Skip to Content

The Kolae guide to grilling

Andy Oliver, co-founder of Borough’s Kolae restaurant and an expert on Thai-style grilling, provides his top tips for barbecuing at home 


Words: Andy Oliver / Images: Anton Rodriguez

One of the best ways to get the most out of ingredients on the grill is through slow and steady cooking, using specific cuts. Fish or meat on the bone work particularly well. Cuts with a bit of fat, such as pork neck or chicken with the skin still on, will bring great flavour and good texture when cooked slowly and steadily, as the fat melts and the meat slowly browns.

Careful heat management is also needed to achieve this effect. Damping the coals with a smoke mix – and using hooks, baskets or simple racks instead of heavy, heat-conducting bars – will help keep your grilling under control. It’s also important to maintain an appropriate distance between your ingredients and the heat source, as this ensures the meat is evenly cooked through. This traditional Thai approach to grilling requires patience, but it helps to achieve perfectly grilled dishes.

Andy Oliver at work in the Kolae kitchen

Combining your kitchen oven with your barbecue grill is a very useful technique if you have lots of guests to entertain or if your barbecue isn’t big enough for everything. Baking ingredients in the oven before finishing them on the grill allows you to cook your food gently and steadily without the stress of juggling time and space. Starting some sausages or boneless chicken thighs for 15 minutes in a 120C oven before finishing them on the grill can really cut the cooking time down without losing flavour. Even roasting bigger pieces of meat like a butterflied leg of lamb in an oven at 150C until it’s partway cooked can be great, as can baking spiced squash or cauliflower in a 200C oven before a final char on the barbecue.

Try marinating ingredients in curry-like sauces before placing them on the grill. At Kolae, which is named after a traditional southern Thai dish, we utilise curry pastes made from dried red chillies, shallots, ginger and lemongrass, plus spices like coriander and cumin or cassia, cooked with coconut cream and seasonings. For an even deeper and more complex flavour, grill specific elements and then add them into curries. Grilled beef can be sliced and folded into a spicy jungle curry, adding a rich, smoky taste.

The Kolae grill

A great way to elevate the flavour of grilled meats, herbs or fish on the barbecue is to wrap them in banana leaves. When cooked, the banana leaves add a unique herbaceous scent to their contents, and they also prevent the contents from drying out. You can even grill certain styles of curry in banana leaves – try a rich red curry of monkfish and Thai basil, or northeastern Thai curry of grilled chicken, pea aubergines and herbs. They can also be used to create a dessert of sticky rice and sweet coconut cream.

Utilising the grill for blackening certain ingredients before peeling them can really boost the flavour. Charring long aubergines, shell-on prawns, shallots or chilies adds a smoky, complex depth to their taste – an easy way to transform simple ingredients.

Accompanying your barbecued dishes with a refreshing, spicy Thai salad is ideal for warm, summer days. The fresh ingredients of the salad really cut through the rich smokiness of the grilled meats and vegetables, elevating the meal and bringing a real vibrancy. Try a pounded salad of green papaya, shrimp, peanuts and tomatoes; a sour green mango salad with deep-fried fish and cashew nuts; an Ajaad relish-style salad of cucumber, ginger and chilli; or a pomelo salad with roasted coconut, chilli jam and poached prawns.

Southern Thai-style grilled chicken

A simple, brightly flavoured southern Thai barbecue recipe from Andy Oliver of Kolae