dinners at our grandparents’ homes, Christmas meals with the whole family, and road trips out to the country with nanna and pop to visit great aunts and uncles on their farms. I’m dreaming of reunion meals in the future and I’m going to make this roasted chicken for everyone.
Tips to Making Our Best Roast Chicken Recipe
If you’ve roasted chicken before, you’ll know that after washing your chook, it’s important to pat it dry inside and out, especially if you want a crispy skin. If you made our Khmer yellow kroeung (link above and in the recipe below) for the lemongrass chicken stir-fry recipe we recently published, then you should have some of the herb and spice paste left. If you didn’t and don’t, make a batch as it will keep well in a sealed tupperware container in the fridge. You can also freeze it.
Treat the Khmer yellow kroeung in the same way that you do a Thai curry paste. Cambodians use this kroeung as the basis for hearty soups such as samlor machou kroeung sach ko (sour soup with morning glory and beef), as an ingredient in these wonderful fragrant fish cakes, as a marinade for smoky grilled skewers, and in Cambodia’s famous fish amok, a rich steamed fish curry.
For this roast chicken recipe, I use the yellow kroeung two ways. I use it in a traditional chicken stuffing of the kind my Australian grandmother used to make, only I replace the European herbs she’d use with kroeung paste. Nanna’s roast chicken stuffing was made with stale bread, creamy salted butter (never margarine; my grandparents had been dairy farmers), finely chopped onion fried until translucent, salt, pepper, and herbs such as parsley, thyme, sage, and rosemary.
A stuffing doesn’t only taste delicious but helps cook the chicken from within and infuses it with the flavours of the stuffing. I fry finely chopped garlic and small purple shallots for this roast chicken recipe, which are more commonly found here in Cambodia than onions, until just translucent. I then combine that in a bowl with cubes of stale sourdough bread, yellow kroeung, salt and pepper, and sometimes (not always) an egg to bind it, and push it deep into the cavity, filling it right up.
Making the kroeung butter is a cinch. My only tip is to take care when separating the chicken skin from the chicken breast so that it doesn’t rip, and very gently feel your way beneath the skin, right across the chicken’s body, spreading the kroeung butter over as much of the surface as you can.
Make sure to pound the lemongrass stalks with a pestle and crush the kaffir lime leaves to release the aromas and flavours. Drizzle a little olive oil onto the base of the pan, evenly space out the sliced carrot rounds, place the lemongrass stalks in between them, spread the kaffir lime leaves on top of these, then pop the stale sourdough bread slices on top. It should look like this.
Set your chicken atop all of that, ensuring everything beneath is covered by the chicken so that it doesn’t burn. The idea is that the bread soaks up all the juices, the carrots prevent the bread from burning, and the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves infuse the chicken with flavour and aromas. Lastly, evenly arrange the baby potatoes and baby shallots around the chicken if you like your spuds soft and your shallots almost caramelised.
You can drizzle some olive oil onto the vegetables and/or brush any leftover kroeung butter onto them before sliding the pan into the oven. Set your timer for 30 minutes, then add the baby carrots and baby corn if you like these to remain firm. (If you prefer them more done, feel free to pop them in with your potatoes and shallots from the start.) At this time, turn the chicken over to brown the underside.
Remember: no two ovens are alike, which is why you should check your chicken after an hour by pushing your thermometer into the breast. If it’s at 75˚C, it’s ready. If it’s not, turn the chicken over again and return it to the oven for another ten minutes, and test it again.
When your roast chicken is done, rest it in a warm place for 15 minutes. Just before serving, grate a little kaffir lime zest onto the chicken and serve with the vegetables, spooning any pan juices over the chicken and veggies. If you fancy serving a mash, see Terence’s creamy mashed potatoes recipe. And here’s my roast chicken recipe with Cambodian style herb butter and stuffing…
Roast Chicken Recipe with Cambodian Herb Butter and Stuffing
- 1 whole chicken around 1-1.5 kg
- 3 slices stale sourdough bread
- 1 large carrot chopped in 1cm wide rounds
- 3 lemongrass stalks
- 8 kaffir lime leaves
- 12 baby potatoes
- 8-10 baby purple shallots
- 150 g baby carrots
- 200 g baby corn
Kroeung Chicken Stuffing
- 3 slices stale sourdough bread
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 2 baby purple shallots finely chopped
- Yellow kroeung herb and spice paste
- pinch of salt
- pinch of pepper
- 1 egg
- 100 g butter
- 2 tbsp yellow kroeung paste
- pinch of salt
- pinch of pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
- Wash the whole chicken, pat it dry inside and out, sprinkle it liberally with salt, and set it aside.
- Make the kroeung chicken stuffing by frying two garlics cloves and two baby purple shallots until the shallots and translucent, then combine in a bowl with three slices of stale sourdough bread chopped into small cubes, one tablespoon of yellow kroeung herb and spice paste, a pinch of salt and pepper, and a raw egg. Stuff the mixture into the cavity of the chicken.
- Make the kroeung butter by combining 100 grams of butter with two tablespoons of yellow kroeung paste, and a pinch of salt and pinch of pepper, then carefully ease your fingers beneath the skin of the chicken breasts and push the kroeung butter beneath it, covering as much of the chicken as you can.
- Chop the lemongrass stalks into thirds and bash with a pestle to release the aromas and flavours, and crush the kaffir lime leaves in your hands to do the same.
- Drizzle a little olive oil onto the base of a roasting pan, then evenly space out the slices of carrot rounds, pop the lemongrass stalks in between them, spread the kaffir lime leaves on top of these then place the stale sourdough bread slices on top, and set your chicken atop all of that, ensuring everything beneath is covered by the chicken.
- Evenly arrange the baby potatoes and baby shallots around the chicken, then roast the chicken for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken, turn the chicken over, and add the baby carrots and baby corn, arranging them amongst the potatoes and shallots. Roast for another 30 minutes, then test the chicken with a thermometer. If it’s at 75˚C, it’s ready. If it’s not, turn the chicken over again and return it to the oven for another ten minutes, and test it again.
- Once your chicken is ready, remove it from the oven and rest it in a warm place for 15 minutes. Grate a little more kaffir lime zest onto the chicken and serve with the vegetables, spooning any pan juices over the chicken.
Do let us know if you make our best roast chicken recipe with aromatic Cambodian herb butter and stuffing as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.