Yia Vang's Hilltribe Chicken with Kale Salad & Lemongrass Ginger Sauce Recipe

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Yia Vang's Hilltribe Chicken with Kale Salad & Lemongrass Ginger Sauce Recipe

Prepared at: Chester Woods Park in Eyota, Minnesota

"We call this Hilltribe Chicken because...the Hmong people originally were from the hills of Laos and the hills of Thailand and the hills of Vietnam."

In an homage to Hmong people and culture, chef Yia Vang sets up camp kitchen in Chester Woods Park to prepare this traditional chicken dish. From the fire-roasted spice blend for the chicken to the sweet vinaigrette for the salad, it’s full-on flavor while easy to prepare. Let’s take a look.

Chef Yia Vang stands in front of a picnic table in a campground with a frying pan in hand, full of spices he is toasting

The seasoning rub for Hilltribe Chicken includes black pepper, white pepper and a little bit of cumin.

A mound of dark green kale salad, a grilled chicken leg, and a bowl of finely chopped sauce ingredients site side by side, ready to plate
The Culinary Campfire

Hilltribe Chicken with Kale Salad & Lemongrass Ginger Sauce

By Yia Vang
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings

Rich, aromatic and earthy roasted black peppercorn and cumin seeds are the magic behind Minnesota chef Yia Vang’s take on this traditional Hmong dish.


  • 1 whole chicken
  • Kale
  • 3 red radishes

Chicken Rub

  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorn
  • 1 tablespoon white peppercorn
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Sweet Sesame Tamarind Vinaigrette

  • 2 teaspoons shallots
  • 1 teaspoon garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 3 teaspoons maple syrup (add a little more if you want it sweeter)
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • Juice of one freshly squeezed lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1⁄3 cup canola oil

Lemongrass Ginger Sauce

  • 1⁄4 cup finely chopped lemongrass
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1⁄3 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt


  1. To create the rub, toast the spices at mid-high heat for 7-8 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and crush them in a mortar & pestle. Set spices aside.
  2. To create the vinaigrette, mix all the ingredients in a large bowl except for the oil. Once mixed, slowly drizzle the oil in while whisking quickly. Set it aside.
  3. To create the kale salad, tear up 20 kale leaves in a bowl. Smash and rough chop 3 radishes and add them to the bowl. Massage the kale with the 2⁄3 of the vinaigrette.
  4. Spatchcock the chicken by using strong kitchen scissors or poultry shears and cutting down either side of the spine. Pull out the spine, turn chicken over and press down on the breast to flatten it out to one thickness.
  5. Apply some oil and then sprinkle the rub onto the chicken.
  6. Place the chicken skin-side up over the fire. Rotate it occasionally and cook until it reaches 150-160 degrees Fahrenheit (about 50 minutes).
  7. For the sauce: heat the oil on high heat until it starts to steam. Add the ginger, garlic and lemongrass. Turn the heat down low and constantly stir the ingredients. Next, add the scallions and salt and stir for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Finally, use the 1⁄3 cup of reserved vinaigrette to drizzle over the grilled chicken and serve it alongside the kale salad.

Tips & Tricks

Make the rub, vinaigrette and sauce ahead of time and store it in travel containers to bring along.

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