Delicious Barbecued Vietnamese Cornish Game Hens Recipe

The smell of barbecued meat sizzling on a grill can invoke strong feelings of hunger and anticipation. And when that meat is seasoned with Vietnamese five-spice, the aroma becomes almost intoxicating. That’s why I’m excited to share my recipe for barbecued Vietnamese five-spice Cornish game hens. This dish is the perfect balance of sweet and savory, with a hint of heat from fresh chili peppers. It’s a great way to switch up your usual barbecue routine and impress your guests with unique flavors.

But it’s not just about the taste; this recipe is also incredibly simple to make. With just a few ingredients and some basic grilling skills, anyone can prepare these delicious hens. Plus, they cook quickly due to their small size, so you can have dinner on the table in no time.

So if you’re ready to try something new at your next backyard barbecue or family dinner, give this barbecued Vietnamese five-spice Cornish game hen recipe a try. Trust me, your taste buds will not be disappointed.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Barbecued Vietnamese 5-Spice Cornish Game Hens
Barbecued Vietnamese 5-Spice Cornish Game Hens

If you’re on the hunt for an exciting and flavorful recipe, then look no further than a barbecued Vietnamese 5-spice Cornish game hen. This dish is bursting with bold and intense flavors that will take your taste buds on an adventure to Southeast Asia. Here’s why you’ll love this recipe:

Firstly, it’s all about the spices. The five-spice powder and fresh ground black pepper provide a unique and complex flavor profile that elevates the taste of the chicken to new heights. You won’t find anything else like it in traditional American cuisine.

Secondly, it’s easy to make. The ingredient list may seem long, but most of them are pantry staples that you probably already have on hand – soy sauce, sugar, garlic cloves – so you don’t need to scour specialty stores for hard-to-find ingredients. Plus, the recipe is straightforward and doesn’t require any fancy cooking techniques or equipment.

Thirdly, it’s versatile. While Cornish game hens are used in this recipe, you can substitute them for chicken or other poultry if desired. The marinade also works well with pork or even tofu for a vegetarian option.

Lastly, it’s perfect for entertaining. Not only does it look impressive on the plate with its golden-brown glaze and aromatic garnishes, but it can easily serve a crowd as each hen serves one person.

In summary, a barbecued Vietnamese 5-spice Cornish game hen is a fantastic recipe that will wow your taste buds and your guests alike. Its fascinating blend of flavorful spices makes it distinct from other American dishes while remaining easy to prepare and customize. And trust me; once you try this dish, you’ll be addicted!

Ingredient List

 These Cornish game hens are perfectly marinated in Vietnamese 5-spice and grilled to perfection.
These Cornish game hens are perfectly marinated in Vietnamese 5-spice and grilled to perfection.

Let’s take a look at what you’ll need to create this delicious barbecued Vietnamese 5-spice Cornish game hens. All ingredients can be found at your local Asian grocery store or online.

For the marinade:

  • 2 tablespoons five-spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon shallots, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chili peppers
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

For the Cornish game hens:

  • 4 Cornish game hens, butterflied or left whole
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Glaze (optional): 1/4 cup brown sugar mixed with 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/4 cup water

For serving:

  • Chopped green onions (white part only)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

The Recipe How-To

 You won't believe the succulent flavor explosion from these barbecued hens.
You won’t believe the succulent flavor explosion from these barbecued hens.

Here’s the step-by-step guide on how to prepare this flavorful Barbecued Vietnamese 5-Spice Cornish Game Hens:

1. In a large bowl, combine the following ingredients until well blended:
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
2 tablespoons of dry sherry
1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
1 teaspoon of five-spice powder
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2. Add in the Cornish game hens and coat them evenly with the marinade mixture, massaging the marinade into the meat.

3. Cover the bowl and let it marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour or longer, depending on your preference.

4. Preheat your grill to medium heat, around 325-350 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. Remove the hens from the marinade and discard any excess marinade.

6. Season the hens lightly with salt and sugar.

7. Place the hens on the grill grate that is oiled generously with vegetable oil or cooking spray, breast side down.

8. Grill for 20 minutes or until golden brown, then turn over and grill the other side for another 20 minutes until fully cooked.

9. Keep an eye on it to make sure there are no flare-ups caused by dripping fat, adjusting heat as necessary to avoid burning.

After grilling, allow them to rest for a few minutes before carving them up and serving hot!

Substitutions and Variations

 This dish tastes just as good as it looks. Fire up that grill and start cooking!
This dish tastes just as good as it looks. Fire up that grill and start cooking!

Now, let’s talk about some substitutions and variations for this Barbecued Vietnamese 5-Spice Cornish Game Hens recipe. While this dish is already bursting with flavor, there are few things you can modify to make it your own.

Firstly, if you’re not a fan of cornish game hens, you can replace them with chicken thighs or drumsticks. Just make sure they’re skin-on and bone-in to prevent dryness on the grill. You can also opt for a whole chicken, but be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

For the spice rub, feel free to experiment with different spice combinations. You can substitute the five-spice powder for Sichuan peppercorn or a mixture of paprika, garlic powder, and coriander. Don’t be afraid to get creative! You might just come up with a new favorite blend.

If you don’t have access to a charcoal grill or rotisserie, you can still achieve that charred flavor by using a gas grill or oven broiler. Just keep an eye on the heat and adjust accordingly.

For those who prefer their food on the spicier side, add more fresh chili peppers or sprinkle in some cayenne pepper into the spice rub. Alternatively, you can swap out the fish sauce for Thai fish sauce, which has a stronger umami flavor and saltier taste.

Lastly, consider trying out different glazes or sauces. A sweet and tangy BBQ sauce pairs well with these grilled hens, as does a garlicky hoisin sauce. You could even try dipping them in a simple mixture of soy sauce and fresh lime juice!

Remember that cooking is an art form – so have fun experimenting and making it your own!

Serving and Pairing

 The marinade's 5-spice blend adds an exotic twist to this classic barbeque feast.
The marinade’s 5-spice blend adds an exotic twist to this classic barbeque feast.

When serving barbecued Vietnamese 5-Spice Cornish Game Hens, you can bring out the flavors even more by pairing them with certain sides and beverages.

One of my favorite sides to serve with this dish is steamed jasmine rice. The slightly sweet and nutty flavor of the rice complements the savory and aromatic notes of the hens, creating a perfect balance of flavors.

Another great side to pair with this dish is a fresh cucumber salad. The cool and refreshing taste of cucumbers provides a nice contrast to the warm and smoky hens.

As for beverages, I recommend serving this dish with an Asian beer or a crisp white wine. An ice-cold Saigon beer or a glass of Sauvignon Blanc will perfectly complement the spiciness and bold flavors of the hens.

For those who prefer non-alcoholic beverages, try serving homemade iced tea infused with lemongrass, lime juice, and honey. This will provide a refreshing sweetness that cuts through the heat of the hens while adding an extra layer of complexity to the overall flavor profile.

No matter what you serve alongside these delicious hens, be sure to enjoy it with good company and lots of napkins!

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 These hens are not only delicious, but also easy to make! Perfect for a weekend get-together.
These hens are not only delicious, but also easy to make! Perfect for a weekend get-together.

When it comes to make-ahead, storing and reheating barbecued Vietnamese 5-spice Cornish game hens, there are several tips and tricks that you can keep in mind to ensure that the dish remains fresh, flavorful and delicious.

If you want to make the dish ahead of time, it is recommended that you store the cooked hens in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. To reheat, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place the hens in a baking dish. Add a little bit of water or broth to prevent them from drying out. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and heat for 10-15 minutes until heated through.

Another option is to reheat on the grill. This will give them a smoky flavor similar to when they were first cooked. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat and place the hens on the grill grates for about 5 minutes per side until heated through.

If you have any leftovers, store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to three days. To reheat, use the same method as above – either in the oven or on the grill.

It is not recommended that you freeze barbecued Vietnamese 5-spice Cornish game hens as this will affect their texture and taste.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can enjoy freshly reheated barbecued Vietnamese 5-spice Cornish game hens without compromising on their texture or taste.

Tips for Perfect Results

To ensure that your barbecued Vietnamese 5-spice Cornish game hens come out perfectly every time, here are some tips to help you along the way.

Firstly, when marinating the hens, make sure to give them enough time to soak up all that delicious flavor. Ideally, the hens should be marinated for at least four hours or even overnight for best results. This will allow the marinade to penetrate deep into the meat, resulting in a more delicious and flavorful dish.

When grilling the hens, it’s important to start with high heat so that you can get a nice char on the skin of the hens. Once they’re browned on both sides, move them to a cooler part of the grill or adjust the heat accordingly. This will ensure that the hens cook evenly and avoid burning.

Another key tip is to use a meat thermometer to check if the meat is cooked all the way through. Aim for an internal temperature of 165°F in each hen’s thickest part. To prevent them from overcooking or getting dried out, remove them from heat as soon as they’re done.

Lastly, allow the hens to rest for approximately 10 minutes before carving and serving. This step will help ensure that all those delicious juices stay within the meat rather than run onto your plate when you carve them.

By following these tips and tricks, you’ll end up with mouth-watering barbecued Vietnamese 5-spice Cornish game hens that are sure to impress your guests.


As you venture into preparing the Vietnamese 5-Spice Cornish Game Hens Recipe, you may encounter some questions during the process. In this section, I will answer some frequently asked questions to help you achieve perfect results with this delicious dish. Let’s clear any doubts and ensure that you cook the best Barbecued Vietnamese 5-Spice Cornish Game Hens you have ever tasted.

Do you smoke Cornish hens breast side up or down?

To start the smoking process, place your cornish hens on the smoker grate with the breast side facing downwards. Ensure that you maintain the smoke by using either pecan wood or your preferred type of smoking wood for at least an hour. Keeping a check on the temperature of the chicken is crucial, so make sure to use a decent digital meat thermometer – this is an essential tool that every chef or backyard cook should have in their collection.

What’s the difference between a Cornish game hen and a regular chicken?

When compared to chickens, Cornish hens have a more tender meat due to their younger age at the time of butchering.

What makes Cornish hens so good?

When it comes to cooking game hen, its size plays a significant role in achieving the perfect balance between crispy skin and fully cooked meat. Due to its small size, the game hen cooks faster, allowing the skin to crisp without drying out the meat. Additionally, the fatty skin self-bastes the meat, preserving its moisture and flavor.

What is the best temperature to smoke Cornish hens?

To start, it’s important to get your grill or smoker heated up to the appropriate temperature – in this case, 275 degrees Fahrenheit as recommended by the manufacturer. Once ready, carefully place your Cornish hens onto the grates of the smoker with the breast side facing down. A good tip to keep in mind is to wait until the temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reaches 175 degrees Fahrenheit, which should take approximately 45 minutes on the smoker.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, the barbecued Vietnamese 5-spice Cornish game hens recipe is a perfect fusion of flavors that will take you on a culinary adventure. It’s an excellent option for anyone looking to experiment with Vietnamese and Asian cuisine. Whether you’re an experienced chef or a beginner, this recipe is easy to follow, and I guarantee it’ll impress your guests.

The unique blend of five-spice powder, fresh chili peppers, garlic cloves, dry sherry, light soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice creates a delicious marinade that locks in flavor while tenderizing the Cornish game hens. The end result is juicy, succulent poultry with perfect char marks that will make your mouth water.

What’s more, this recipe is versatile and can be tailored to suit your preferences. You can use boneless chicken breasts instead of game hens, add more spice or sweetness to suit your taste buds or substitute ingredients that you don’t have on hand. Additionally, it pairs well with sticky rice or grilled vegetables like asparagus or zucchini.

Overall, this recipe boasts delicious flavors and aromas that make it a crowd-pleaser at any event. So fire up your grill or try it in the oven and enjoy every bite of these barbecued Vietnamese five-spice Cornish game hens.

Barbecued Vietnamese 5-Spice Cornish Game Hens

Barbecued Vietnamese 5-Spice Cornish Game Hens Recipe

The Winning Recipe for 1990 in the San Francisco Chronicle, by Joyce Jue.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Vietnamese
Calories 532.1 kcal


  • 4 (14 ounce) Cornish hens
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 shallots (white part only) or 3 green onions (white part only)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dry sherry

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 fresh chili peppers, preferably serrano
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 4 tablespoons water


  • For Hens: Halve the hens through the breast. Flatten the breasts with the palm of your hand.
  • In a mortar or food processor, pound or mince the garlic, shallots and sugar. Add the salt, pepper, five-spice powder, fish sauce, soy sauce and sherry. Mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture over the hens. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  • Prepare a fire in a barbecue. Let the coals burn down to medium-hot. Set the hens skin-side down on the rack and grill over medium-hot coals for 15 minutes. Turn and grill for 15 minutes longer, or until they are thoroughly cooked and the skin is crisp and browned. Serve with Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce.
  • For Dipping Sauce: In a mortar, pound the garlic, chile pepper and sugar into a paste. (Or blend in a food processor or blender.) Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the fish sauce, lime juice and water; stir to blend. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, or until ready to serve. Strain into dipping saucers. Yields about 3/4 cup.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 499gCalories: 532.1kcalCarbohydrates: 15.1gProtein: 82.3gFat: 13.4gSaturated Fat: 3.4gCholesterol: 361.2mgSodium: 2532.4mgFiber: 0.6gSugar: 10.2g
Keyword < 60 Mins, Asian, Meat, Poultry, Spicy, Vietnamese
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