I recently re-created a Sichuan style fried chicken wing recipe with a sweet-sour-spicy-garlicky sauce that is pretty close to Heaven. The recipe has two parts that needed mastering: getting the chicken wings crispy and crunchy without a whole lot of greasy batter, and managing to caramelize the sugar in the sauce so that it's lovely and sticky. This was a genuine hit even the first time around, and I recommend it highly. Do note that the sauce is slightly tart, so if you like a sweeter flavor, add as much sugar (or other seasonings for that matter) to suit your tastes.
Dry fried chicken wings -- 乾烹雞翅 Ganpeng jichi
Makes 6 wings
6 whole chicken wings or 12 middle sections only, preferably organic and free range
¼ cup cornstarch
2 cups (or so) frying oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 green onions, trimmed and finely chopped
10 dried Thai chilies, or to taste, broken in half and the seeds discarded
¾ cup white rice vinegar
6 tablespoons white sugar, or to taste
1 teaspoon roasted Sichuan peppercorn salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons regular soy sauce
1. Start this recipe at least 6 hours before you want to serve it. Rinse the chicken wings and lightly pat dry. If you are using whole wings, cut off the tips and use them for stock, and then cut the wings between the first and second joints so that you have 12 pieces. Place the wing pieces in a work bowl and sprinkle the cornstarch over them. Toss the bowl until each wing piece is thoroughly coated.
2. Place a cake rack on a large plate or small baking tray, and then arrange the wings on top of the tray so that they do not touch each other. Put the tray in the fridge uncovered so that the cool air slightly dries out the wings. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to one day.
3. Pour the oil in a wok and heat over high until a wooden chopstick inserted in the oil is immediately covered with bubbles. Holding a spatter screen in one hand, use the other to carefully add half of the wing pieces to the hot oil. Cover with the screen to cut down on the possibility of burns and mess. As soon as one side of the wings are golden, turn them over, adjusting the heat as necessary, and remove the wings to a large work bowl as soon as they are nicely browned and cooked through (see Tips). Repeat with the other half of the wings
4. Prepare the sauce either in the wok or a saucepan. Either drain off all but a tablespoon of oil from the wok, or pour a tablespoon of the oil into a small saucepan. Heat the oil over medium high and add the garlic, ginger, onions, and chilies. Toss them in the hot oil to release their fragrance, and then add the rest of the ingredients. Turn the heat to high and quickly boil down the sauce. Just before it turns syrupy and starts to caramelize, taste and adjust the seasoning. Once it is the consistency of maple syrup, remove from the heat. If you are using a wok, dump the wings into the sauce and quickly toss them to coat completely. If you are using a saucepan, pour the sauce onto the wings in the work bowl and toss to coat completely. Arrange the wings on a serving platter and eat while hot.