Posted November 19, 2004 by Nick Lindauer in Hot Sauce News

Spicy wings can get you through football season

Although I’m not a big fan of football, there’s something about the excitement of the season combined with the chill of fresh autumn air that revs up the appetite for spicy, filling foods.

When I tag along to see a game at someone’s house, I don’t concern myself with what the defensive line is up to, but with what’s on the menu — spicy chicken wings with lots of dipping sauce. They’re easy to eat with one hand, an important consideration when you’re perched on a sofa, balancing a paper plate loaded with food.

I recognized the value of dipping sauce while in Shanghai. I was in a Western-style restaurant where Buffalo wings with blue cheese dressing was on the menu. But when the wings arrived at our table, there was no dressing to be found. When I went to the restaurant another time, I brought my own bottle of dressing.

It was also in China that I tasted a subtly sweet hoisin-based sauce that had the makings of a great dip for spicy chicken wings.

At home, I tinkered with ingredients I had seen in a sparerib marinade, adding the tartness of plum sauce, the warmth of star anise, the low-voltage heat of chili paste, and the fiery punch of fresh red chile peppers.

I envisioned a dipping sauce that was creamy and cooling to the taste buds, flavors that didn’t mask or clash with the delicately assertive Asian flavors.

The result: mahogany-colored chicken wings baked in a robust marinade that whispers of Chinatown spices. The accompanying sour cream dip is flavored with bits of salty feta cheese and pungent cilantro. It’s a diverse and delicious pairing — casual enough for football buddies and sophisticated enough for before-dinner nibbling.

Spicy Asian Chicken Wings
If you want to use the marinade as a dipping sauce, double the recipe and reserve a third of it after bringing it to a boil and before mixing it with the raw chicken.

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup plum sauce

1/4 cup sherry

1/4 cup Asian sesame oil

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

1/2 cup chopped green onions

4 garlic cloves, grated

1 fresh chile pepper, chopped (with seeds)

1 tablespoon chili paste (add more if you like it hotter)

2 whole star anise

2 pounds chicken wings, trim off wing tips, and cut the wings into 2 pieces

Dipping Sauce (see recipe)

Combine the hoisin, soy and plum sauces in a saucepan. Add the sherry, sesame oil, ginger, onions, garlic, chile pepper, chili paste and star anise; stir well to blend. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Put the chicken wings in a glass or plastic container and pour the cooled sauce over them. Remove the star anise. Turn the wings in the sauce to make sure each is coated thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate preferably overnight, but at least 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with foil; oil the foil.

Remove the chicken from the marinade (reserve the marinade) and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the wings over and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until the wings are a rich brown and cooked through, basting with the reserved marinade every 15 minutes.

Immediately remove the wings to a serving plate (if allowed to cool on the pan, the chicken will stick to the foil).

Serve at room temperature with the dipping sauce.

Serves 4 as an appetizer

PER SERVING (without dip): 460 calories, 25 g protein, 17 g carbohydrate, 31 g fat (7 g saturated), 95 mg cholesterol, 2,115 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

Feta, Cilantro & Sour Cream Dipping Sauce

1 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon white wine

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Whisk together all ingredients and pour into serving bowl. Refrigerate until serving time.

Yields about 1 3/4 cups

PER TABLESPOON: 40 calories, 1 g protein, 1 g carbohydrate, 4 g fat (2 g saturated), 7 mg cholesterol, 50 mg sodium, 0 fiber.

Linda Furiya divides her time between San Francisco and Shanghai. E-mail her at food@sfchronicle.com.

Nick Lindauer

The Original Hot Sauce Blog