Those Pok Pok wings are be the biggest Asian comfort food to hit restaurants since David Chang’s pork belly buns. You can check out my cover story here. Everyone seems to do them now. But no one does them quite like Pok Pok. They ‘re garlicky dark meat with a crispy skin, coated in a salty-and-sweet glaze, an umami bomb that will have you gnawing again and again. And now you can make them at home.
On the web, you’ll find lots of Pok Pok wing inspired recipes including one from Pok Pok owner Andy Ricker years ago. But those don’t come close to the real deal. Below is the updated Pok Pok wing recipe from Ricker’s upcoming cookbook “Pok Pok” published by Ten Speed Press) to be released Oct. 29. It still won’t taste exactly like what you would be served at Pok Pok in Portland or Brooklyn, but Ricker said it’s pretty darn close.
Ike’s Vietnamese Fish-Sauce Wings (also known as Pok Pok Wings)
Reprinted with permission from Pok Pok by Andy Ricker with J.J. Goode, copyright © 2013
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SAUCE AND MARINADE
1 ounce peeled garlic (about 8 medium cloves)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup Vietnamese fish sauce
1/2 cup superfine sugar
2 pounds medium-size chicken wings (about 12), split at the joint
TO FRY AND FINISH THE WINGS
Vegetable oil for deep frying
1 cup white rice flour (not glutinous rice flour)
1/4 cup tempura batter mix (preferably Gogi brand)
1/4 cup water
1 to 2 teaspoons Naam Phrik Phao (Roasted chile paste) See recipe below.
TO SERVE ALONGSIDE
Drained Cu Cai (Pickled carrot and daikon radish). See recipe below
Several long spears Persian, English, or Japanese cucumbers (or any firm variety without large seeds and thick, bitter skin)
Several sprigs of Vietnamese mint, cilantro, or Thai basil
MAKE THE SAUCE AND MARINATE THE WINGS
Very finely chop the garlic, sprinkle on the salt, then chop the two together for 15 seconds or so. Scrape the mixture into small bowl, add the 1/4 cup of warm water, and let it sit for a few minutes.
Set a fine-mesh strainer over another bowl, pour the garlic mixture into the strainer (or squeeze the mixture in cheesecloth over the bowl), and use the back of a spoon to stir and smoosh the garlic to extract as much liquid as you can. Reserve the garlic. Add the fish sauce and sugar to the bowl and stir until the sugar has fully dissolved. You should have 1 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 for 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 3/4 inch 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: as soon as a piece of garlic added to the oil bubbles right away, add the rest. Decrease the heat to medium-low (you don’t want to rush the process with high heat), and stir once or twice. Cook the garlic just 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 in more or less one layer to paper towels to drain and cool. You should have 2 tablespoons of fried garlic. It keeps in an airtight container at room temperature for a day or two.
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, Dutch oven, or wide pot (even better, use a countertop deep fryer) to reach a depth that will completely submerge the wings, about 2 inches. Set the pot over medium-high heat, bring the oil to 350°F (use a deep-fry thermometer), carefully stirring the oil to maintain a consistent temperature, and adjust the heat to maintain the temperature.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the rice flour and tempura batter.
Fry the wings in two 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 hot oil. Add the first batch to the oil and cook, prodding the wings to move them around a bit after 4 minutes or so and then every few minutes, until they’re evenly deep golden brown and completely cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer them to paper towels to drain, let the oil come back to 350°F, 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 it aside.
Work in two batches to finish the wings (if you have a very large wok, one batch will do). Combine 1/4 cup of the fish sauce mixture and half of the chile paste (if you’re using it) in a nonstick wok, set it over high heat, and bring it to a boil. Cook until the mixture has reduced by about half, about 45 seconds. Add half of the chicken wings, and cook, using tongs, a wok spatula, 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. Add 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 keep warm while you finish the next one. You can also keep the first batch in an oven set to warm.
Rinse and wipe out the wok, and repeat with another 1/4 cup of the liquid, the remaining chile paste, the remaining wings, and the remaining tablespoon of fried garlic.
Serve the wings with the pickled vegetables, cucumber spears, and herb sprigs.
The night before: Marinate the wings, fry the garlic, and make the pickled carrot and daikon
Up to an hour before: Fry the wings
A fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth
A deep-fry thermometer
A wok (nonstick strongly recommended)
Naam Phrik Phao (Roasted chile paste)
Khao soi always comes with this dark, oily chile paste alongside for you to season your bowl. It adds smoky depth and welcome heat (though keep in mind that khao soi isn’t meant to be super spicy). At Pok Pok, we use the same paste to make the spicy version of Ike’s Vietnamese Fish-Sauce Wings.
Makes a generous 1/4 cup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 ounce dried Thai chiles (about 1 cup)
A very small drizzle of
Asian sesame oil (look for brands that are 100 percent
Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan over low heat until it shimmers. Add the chiles and cook, stirring frequently, until they’re evenly dark brown but not black, 10 to 15 minutes. Ideally every chile will be the same color, but you’ll inevitably have some that are lighter than others.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chiles to a food processor, reserving the oil, and let them cool. Process to a coarse paste. (Alternatively, you can pound them in a granite mortar.) 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.
You can store the paste in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 6 months.
Cu Cai (Pickled carrot and daikon radish)
I’m still shocked, even after all these years, that most customers pound our Vietnamese chicken wings and leave the vegetation I serve with them on the plate. Shocked, because these dead-simple pickles—sweet, tart, and crunchy—are just the thing, along with fresh cucumber and herbs, to eat between bites of those intensely flavored wings.
Serves 8 as a snack or partner to a meal
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons white vinegar, preferably a Thai brand
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup water
About 8 ounces peeled carrots, cut into approx-imately 5-inch-long, 1/2-inch-thick sticks
About 8 ounces peeled daikon radish, cut into approximately 5-inch-long, 1/2-inch-thick sticks
Mix the sugar, vinegar, salt, and water in a large, preferably straight-sided container until the sugar has fully dissolved. Mix the carrot and daikon together and add them to the container, gently pushing them down so they’re more or less submerged.
Cover the container and store in the fridge for at least 4 hours or up to 1 day.