Tonga Chilli-Lime Chicken

. January, 2017
Photography by Manja Wachsmuth.
Tonga Chilli-Lime Chicken

Transport yourself to an island paradise, with this finger licking good take on a family favourite.

Serves: 6


750 grams chicken thighs or drumsticks, bone in, skin on
1 small handful coriander (cilantro) leaves, for garnishing

For the marinade:
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted
½ teaspoon cardamom seeds, toasted
240 ml (1 cup) grapeseed or vegetable oil
60ml (¼ cup) lime juice
½ medium onion (100 grams), chopped
120ml (½ cup) passion fruit juice (or fresh pineapple juice), or 4 passion fruit, pulped and seeded
1 tablespoon coconut or brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
120ml (½ cup) seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, or Vanilla Honey Mustard
large pinch nutmeg
30 grams (½ cup) fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped
2 fresh red chillies, thinly sliced 

Created on a Tongan vanilla plantation using passion fruit, freshly juiced limes, fresh ginger and vanilla - which I made into a mustard - this dish easily adapts for parties by substituting the thighs and drumsticks for chicken wings. 


Cut any excess fat off the chicken pieces and discard, then transfer the chicken to a medium-sized bowl or casserole dish.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic, ginger and coriander and cardamom seeds to make a paste. 

Transfer this paste to a food processor (or use a stick blender), add all the remaining marinade ingredients except the chilies, and whizz until smooth. 

Stir in the sliced chilies then pour the marinade over the chicken to coat. Cover the dish, or put everything into a zip-sealing bag, and chill for 2–8 hours.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Drain the chicken from the marinade and set aside. Bake the chicken pieces for 25 minutes, or until juices run clear. 

Remove from the oven, transfer onto a serving plate, cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

To serve, reduce the leftover marinade and drizzle it over the chicken, then scatter the coriander (cilantro) leaves, and the chilies from the reduced marinade over all and serve immediately.