Want a relatively easy recipe for finger food with an Asian twist at your next cocktail party? Then perhaps this recipe for Tamarind Chicken Wings might fit the bill. It’s my own adaptation of an old Peranakan dish, Ayam Siow. I use chicken wings because they’re tasty and they’re cheap as well. The flavour is very fruity-sour from the tamarind and very sweet from the sugar. The original recipe calls for far more sugar than I’ve used. Be sure to marinate the chicken for long enough so the flavour seeps into the chicken. The recipe below is for 1/2 Kg of chicken (a bit more than a pound), but scales up pretty well.
WHAT YOU NEED
Chicken Wings – 0.5 Kg
Shallots – 4-6
Tamarind water – 4 tbsp (or 2 tbsp tamarind concentrate diluted with 6 tbsp water)
Coriander powder – 1 tbsp
Red chilli paste – 1 tsp
Sugar – 4 tbsp
Dark soy sauce – 1 tbsp
Vinegar – 1.5 tbsp
Salt – 1 tsp
Pepper – 0.5 tsp
Oil – 2 tsp
HOW TO MAKE IT
Chop the shallots. Throw all the marinade ingredients into a food processor and whiz till you get a nice smooth paste. Taste the marinade. It should have a pronounced tamarind-y and sweet flavour. Don’t worry about the saltiness yet.
Take the chicken wings and cut each wing into two at the joint. In a large bowl, add the chicken wings and marinade and mix well with your hands. Cover and leave it to marinate overnight in the refrigerator, even 24 hours if you can.
After the marinating time is over, you’ll find that some of the marinade has pooled in your bowl. Transfer the chicken wings to another bowl, gently shaking off any excess marinade. Now you’ll have marinated wings in one bowl and excess marinade in the other.
We’re about to deep-fry the chicken wings and the excess marinade will form our dipping sauce. The wings must be fried only when required so they stay hot, but the sauce can be done ahead of time, so let’s start with that.
This is easy. Just take a pan, heat it, and pour the extra marinade into it. Add about 1/2 cup of water or chicken stock and cook over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes till you have a sweet and fruity-sour sauce the consistency of tomato ketchup. At this point, taste the sauce for saltiness and flavour balance. Adjust if required. Turn off the heat.
On to the wings then. In a frying pan, heat about 300 ml oil for deep-frying. Fry as many wings on medium-high heat at one time as you can without crowding them too much. This should take about 5 minutes or till it turns a nice brown (not golden brown; we want them darker than that.) Remove the first batch to a platter and dry the extra oil off with paper towels.
Alright, repeat this till you’ve fried the entire batch of wings. Resist the temptation to eat them after they’re fried. Actually, go ahead, try one piece. ;)
Now you have deep-fried wings and a dipping sauce. How you want to take it from here is up to you. You can serve the wings with the sauce on the side, or you can pour the sauce on top of the wings with a spoon to coat them. The second option is messier to eat, but more fun.
Deep-frying gets a bad name and I agree it’s not exactly the healthiest way to make food. However, much of the time, people just don’t deep-fry things right, and that’s how deep-fried food gets more calorie-laden than it should. Temperature, for instance, is critical when you’re frying in multiple batches. Before you put the next batch in, make sure the oil comes back to the right temperature. Remember that the frying has left the oil much colder than when we started, so we have to wait for it to return to the right level again before putting more food in. This is probably the most common mistake made by novices to deep-frying. It’s also why deep-fried food gets so oily sometimes. Cold oil doesn’t fry; it soaks into the food instead. You can test if the oil is ready by tossing in a sliver of onion or ginger. It should rise immediately to the surface, sizzling merrily. If it sinks and takes a few seconds to come up, it’s not hot enough. If it sizzles furiously and browns in the next 5 seconds, the oil is too hot. Adjust temperature accordingly.
If you’re going to increase the recipe quantities for larger groups, please don’t increase the salt in the same ratio. Increase it only by 50% for a double portion. Saltiness is one of those things that can screw a dish if it’s excessive, and it’s not easy to balance an excess of salt. If you need more later, you can always add it in the final stages of cooking.
You can use regular whole chicken with skin to make this recipe as part of a regular meal too, but remember to adjust frying time for larger pieces of chicken. Chicken breast pieces cook much faster than legs too.
Given the nature of the ingredients, there can be a fair bit of variance in flavour from what I make here, so please use your own instinct when adding the tamarind and the chilli. If either seems wrong, feel free to change it.
Alas, I lost my cute digital camera, so I have no pictures of this dish. Anyone feel like buying me a new Canon A95?