Forbidden Wings

It’s no secret that I think the chicken wing is the best part of the bird. I recently commented on an Asian chicken wing post on one of my favorite blogs, Attempts in Domesticity, that I heard they were engineering chickens with eight wings — spiderchickens! (A combination of humor and wishful thinking.)


One of my favorite kinds of wings, along with original Buffalo wings and twice-fried Korean wings, are Chinese salt & pepper wings. I used to get them back in the day at cheap Chinese takeout counters — you know the kind, with the compartmentalized styrofoam take out boxes where you can choose between noodles or fried rice and two entrees for $5.99. I would always choose the noodles, perhaps braised eggplant or long beans, and salt & pepper chicken wings. I would get four or five golden velvety fried wings wok-cooked with scallions and red serrano pepper slices and sprinkled liberally with salt.

Invited to a pool party, wanting to bring an appetizer and faced with a large bag of chicken wings I’d purchased on sale that was making my freezer difficult to close, I decided to see if I could reproduce the simple perfection of the wings I’d known and loved in my poorer days.

It took me a little research online to find what I was looking for, but soon I was browsing a variety of delicious-sounding recipes. One site had a photo that looked remarkably similar to the wings I used to buy, but when I read the instructions was dismayed to discover that the “secret ingredient” was powdered custard mix. So I soldiered on. I got hung up for a bit on a fun website called Mom’s Chinese Kitchen with a tasty sounding recipe and a rather delightful looking guy reminiscing about his childhood in San Francisco’s Chinatown. But soon I had collected enough knowledge to give the wings a shot.

I took the elements of each recipe that seemed most likely to produce what I remembered — especially if the photo looked right. What I wound up with was something crispy, salty and spicy — delightfully satisfying, if not quite as good as those takeout originals (at least in my memory). I brought mine to a barbecue, where they vanished with a flurry of greasy digits in a matter of minutes. (Our host alone ate four of the 12.) But they would be welcome just about anywhere people gather and eat with their fingers.

Why are they “Forbidden”? Because anything Chinese you do just sounds more exotic if you add “forbidden”. Plus, if you’re married to a vegan, health nut or yoga practitioner, well… you get the idea.


*    *    *

Chinese salt & pepper wings
serves 4 as an appetizer

16 chicken wing segments (sometimes called “party wings”)
1 egg
1 tbsp. Szechuan peppercorns, toasted
1/2 tsp. crushed black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. powdered dashi broth (optional)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 rice flour
1 cup vegetable oil
1 large scallion
1 red serrano chili, thinly sliced crosswise
salt to taste

In a mortar, grind together the peppercorns, black pepper, salt and dried dashi broth (if using) until smooth. Toss together with the flours in a shallow bowl.

Beat the egg and toss the chicken wings in the egg. Then dredge them in the flour mixture (you can put the flour in a paper bag, then add the wings and shake). Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wok or large shallow pan. When the oil is hot, fry the wings — 2 or 3 minutes per side, flip and the same for the second side, then flip again for once more on the first side and repeat — until golden and crispy. Remove to a rack and let cool for a few minutes.

Pour the oil from wok or pan, but do not clean. Remove any burned bits of flour.  With the oil that remains coating the pan, heat it the pan again over medium-high and add the scallions and chiles. (In the event the oil in the pan is too dirty or filled with browned flour, wipe the pan clean with a paper towel and add 1 tbsp. fresh oil.) Stir fry for about 2 minutes, until wilted and translucent. Add chicken wings and continue stir frying for another 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and sprinkle with additional salt to taste.

19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Washington, DC
    Jun 18, 2013 @ 00:11:32

    I WANT TO DIVE INTO THE SCREEN and get my grub on. Those looks so cute and delicious too! I will be dreaming about these wings!


  2. Austin
    Jun 18, 2013 @ 00:14:06

    This post made my tummy rumble!


  3. Michelle
    Jun 18, 2013 @ 01:21:37

    You are so right: the wings are definitely the best part of the bird. And those look terrific! But what were you thinking taking just a dozen? Were there only the two of you at the party? 🙂


    • scolgin
      Jun 18, 2013 @ 14:42:11

      No, but there were only eight and one was a vegetarian. I figured some people would eat one, some would eat two. I didn’t want my hosts to get mad because everyone filled up on my apps and couldn’t eat dinner!


  4. Mom
    Jun 18, 2013 @ 03:17:39

    Another genetic surprise. I’ve always preferred wings.


  5. rachelocal
    Jun 18, 2013 @ 03:41:51

    This recipe looks so, so good. I like chicken thighs the best, though!

    On an unrelated note, what app do you use for your photos?


    • scolgin
      Jun 18, 2013 @ 14:49:33

      That’s not an entirely unrelated note. I use either the iPhone camera (and iPhoto for editing) or Hipstamatic, which is what I took the chicken wing photo with. They have a good “Foodie” package w/ lens and film that I use for a lot of the up-close food shots.


      • rachelocal
        Jun 18, 2013 @ 18:01:25

        Whenever a photo pops up in my reader, I know its yours before I see the blog title. I’me going to check out Hipstamatic. Thanks!

  6. Noel Kleinman
    Jun 18, 2013 @ 17:07:17

    Wow! I am gonna have to try this recipe…looks amazing!


  7. pal-O
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 10:40:40

    Is the Serrano diced up or left whole?


    • scolgin
      Jun 19, 2013 @ 13:34:00

      Oh man, thanks for pointing that out! I fixed the recipe — thinly sliced crosswise. Let me know if you need me to send you some powdered dashi broth. You’ll use it in everything.


  8. pal-O
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 17:56:11

    In Basebal terminology: I make my living on the corners. You know me, I can always use help with me cooking. Can/would you cook pasta w/ dash broth?


    • scolgin
      Jun 19, 2013 @ 21:19:36

      Would I could I with dashi broth? I would I could! (Too much Green Eggs & Ham, sorry…) I would do Japanese/Asian noodles in the broth, but probably not Italian. I do sometimes sprinkle it in sauces, though, for an Umami punch. (See my dashi broth post a few weeks back for more on that…)


      • pal-O
        Jun 20, 2013 @ 13:03:24

        I was hoping for a froth. Is there another rhyme for “broth” aside from a lisp like the Thouthern Croth or Loves Old Thweet Thong-Lothth?
        Actually I was wondering if your Fideo recipe might work with a Dashi broth instead of or added to the fish broth, maybe even subbing Asian noodles.

      • scolgin
        Jun 20, 2013 @ 14:44:26

        You could do an asian version of fideus, although I would probably be more inclined to go a Southeast version, with coconut milk, Vietnamese fish sauce, ginger, etc. The dashi is subtle and works better as either a light broth for Japanese food, or as a flavor enhancer.

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