CHICKEN WINGS ON THE MISSION

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Sometime I amaze even myself on how I get inspirations for a post while being locked on top of this self-confined tower.  Well, not to deter you from visiting (especially you who owns a white horse) but it’s a tower sitting atop an oppressed world hidden inside a choking cloud of toxic smoke as far as the eyes can see, and guarded by, well not a dragon HA! I wish, but an army of creatures that to say mildly… nobody from your world is going to find it pleasurable to meet.   So I mostly sit inside this emotionally distraught and physically demolished little tower of mine, with my greasy hair, rattled temper and… my magic mirror.  Yeah, just like Beast’s who got it with me on Groupon.  You see, it’s hooked to this fantastical plate-looking thing just outside the window, oh and how marvellous that it even comes with a remote.  Like magic I tell you.

My life is but a little fairy tale.

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What the mirror does is that it shows me things.  Things that were… things that are… and occasionally, just occasionally, some real bad things about many other parts of the world that makes my little tower seem not so unfortunate.  But really though, most of the times the mirror is just being an insensitive asshole to an imprisoned beast, especially when it tells me excessively about a far-far-away land where the fairies and elves apparently live… where I believe they call – San Francisco.  It’s a kingdom that sounds mystical… golden gates, painted ladies.  I heard, people can breath there, freely.  I heard their sky is the color of my blue porcelain bowl and that people don’t just shoot snots on the streets.  Magical I tell you.  But the most fantastical thing of all, they do these hot-damn fairyfucking wings.  So beautiful it sets my inspiration-deprived heart on wild fire.

With no where else to escape to but into my own imagination for a far more advanced hot wing, I set out on the mission.  The Mission Chinese that is.

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With all due respect, you think you know wings?  YOU THINK you know wings (behold… “rattled temper” comin’ through)?  Well, don’t think again or better yet, stop thinking, because minds that somehow raise no questions at the common practice of frying these nature-given skin-wrapped chicken parts to (giving it the benefit of the doubt I’m just gonna say) crispy perfection, but then barbarically slop them back into a puddle of sauce to ruin for all eternity, don’t think.  However they can certainly act.  Performances on TV-shows my mirror with hosts biting into a soggy piece of red then gushes “Oh the skin is perfectly crispy” makes me wonder if they hallucinate much on a regular basis (or that they think their mother’s spanx is crispy, too).  Buffalo not.  And for the record, if I were to ruin some crispy skin I’d do it like the people from the Southeast who knows what.

Moisture has no place in Crispy Business.

So wipe all that clouding conventions out of your head, and now re-imagine.  There’s something else that a piping hot batch of skin-blistered wings wants… it want flavors yes, but not from sauces, instead, a strong powder-form agent, a sinus-clearing dust of sichuan peppercorn, white pepper, cumin, coriander AND a wok of smoking, cough-inducing, RAGING-MAD dried chili and garlic to shoot them off to the promised land.  If no alarms in your tower is pissed off about it, my friend, you should have your smoke-detector checked.  You know you want this.

Tonight, inside my enchantment-less tower, it at least smells really really damn good.

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Repeat after me, frying isn’t scary.  Frying ISN’T SCARY!  It doesn’t have to hurt if you use a tongs and mitts for your hands.  In fact, it doesn’t even take a lot of oil in this case and when you think about it, it really is just “pan-fried”.  The amount of oil it takes depends on the diameter of the pan you’re using.  The wider it is, the more oil you’ll need BUT you can get it done in ONE BATCH.  The narrower the pan is, the less oil you’ll need BUT you’ll need to do TWO BATCHES.  Whatever makes you sleep better at night, as long as you add enough oil to reach about 1/3″ deep, it’s fine.

Frying DOESN’T waste a lot of oil either!  In fact, in this case the oil contains lot of precious chicken fat which makes it fabulous for sautéed greens later (like green beans, spinach, broccoli rabe or etc).  So SAVE IT!

But then again, if you really want to be that person, there’s a fabulous way to broil chicken wings for excellent crispiness, too.

Evidently the dried chili is quite a big part of this dish, figuratively and literally… so please use the best quality you can find.  Yes, it may sound dumb but chilis, even dried, should SMELL like chilis, intensely even.  If your dried chili smells like nothing, your chicken’s gonna taste like nothing.  And always tried to find two different types of Chinese dried chilis (here I have a long narrow variety that’s common, and another from Sichuan that’s heart-shaped).  Don’t just go to a generic supermarket.   Head down to Chinatown and search for shops that are specifically catered to “dried goods”.  It’s almost always guaranteed to be fresher and of higher quality.

Ingredients:

  • 6 ~ 7 (1 kg) large chicken wings, drumsticks and mid-wings separated
  • 2 tbsp of distilled vinegar
  • 1 1/2 ~ 2 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
  • Enough canola oil for frying (depending on the size of the pan)
  • Spice mix:
  • 3 1/4 cup (100 grams) of Chinese dried chili
  • 12 cloves of garlic, smashed

If you want to go the extra miles, you can brine the wings before cooking.  Heat and melt 1/4 cup of salt and 2 1/4 cups of water, then let it cool down to room-temperature (resting the pot in a pile of ice speeds it up).  Brine the wings for 1:30 ~ 2 hours in the fridge.  Rinse and dry thoroughly with a clean towel.  Brush vinegar over the skin but DON’T salt it anymore before cooking if you’re brining.

(If not brining) Rinse clean and dry the chicken wings with a clean towel.  I would suggest using a small knife to separate the joints connecting the two bones in the mid-wing section.  This makes them much easier to eat later.  Let them air dry further on the cutting board for 10 min.  Brush all the skin surfaces with distilled vinegar and season BOTH SIDES generously with salt.

Heat up a wide, shallow pan over HIGH heat, then add enough canola oil to reach about 1/3″ in depth.  Now, put on your mitts and grab your tongs, and slowly arrange the chicken wings (THICK SKIN-SIDE DOWN FIRST) in the pan in ONE SINGLE LAYER.  No overlapping or crowding!  The wings should be able to LAY FLAT in the pan with about 1/2″ of space between each.  If your pan is too small, do it in two batches.  NOW, DON’T DO ANYTHING.  Let them fry in peace, please.  Moving them around too much is only going to deter/prolong the browning process and eventually you’ll end up with over-cooked meats.  Once the first side of skin is crispy and browned, approx 3 ~ 4 minutes depending (rely on your observation, not the suggested time), flip them over to crisp and brown the other side, another 3 ~ 4 minutes.

While the wings are frying, combine red sichuan peppercorn, ground sichuan peppercorn, ground white pepper, ground cumin and ground coriander  in a skillet.  Toast the spices over medium heat and stir until fragrant and smoking up slightly.  Set aside.  Rinse the dried chili clean if they are dusty (they can be sometimes).  Break about 1/3 of them in half (the more broken chilis, the more seeds will be released and the spicier the dish will be).  If you keep all of the dried chilis whole, the dish will be fragrant but not very spicy.

Once the wings are crispy and browned, drain and toss them in the spice mixture inside a large bowl.  Set aside.

Pour all the oil out of the pan, then add 2 1/2 tbsp back into the pan.  Lower the heat down to medium-high.  Add all the dried chilis and smashed garlic cloves, stir and cook until all the chilis significantly darken in color and the garlics are browned.  Add the wings with ALL the spice mixture back into the pan.  Quickly toss to combine all the ingredients until evenly mixed.  Season again with some salt.

Serve immediately.  I mean now.

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14 Comments

  • Hi Mandy, I just wanted to let you know that I think your blog is amazing. I love how thorough your recipes are and the flavor profiles that you come up with are just incredible.

    Also, I’m from San Francisco and I thought I’d let you know that it really is the paradise you describe. Except for the bums – they’re infamously antagonistic. If you love sandwiches and a million incredible restaurants to try and sunny parks and markets full of things to cook then it’s the place to be. I only truly realized it after I ended up where I am now (stuck in Kansas).

  • I moved to Charlotte, NC from San Francisco and I agree with Jessica, it really is paradise (in a lot of ways anyway). I used to get yelled at regularly by the bums, one time for walking “too loud” on her street! So sorry for that . . . if you get to go, let us know! You will DIE at the food. It is a foodie paradise.

    I am trying these wings next on my Mandy list. But not frying, broiling like the other wings. Way crispier.

    • JESSICA: Oh… At first I was like great…thanks for making me feel worse… Until you mentioned Kansas and then I was like, ok fine, it’s a tie.

      MELINDA: yes, I agree with you. Broiling is an underrated method for crispy wings!

  • These look amazing! Are there any online sources for good quality peppers and peppercorns that you have ever come across? I buy mine in a Chinese store, but they are in plastic bags and they are hard to smell!
    thanks!

    • Sara, I get mine shipped directly from sichuan since I’m in China… But the best I can suggest is the links I included in the ingredients list. Like I mentioned, you should look for a “dried goods” shop in china town for dried chilis and peppercorn. They should be of better quality than packaged stuff from supermarket. Good luck!

      • oh wow! i didn’t even realize that those were links — or, i thought they were just links to show you what it looked like. OK sorry for being such a bonehead! great blog!

  • The wings I make have become somewhat infamous among my friends. They are good. But now I realize that crisp wings doused in wet sauce are rather criminal! Very tempting instructions/flavors here.

    I am not being sarcastic. You are the master. I love what I learn when I come to your blog!

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