On a trip to Vancouver, I discovered Phnom Phen, the must-try Cambodian spot in town. I'd never had Cambodian before, only Vietnamese and Thai, but as I saw plates piled high with herbs floating out of the kitchen and smelt the acrid scent of garlic wafting through the air, I knew I was in the right place. After waiting in an impossibly long line, I responsibly ordered a Vancouver specialty: chicken wings.
I expected something sticky and spicy, like a cross between Thai and Japanese wings. The result was totally unexpected: simple fired chicken tossed in cilantro, green onion, garlic, and then salt, pepper and . . . sugar. The sugar was the linchpin here. It took yummy tasty wings and transformed them into crack wings. It made sense why every table had a graveyard of chicken bones strewn across plates. These were really freaking good.
I harassed the teenage sweetheart of a waiter into giving me the details, and honestly, there wasn't any secret to it. Just a little rice flour to add a bit of crunch to the skin, and then the garnishes I had already sussed out. As I left the restaurant, I promised myself I would whip this wings up myself at the earliest opportunity. Well, here they are. Put on some sweatpants, and get frying.
||For the perfect crunch, this rice flour is finely ground with the best California rice. Organic White Rice Flour, $19, Bob's Red Mill
1 gallon vegetable oil
2 pounds chicken wings and drumettes
1/2 cup potato starch or rice flour
[NOTE] potato starch gives you a flakier texture and rice flour goes a darker golden brown
Ingredients for tossing mix:
1/4 cup green onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon finely ground pepper
Pour enough oil into a large pot or dutch oven to come up 3 inches, and heat over high heat until oil reaches 350°F.
Meanwhile, combine tossing mix ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Toss the wings in the starch or rice flour to coat, and add to the oil.
Cook the wings for 5 minutes, or until crispy and pale golden brown. Set aside on paper towels and let them cool for a few minutes. Bring the oil up to 400F, add the wings back in, and cook for another 6 or 7 minutes, until deep golden brown. Drain on paper towels, and add to a bowl.
Pour tossing mix ingredients over the chicken, toss the wings to coat, and serve while hot!
For more delicious recipes from Claire, head to The Kitchy Kitchen
Photographs: Claire Thomas