After the back, the wings are my favourite part of the chicken because of the high skin-to-meat ratio. There’s no way to be formal when eating wings – you need to pick them up with your hands and bite the meat from the bones. These dishes are a bit messy to eat, but they’re finger-lickin’ good.
Vietnamese butter chicken wings
I’ve never actually eaten Vietnamese butter chicken wings in Vietnam, so I’m not sure if they’re traditionally consumed in that country, or if it’s a dish that Vietnamese cooks invented once they immigrated. I do know that whenever I order them in Hong Kong, no two versions are the same. The one thing they all have in common is that they’re fried, but other than that, they vary greatly: some have butter only in the name – there’s no hint of it in the dish, while others are slick with the stuff. My version walks a fine line – my husband thinks they’re too buttery but that doesn’t stop him from eating a lot of them whenever I make them.
1.2kg chicken wings, middle and drumette portions only
120ml Vietnamese fish sauce
45ml fresh lime juice
15ml rice vinegar
15 grams granulated sugar
150 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
10 grams cornstarch
5 grams baking soda
Oil, for frying
4 garlic cloves
2-4 red bird’s-eye chillies
2 lemongrass stalks
3 spring onions
80 grams butter, divided
Cut the chicken wings at the joint between the middle portion and drumette, then put the pieces into a large bowl. Mix the fish sauce with the lime juice, rice vinegar and sugar, then pour this over the wings and combine well. Cover with cling-film and refrigerate for several hours, occasionally stirring the ingredients so the wings are evenly marinated.
Thoroughly combine the flour with the cornstarch and baking soda. Cut the garlic cloves in half then thinly slice them. Cut the chillies in half lengthwise and use a small spoon to scrape out the seeds, then finely chop the flesh. Trim the lemongrass stalks so you’re left with only the lower 8cm juicy core. Lay the stalk on the cutting board and bash the entire length with the flat side of a cleaver or a meat mallet, then slice the lemongrass into very thin rings. Cut the spring onions into 5mm lengths.
Pour oil to the depth of about 3cm in a skillet and heat to 170 degrees Celsius. While the oil is heating, put the flour mixture into the bowl with the wings and marinade and mix well. The coating will be sticky. Add a little water – just enough so the coating thinly covers the wings. When the oil is hot, start frying the wings in batches, turning them over occasionally so they brown evenly. Each batch will take about five minutes to fry. Drain them on paper towels.
After frying all the wings, pour off almost all of the oil from the skillet, but do not wash it. Place the skillet over a medium flame, add the garlic and cook, stirring often, until it turns very pale golden. Add the chilli and lemongrass and stir constantly for about 30 seconds. Add the spring onion and stir for another 30 seconds. Scoop half of the mixture from the pan. Add half the butter to the pan and when it’s melted, mix in half the chicken wings. Shake the pan and turn the wings in the pan over a medium flame, until they are lightly coated with the butter and garlic-chilli mixture. Transfer the wings to a serving dish then repeat the process with the remaining ingredients. Serve hot or warm.
Chinese braised chicken wings
This recipe uses lo sui (sometimes spelled lo shui) – a master sauce that traditional Chinese cooks use over and over again to braise hard-boiled eggs and mild-tasting meats such as pork and chicken. (You can braise stronger meats such as beef and mutton, but the lo sui should be reserved specifically for them.) The lo sui is said to get better the more it’s used, gaining flavour from the meats braised in it. Occasionally, the cook will add judicious amounts of the original ingredients.
If you’re going to use the lo sui again, let it cool then strain it into a container and refrigerate. Use it within a few weeks, or freeze it for longer storage.
750 grams chicken wings
1 heaped tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 heaped tsp whole black peppercorns
300ml soy sauce
100ml rice wine
60 grams Chinese slab sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
3 large garlic cloves
40 grams fresh ginger, in one piece
Put the Sichuan peppercorns into a small, unoiled skillet and set it over a medium-low flame. Shake the pan constantly until the peppercorns are fragrant and lightly toasted. Put the Sichuan peppercorns into a pan with the black peppercorns, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, cinnamon sticks and garlic cloves. Peel the ginger, then place it on a cutting board and smash it with the side of a cleaver. Add the ginger to the pan and place it over a medium flame. Heat until boiling, then add the chicken wings and about 300ml of water, or enough so the wings are barely submerged. Lower the flame then partially cover the pan with the lid. Cook at a low simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the wings are tender, turn off the flame. Let the wings cool slightly in the liquid before serving them with steamed white rice.
ONLINE: For more recipes, go to scmp.com/topics/recipes