So… I asked myself “what’s the deal with ‘Pok Pok’ wings”. It’s just some fried chicken wings that some dude created, right? By no means am I underestimating these wings but just out of curiosity, I googled and found that the Pok Pok wings is big, BIG … I mean huge with anyone and everyone who has ever tried it in the restaurant. These wings have defined the next level of comfort food! According to the recipe creators, Andy Ricker & Ike, this wings practically pay their mortgage! So, these ain’t just wings … it’s really really special fried chicken wings that pay the bills.
So, further to my curiosity, I googled a little more and found that Andy Ricker has a cookbook and it’s highly recommended. Best part is – this famous chicken wings recipe is also included. Always happy to spend on cookbooks, I ordered and Amazon delivered it to my doorstep! Speedy as a lightning.
The recipe pays homage to a common Vietnamese dish called ga chien nuoc mam and Pok Pok’s first native Vietnam employee, Ich Truong (nickname ‘Ike’). After many misses, the pair finally came out with the perfect formula for the chicken wings – sealed within a sticky salty-and-sweet glaze adorned with bites of caramelised garlic. That explains why the recipe is named after Ike 🙂 This dish requires preparation a day before and so, I made sure I got all my ingredients before I start.
If you love fried stuff with intense salty and sweet flavours, these wings are perfect for the occasion. Pair them with pickled salad, anything from cucumber, carrot to cherry tomatoes and bottles of chilled beer to complete the meal and balance the flavours. May I warn you that speed is important here – get your hands on as many wings as possible before they run out because I can tell you, it’s super addictive. While I haven’t tried the original wings in Portland, I’d have to say that this recipe did make some blardy darn good home-cook wings!
Pok Pok Chicken Wings (adapted from Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok cookbook)
Makes 12 chicken wings
12 chicken wings, remove wing tips
1 cup rice flour
1/4 cup tempura flour (or batter mix)
1/4 cup water
1-2 tsp Naam Phrik Phao (roasted chile paste), optional
Sprigs of vietnamese mint, cilantro (to garnish)
Pickled carrot, radish (to serve)
(Sauce & Marinade)
10 medium cloves of garlic
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup fine sugar
(Naam Phrik Phao)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup dried chillies
Drizzle of pure sesame oil
(1 day before)
1. Prepare the roasted chile paste – heat oil in a saucepan over low heat. Once the oil is hot, add chillies and cook till it turns evenly dark brown. Use a slotted spoon, while reserving the oil, and transfer the chillies to a mortar and slowly grind them to a coarse paste. Slowly add little by little of the reserved oil until just enough to saturate the paste. It should look like that of a peanut butter. Lastly mix in sesame oil. Store the paste in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 6 mths.
2. Make the sauce and marinade the wings – Finely chop the garlic, sprinkle on the salt, then chop the two together for 15 secs. Transfer to a small bowl and add 1/4 cup of warm water into the mixture. Let it sit for a few minutes. Strain the garlic mixture into a bowl. Using the back of a spoon, press and squash the garlic to extract as much liquid as you can. Reserve the garlic. Add fish sauce and sugar to the garlic water and stir until the sugar has dissolved. You should have 1 cup of fish sauce liquid mixture.
3. Put the chicken wings in a large mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup of the fish sauce liquid mixture. Reserve the other 1/2 for use tomorrow. Toss well with your hands. Cover and refrigerate overnight, tossing the wings every hour or so.
4. Heat up enough oil in a small pan. Once the oil is hot, pour the reserved garlic and sauté until it’s evenly golden brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain and cool. Once cooled, transfer the garlic into an airtight container. It can be stored at room temperature for a day or two.
(The next day)
1. Remove the wings from the refrigerator and transfer to a colander. Drain the marinade well and leave it to drain completely for 15 mins.
2. Pour enough oil into a wok or large saucepan – enough to submerge the wings completely. Bring it to medium-high heat and oil temperature to reach 176 celsius.
3. In a large mixing bowl, pour in the rice flour and tempura batter. Stir to mix well. Fry the wings in a few batches – this step is important to retain the oil temperature. Toss the wings in the flour mixture – coat well and shake off excess flour. Slowly drop the wings one by one into the oil and cook. Using a chopstick or tongs, turn the wings around after 4 mins or so until they are evenly golden brown. Transfer the wings to a cooling rack to drain. Let the oil temperature go back to 176 celsius before continuing the next batch.
4. To finish off the wings, in a wok, add 1/4 cup water to the remaining fish sauce liquid mixture (1/2 cup) reserved from yesterday. Stir the sauce. Then add the roasted chile paste. Set the heat to high and bring it to a boil. Cook until the mixture has reduced by about half. Put in the fried wings and toss them around in the liquid so they are well covered with the sauce. Continue tossing the wings until the liquid has become a sticky, caramel-colorer glaze that coats the wings completely. Add the reserved fried garlic and toss the wings around until the glaze has turned a shade darker.
5. Transfer the wings to a serving plate and serve with pickled vegetables and salad. The wings must be eaten immediately while it’s hot and sticky.
Note: The flavours are meant to be intensely salty and sweet. However, If you find that to be a little unbearable, you may reduce the fish sauce and sugar to half of 1/4 cup.