Project Pok Pok Cookbook: Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings

chickenwings

Well, as anyone who’s been to PokPok can tell you, the wings are the thing. Which is kind of funny, since they’re not Thai at all, but Vietnamese. Which is okay by me, cause they’re amazing.

There are actually a few recipes in the cookbook that are just from Andy Ricker’s travels around Asia that he happened to really like, so he threw in to both his restaurants and his cookbook. I think (although I could totally be mistaken on this one) that his first venture was just a wing shop? Am I wrong? Feel free to let me know if I am in the comments. In any case, he serves them in almost all his shops and they are the yummiest. This is the one recipe I’ve made a few times, and it’s about as good as it is in the restaurant — although you can’t beat the consistency that comes from a deep fryer that’s pumping ’em out. Still, these can be made in the privacy of your own home and are well worth the effort.

The Plan:

  • The night before, marinate the wings, fry the garlic, and make the picked carrot and diakon.
  • Up to an hour before: Fry the wings

You will need:

  • a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth
  • A deep fry thermometer
  • A wok

Sauce and Marinade:

  • 8 medium cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  • 2 lbs of medium sized chicken wings, split at the joint

To Fry the Wings and Finish:

  • Vegetable oil for deep frying
  • 1 cup white rice flour (NOT glutinous rice flour — this is important, messed that up once and the whole finish was wrong)
  • 1/4 cup tempura batter mix (preferably Gogi brand)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons Naam Phrik Phao (roasted chili paste, recipe below) — optional but recommended

To Serve Alongside:

  • Drained Cu Cai (Pickled Carrot and Daikon, recipe below)
  • Several long spears of Persian or English cucumber
  • Several sprigs of Vietnamese mint, cilantro, and/or Thai basil

Make the Sauce and Marinade:

  • Very finely chop the garlic, sprinkle on the salt, and then chop the two together for 15 seconds or so. Scrape the mixture into a small bowl, add the 1/4 cup of warm water, and let it sit a few minutes.
  • Set a fine mesh strainer over another bowl, pour the garlic mixture into the strainer, and use the back of a spoon to smoosh and stir the garlic to extract as much liquid as possible. Reserve the garlic. Add fish sauce and sugar to the bowl and stir until the sugar has fully dissolved. You should have about a cup of liquid.
  • Put the chicken wings in a large mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup of the fish sauce mixture, reserving the rest, and toss well with your hands. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or as long as overnight, tossing every hour or so.

Fry the Garlic:

  • Meanwhile, pour enough oil into a small pan to reach a depth of 1/4″ or so and set it over high heat until it shimmers. Set a fine mesh strainer over a heatproof bowl. Test whether the oil is hot enough: when a piece of garlic added to the oil bubbles right away, add the rest. Decrease the heat to medium low (don’t rush the process with high heat), and stir once or twice. Cook the garlic until it’s evenly light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Strain the garlic, reserving the flavorful oil for another purpose. Gently shake the strainer, then transfer the garlic to paper towels to drain and cool. You should have about 2 tablespoons of fried garlic. It keeps in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of days.

Fry the Wings:

  • Transfer the wings to a colander in the sink, shaking them occasionally, to let them drain well before you fry them, at least 15 minutes.
  • Pour enough of the oil into a wok (or Dutch oven or wide pot) to reach a depth that will submerge the wings, about 2 inches. Set the pot over medium heat, bringing the temperature to 350 degrees using a deep fry thermometer, carefully stirring the oil to maintain a consistent temperature and adjusting the heat as needed.
  • In a large mixing bowl, stir together the rice flour and the tempura batter.
  • Fry the wings in batches. Toss half the wings in the flour mixture to coat them well and knock them against the edge of the bowl so any excess flour falls off before adding them to the oil. Add the first batch and cook, prodding the wings to move them around after 4 minutes or so and then every few minutes until they’re evenly deep golden brown and cooked through, about 6 – 8 minutes. Transfer them to paper towels to drain, let the oil come back to 350, and do the same with the next batch.

Finish the Wings:

  • Add the 1/4 cup of water to the remaining fish sauce mixture, stir well, and set aside.
  • Work in two batches to finish the wings. Combine 1/4 cup of the fish sauce mixture and half of the chili paste (if you’re using it) in a non-stick wok, set over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture has reduced by half (about 45 seconds or so). Add half the chicken wings and cook, using tongs or a deft flick of your wrist to toss the wings in the liquid every 15 seconds or so, until the liquid has become a sticky, caramel-colored glaze that coats the wings, about 1 minute. A 1 tablespoon of the reserved fried garlic, toss well, and keep cooking, tossing constantly, until the glaze has turned a shade or two darker, about 30 seconds more.
  • Transfer the wings to a serving plate. The sticky coating seals in the heat, so this batch of wings should stay hot while you finish the next ones.
  • Rinse and wipe out the wok, and repeat with batch 2.
  • Serve alongside pickled vegetable, cucumber spears and herb sprigs.

Naam Phrik Phao (Roasted Chili Paste)

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 oz dried Thai chilies (about 1 cup)
  • A very small drizzle of Asian sesame oil (look for brands that are 100% sesame oil)

Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan over low heat until it shimmer. Add the chilies and cook, stirring frequently, until they’re evenly dark brown but not black, 10 to 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chilies to a food processor, reserving the oil, and let them cool. Process to a coarse paste. Stir in just enough of the reserved oil to saturate the paste but not so much that it’s swimming in oil. The consistency should be like that of chunky peanut butter. Stir in the sesame oil.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 6 months.

Drained Cu Cai (Pickled Carrots and Daikon)

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons of white vinegar, preferably a Thai brand
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1 cup water
  • about 8 oz. peeled carrots, cut into approximately 5-inch-long, 1/2-inch-thick sticks
  • about 8 oz. peeled daikon radish, cut into approximately 5-inch-long, 1/2-inch-thick sticks

Mix the sugar, vinegar, sale and water in a large, stright sided container until the sugar has fully dissolved. Mix the carrot and daikon together and add them to the container, gently pushing them down until they’re more or less submerged.

Cover the container and store in fridge for at least 4 hours before serving.

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