Pack Lunch: Fast and flavourful garlic pepper chicken from Vancouver chef Pailin Chongchitnant

Prepare lunch for the whole family with this kid-friendly recipe, serve with jasmine rice and veggies of your choice


  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1½ tsp granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp ground white or black pepper
  • 3 tbsp neutral oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ tsp black or dark soy sauce, plus more as needed (optional)
  • 7 to 8 cilantro sprigs, chopped, plus extra for garnish


Slice the chicken into ½-inch-thick strips, and once you get to the thick part of the breast, cut each piece horizontally in half to even out the size. Place the chicken in a mixing bowl and add the water, oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and pepper. Marinate for at least 15 minutes or up to 30 minutes at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

While the chicken marinates, fry the garlic. Place a small pot on medium-low heat, then add the oil and one “test” piece of chopped garlic. Once the garlic is bubbling, add the remaining garlic, then turn the heat down to low. Fry gently, stirring frequently, until the garlic is golden but not browned (about 5 minutes; browning will cause the garlic to become bitter). Strain the garlic through a metal sieve, reserving the oil.

Place a wok or large skillet over high heat and add the garlic oil. Once the oil is very hot, add the chicken and spread it into one layer, letting it sear without moving it until starting to brown on the underside and at least halfway cooked, about 2 minutes. Toss the chicken and stir-fry until fully cooked. At this point, if you want, you can add the black soy sauce, ¼ teaspoon at a time, until the desired colour is reached.

Turn off the heat, then toss in half of the fried garlic and chopped cilantro to taste. Plate and top with the remaining fried garlic and more cilantro, if desired.

Excerpted from Sabai by Pailin Chongchitnant. Copyright © 2023 Pailin Chongchitnant. Photographs by Janis Nicolay. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.