Big Game

Step Up Your Super Bowl Snacks

Upgrade your tailgate this Sunday with this gourmet fried chicken from San Francisco chef James Syhabout.

Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast

No matter if the Patriots or the Eagles win this Sunday, when it comes to Super Bowl food, we all lose.

The menu of old standards—pizza, pretzels, nachos, Buffalo wings, chips, dip and, if you’re lucky, homemade chili—hasn’t changed since I can remember first watching the game as a little boy.

I can’t do it this year. As a culture, we eat too much of those foods all year long. While I certainly don’t think Super Bowl-weekend is the right occasion to try to make people eat healthier, I do think we should eat better. The NFL season is long and tough and if you’ve been avidly following along since training camp back during the dog days of August, you deserve a reward. No, a side of garlic knots isn’t what I mean.

I think we need to upgrade our Super Bowl snacks this year. So, what’s a hungry football fan to do? I suggest we look for inspiration from other countries. A good place to start is in the brand-new book, Hawker Fare, which was written by famed San Francisco chef James Syhabout. It features dishes from Thailand and Laos, including his signature Fried Chicken with Charred Chile Jam (Gai Tod Naam Prik Pao), which pairs perfectly with an ice-cold beer.

Syhabout admits in his book that fried chicken is one of his all-time favorite foods and he has clearly given the dish a lot of thought. “This simple recipe calls for a wet batter (we always had Perrier around for Pops’s whiskey sodas, so that was the sparkling water of choice, by default),” he writes in the note for this recipe. “Unlike Southern fried chicken, no seasoning of the flour is required—it’s all about marinating the meat.” If you don’t want to make his special charred chile jam, Syhabout says you can also use Shark Brand Sriracha.

It’s such a tasty dish, I only worry that it may upstage the Eagles and the Patriots!

Fried Chicken with Charred Chile Jam (Gai Tod Naam Prik Pao)

Serves 6 to 8



.5 tsp (1 gram) Ground white pepper

2 Tbsp (10 grams) Chopped cilantro roots or stems

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1 Tbsp (12 grams) Peeled garlic cloves

.25 cup (60 grams) Oyster sauce

3 Tbsp (36 grams) Fish sauce

2 pounds (907 grams) Boneless chicken thighs, skin on, cut into quarters


1 cup (100 grams) Jasmine rice flour

1 cup (237 grams) Soda water

1 gallon (3,280 grams) Canola oil, for frying


.25 cup Charred Chile Jam*


In a stone mortar, pound the white pepper, cilantro roots or stems, and garlic to a paste. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, add the oyster sauce and fish sauce, and mix well. Add the chicken, cover with plastic wrap, and marinate in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours (but no more than 12).

Preheat a deep fryer to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Make the batter by adding the rice flour to a medium mixing bowl. Add the soda water and whisk to form a smooth, loose batter. Drain the chicken from the marinade and place directly in the batter. Fry the chicken a few pieces at a time for 5 to 6 minutes, or until golden brown and fully cooked (check by cutting into a piece). Make sure not to crowd the fryer, or it might lower the temperature of the oil. Transfer to the paper towel–lined baking sheet to drain, then transfer to a clean mixing bowl.

Add the charred chile jam and toss to coat. Heap on a platter and serve.

Charred Chile Jam (Naam Prik Pao)*

MAKES 2.5 Cups


.25 cup (23 grams) Dried shrimp

.5 cup (103 grams) Canola oil

1 cup (35 grams) Dried puya chiles

1 cup (160 grams) Whole peeled shallots

.5 cup (100 grams) Peeled garlic cloves

.75 cup (150 grams) Granulated sugar

.5 cup (96 grams) Fish sauce

.5 cup (125 grams) Tamarind water


Toast the dried shrimp in a dry sauté pan over medium heat until fragrant but not browned. Set aside.

Line a plate with paper towels; set aside. Heat the oil in a wok or sauté pan over medium heat. Fry the chiles, one by one, until they turn a dark red hue and are brittle but not burnt, about 12 seconds each (be careful not to burn them). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried chiles to the paper towel–lined plate. Repeat with the shallots, frying them, one at a time, in the same oil until browned, then draining on paper towels. Repeat with the garlic cloves, and finally the dried shrimp. Let everything cool to room temperature. Strain the cooled oil and measure it; add additional oil to get half a cup.

Add the fried chiles and dried shrimp to a large mortar and pound to a fine texture with the pestle. Add the fried garlic and shallots and pound again to produce a smooth, wet paste. Scrape the paste into a mixing bowl, stir in the sugar, fish sauce, and tamarind water and mix well. Add the reserved half of cup of oil and mix again. Use right away, or cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

Recipes from Hawker Fare by James Syhabout. Copyright 2018 James Syhabout. Reproduced with permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.