FISH SAUCE CHICKEN WINGS

Fish Sauce Chicken Wings

Once in a while I come across a dish so spectacular, so original that I can’t shake the flavor from my tastebuds. Such was the case when I tasted Pok Pok’s famous Fish Sauce Wings on a trip north to visit my sister and brother-in-law in Portland, Oregon. While I was warned beforehand about how delicious the iconic wings were, it wasn’t until after we finished our meal that I came to understand the seriousness of their claims — I was addicted. Simultaneously crispy and sticky, sweet and salty, these delectable wings pack more rich, umami flavor into each bite than most Vietnamese restaurants do in an entire meal.

As is usually the case when I have something amazing at a restaurant, I decided that I had to try to make them on my own. The problem, of course, was that I had no idea how to go about doing so. And then, Pok Pok was featured in an article in Food & Wine. It was like fate, only the recipe I was looking for was no where to be seen. Real disappointment set in. My sister had moved away from Portland, and it was starting to feel like I would never taste those salty wings again. Until Diners, Drive-ins and Dives decided to make a visit to the restaurant. As luck would have it, they decided to film Andy, the owner, whipping up a batch of their wings. To get the technique down, I re-watched the clip multiple times, and then I got to work.

Ironically, the recipe I’ve adapted here is actually from Food & Wine online and came up when I searched “Pok Pok wings,” though I don’t know which issue they originally appeared in. Applying the flavors listed with the method I gleaned from “Triple D,” I was able to come up with a fairly authentic composite. The wings were crispy and sticky, salty and sweet–the fix I’d been searching for for over a year. One craving satisfied, now onto the next. . .

FISH SAUCE CHICKEN WINGS

Adapted from Andy Ricker’s recipe for Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings, Food & Wine Magazine

When frying anything in batches, it’s important to allow the heat of the oil to rebound to its original temperature for consistent and efficient cooking. While these wings taste great as is, the addition of crispy fried garlic at the end add another dimension of flavor. Simply fry another two cloves of minced garlic in a couple of tablespoons of oil until golden and drain on paper towels before adding during the final toss with the caramel.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 pounds chicken wings, split at the joint
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup rice flour or corn starch
  • 1-2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce (such as Huy Fong brand)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro and/or mint for garnish

METHOD:

  1. In a small bowl, add 2 cloves of the minced garlic and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Massage the salt into the garlic to begin to extract its oils. Dilute with 1/4 cup of water and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Strain the garlic mixture through cheesecloth into a clean bowl, squeezing to extract as much flavor as possible.
  2. In another bowl, prepare the marinade by whisking together the liquid garlic extract, fish sauce and superfine sugar. Add the chicken and the marinade to a resealable zip-top bag and place in the refrigerator overnight. Make sure to toss the wings occasionally to evenly distribute the marinade.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°. In a large heavy bottomed pot and using a deep-fry thermometer, heat 2 inches of oil to 350°. Remove the wings from their marinade and pat dry on paper towels; reserve the marinade.
  4. In a medium bowl, lightly dredge each wing in a coating of the rice flour, making sure to pat off any excess. Fry the wings in batches until golden and cooked through, about 7-10 minutes. With frying subsequent batches, remove the wings to a baking sheet lined with a wire rack and place in the oven to stay warm.
  5. Meanwhile, make the wing caramel by adding the reserved marinade to a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When mixture begin to bubble, add chili garlic paste to the pan and continue to cook until reduced to a syrupy consistency. Add the fried wings to the caramel and toss to coat. Glaze the wings by adding a small splash of water to the pan to collect the caramelized bits. Remove to a platter and garnish with chopped cilantro and/or mint.

Serves 6

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  1. These look so good. I will have to try to make them soon. I also love triple D show. Thank you for sharing. -Tien

  2. These sound amazing!

  3. I don’t know when I’ve seen such a beckoning plate of wings – fantastic!

    Thanks for finding me so I could find you and your enticing blog of recipes.

    Heidi

  4. I can assure you that they taste even better than they look. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Heidi – Thanks for stopping by. I assure you that these wings taste even better than they look.

  6. I MUST try these. It’s only 8 a.m. and I am wishing I had some right now. They sound absolutely perfect. I am so amused/impressed you watched Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives to gt the recipe…sounds like something I would do :) Love it!

    • BOB
    • October 23rd, 2009

    Didnt he also use Tempura along with the Rice Flour? Also I thought he made a completely different batch of fish sauce and sugar just for the glaze using the reserve marinade could be yucky.

    Dont forget to add the fried garlic

  7. Bob – He did in fact add a dry tempura mix to the rice flour. I looked around for some substitutes and decided to leave it out all together and the wings were still incredibly crispy. Still trying to figure out what kind of mix he used and what the ratio to rice flour was. I’ve made this recipe using a new batch of fish sauce and sugar and with the reserved marinade and both versions turn out just fine. I myself actually prefer to make a new batch of the caramel as the spent marinade can indeed get a little yucky.

    I did forget the fried garlic in this post and I do think it adds another necessary crunch and extra layer of flavor. Seems like you watched that segment as closely as I did.

    • BOB
    • November 3rd, 2009

    I would highly recommend either making new or reserving some marinade before the chicken is added to use as your glaze just to be safe. Theres alot of bacteria in chicken and the marinade would be swimming in it, Sure if you cook it it could be safer but I wouldnt chance it

    The sugar to fish sauce ration for the glaze is tricky IMHO. Not enough sugar and your wings will be too salty, but too much sugar and well its too sweet.

    The wings came out great though

    • tom
    • July 28th, 2010

    I believe he uses a mixture of rice flour and tempura. I’m trying this recipe tonight. It looks insane!

  8. He does in fact use tempura mix. He is the man. These are still delicious.

    • Shane
    • August 15th, 2010

    Thank you so much for posting this!

    • Sherry
    • December 21st, 2010

    I had these in Portland during a business trip in November. Immediately went home, watched the Triple D, and made the wings. If you watch, the second new bath of the glaze also includes water, which makes sense, to dilute the extreme saltiness of the fish sauce. My ratio was still a little salty, so I plan to increase sugar next time. I made them with only rice flour as I had no tempura mix on hand and they were just fine.

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