This week, we’ve got a recipe that’s the best of both worlds for a weeknight: Absolutely delicious, with tons of flavor–and quick to make. We found this recipe via Andrew Zimmern, the celebrity chef and host of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, and we tweak it very little, as it’s delicious as is. This recipe might sound exotic, and on some level, it is, with an amazing flavor profile like nothing I’ve tasted before–but it’s also not intimidating at all. According to Zimmern, it’s based on food he picked up at a street stand in Malaysia and fell in love with, and once we’d tried it, it became an instant classic in our household. It really elevates “wings” into something special and entree worthy.
As far as difficulty level? Once you’ve done a little mis en place–and gotten the ingredients measured out and ready to go, this comes together in just over 30 minutes in one pot. As for mis en place, the process of getting everything ready to cook–while some people consider it a chore, I consider it a special little bit of zen, and it truly helps make the cooking process go more smoothly and quickly, as without having to measure things as you go, you can focus more on heat control and browning, which will really take your food over the edge.
As for the ingredients? All are pretty readily available at any grocery store these days, and are inexpensive even if you don’t currently have them in your pantry. They’re also essential Asian ingredients that keep well, so stocking up for this meal will unlock the ability to make many more delicious Asian dishes down the road.
For this recipe, you will need one large skillet–preferably stainless or cast iron that’s been properly preheated. If you have them, pinch bowls are a great option while you mis en place, but can be traded out for one or two bowls to separate ingredients into according to when they’re added to the dish. You’ll also need a good chef’s knife for separating your wings into the appropriate wing and drumette sections, or a butcher to do the work for you.
Get everything ready—measure out your ingredients and set them up near your cooking station. Separate the white and green parts of the scallions, chopping the white parts into 1 inch chunks with the bottoms trimmed off and setting aside the green parts for garnish later. Prepare the ginger–for this recipe, we prefer to use big slices of ginger that can be removed from the dish before serving, though you can also mince it as the original recipe requests. We find the ginger flavor spreads through the dish perfectly this way without any surprise bursts of flavor overshadowing the other spices. As for the small red chiles, we prefer chile de arbol, which have a fantastic heat level–and if we’re feeling kicky, we’ll add one or two more peppers.
Once that’s all set turn your attention to the wings. Heat up your pan–you’ll want it to be preheated for effective browning, which brings a lot of flavor to this party. If you’re working with whole wings, you’ll want to separate them and remove the tip, so you have the easier to handle, quicker to cook drumette and wing sections. Once your wings are ready and dry, and the pan is nice and hot, brown the wings. You’ll want to let them go for about 8 minutes, more or less, turning once. Important: Do NOT turn the wings more than once, and don’t move them around in the pan lots–you want to have a beautiful golden brown/deep brown where the wing touches the pan. If the wings stick, that’s okay too, as the deglazing you’ll do later on will only enrich the pan sauce. Incidentally, turning them less will prevent excess sticking.
Remove the wings to a platter if you need to work in batches. Once you’ve finished browning all the chicken, add it all back to your pan, still at moderate (medium to medium high) heat, and add the ginger, chiles, star anise, scallion bottoms and cinnamon. When we initially made this recipe, we’d reduce the amount of star anise, since it’s a flavor I don’t personally enjoy very much, but after coming home to the regular recipe as written one night, I’ve realized that the anise is balanced perfectly with everything else in the recipe and doesn’t overpower or over-licorice the final result, so if you’re like me, I recommend sticking with it for a better flavor profile at the end. Cook the chicken with these dry spices just enough to get a bit of toastiness on them–one or two minutes.
Next, get ready to deglaze, adding the soy sauce, oyster sauce, sake, mirin, sugar and water. An aromatic steam will billow up and the liquid will release the brown bits from the bottom of your pan, a “fond” that will make your sauce that much more special. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cover it and cook for about 10 minutes. Uncover after that, stir some, and let the sauce reduce some, into a sticky, thick glaze–about 8 minutes more. Pull out the scallion bottoms, star anise, cinnamon, chiles and ginger chunks, sprinkle sesame seeds over top of the wings, and garnish with the thinly sliced greens of the scallions. Serve over rice with a nice Asian vegetable medley on the side if you so choose, and this is a delightful, flavorful light meal that you’ll spend less than an hour on.
Here is the full recipe you can enjoy any time!
- 3 pounds chicken wings, wing tips removed and wings cut into 2 pieces
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 4 small dried red chiles
- 2 whole star anise
- One 3-inch cinnamon stick
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup sake
- 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 3 tablespoons mirin
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- sesame seeds for garnish
Contributing author/cook Antal Bokor