This recipe was inspired by the grilled, glazed chicken feet we ate on the streets in Hanoi. We recreated this dish at home using chicken wings and, per my mom's suggestion, a glaze of fish sauce, sugar, chiles, garlic and ginger. We also adapted a few techniques from a recipe for Viet-style chicken in Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World, in which he marinates chicken in soy sauce and cooks --thereby thickening -- the glaze. From all these sources, we came up with our own adaptation. We've tried grilling, pan frying, oven frying and deep frying and, though deep frying is a pain (sometimes literally!), it ensures each bite is juicy and crisp. All the flavors work together to create a dish with intense, but hopefully balanced, Vietnamese flavors. - halfasiangirl —halfasiangirl
Test Kitchen Notes
Don't leave out the lime and cilantro on these crispy, juicy wings. The bright, fresh elements make these simple Vietnamese-inspired wings come alive. - Stephanie —The Editors
2 hungry people as a main or 4 as an appetizer
For the wings
2 1/2 pounds
whole chicken wings
peanut or neutral oil, may need more depending on your frying vessel
For the glaze
plus 1 teaspoon sambal oelek (ground red chile paste - I like Huy Fong brand)
Rinse the chicken wings and cut into three sections: wing, drumettes and tips. Reserve tips for your stock bag. You should end up with a little more than 2 pounds of edible chicken pieces.
Place chicken in a large bowl with the soy sauce. Toss well to coat and proceed, or you can cover and leave in the refrigerator for a few hours.
Set aside 1 tablespoon each of minced ginger and garlic for the glaze. Also, set up a metal rack over a baking sheet near your frying station for your wings.
When you are ready to fry, add peanut oil to a large, deep cast iron pot (such as a French oven) and turn to medium. The oil should come up about 1 1/2 to 2 inches high on the sides, so you may need more or less than 1 cup of oil depending on your frying vessel. Place a deep-fry thermometer in the pot and bring oil to between 350 and 375 degrees F.
While you are waiting for the oil to heat, add 1/2 cup rice flour to a large bowl. Add wings one at a time and toss with your fingers to lightly coat each piece with flour. Set coated wings aside on a baking tray.
When the oil is ready, add half the wings and immediately turn the heat up high to compensate for the temperature drop. Once the oil returns to around 350F, dial the heat back down. The main goal is to try to keep the temperature as close to 350 as you can. If you have the temperature at around 350 (and you fry relatively small batches -- I fried 10 at a time), each batch of wings should take 6-8 minutes to cook through and get golden brown. Using tongs, remove each piece and set on the rack to drain and cool. Check your oil temperature and fry the second batch using the same method.
Now make your sauce. In a wide skillet (nonstick is nice here) heated to medium, add 3 tablespoons of the frying oil. (Feel free to use fresh oil if you prefer.) Saute the garlic and ginger until translucent, slightly golden and aromatic. Add 2 tablespoons of water and 3 tablespoons granulated sugar. Stir to combine and cook until the sugar melts and the sauce becomes foamy and glossy, about 2-3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons fish sauce and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. The glaze should be slightly thickened by now. Finally, add 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of sambal oelek. Taste and add additional sambal oelek, if desired. Give the sauce a last stir to combine and add all the chicken pieces back to the skillet. Turn the pieces several times to coat with the glaze.
Pile the chicken wings/drumettes in a serving bowl and garnish with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges for a nice hit of acidity and additional chile-garlic sauce for chile heads.