Here is a quick, tasty dish that allows me to be genuinely emotional: from the tears I shed each time I chop the mountain of shallots…to my delighted grin when I behold the beautiful, deep amber color flaunted by the chicken after less than 15 minutes of preparation – a hue that one might expect to see only in a gourmet magazine photo…or on Thaifoodmaster.com.
As you read the list of ingredients, you may suspect that there are errors in the quantities. After all, this dish calls for an amount of black pepper that might last an entire year in the average western kitchen. But trust me, the anatomy of the taste in this dish is simple, yet dazzling. Between two layers – slightly bitter, sweet caramel and the saltiness from the fish sauce – a naughty peppery beat pops up and cuts through, draping itself in the savory sweetness of the shallots and a pungent ginger punch. It flavors and colors the skin to perfection, leaving the meat moist, white and easily separated from the bones.
This dish is one that will win a recurring role in many menus to come…
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- 400 g chicken wings (ปีกไก่) preferably the wingette
- 1 cup shallots (หอมแดง) chopped
- 1/3 cup black peppercorns (พริกไทยดำ) roughly crushed
- 2 tablespoons ginger (ขิง) chopped
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar (น้ำตาลทราย)
- 1/2 cup fish sauce (น้ำปลา)
- Chop the ginger and shallots; roughly crush the black peppercorns.
- Moisten the sugar. With a spoon, arrange the sugar in an even layer in a saucepan. Heat the sugar over moderate heat, keeping an eye on it. Once it begins browning at the edges (caramelizing), tilt the saucepan and continue to cook over very low heat – stirring as little as possible – until it takes on a nice, mellow brown color. Be careful not to burn it!
- Turn off the heat, and carefully add the fish sauce. Be very careful, as the caramel may start to splatter.
- Add the chicken, shallots, black pepper and ginger. Mix well and bring to a boil.
- Cover the saucepan and cook for 7-10 minutes or until the wings are completely done; they will take on a beautiful deep amber color.
- Remove the chicken wings from the pan, and place them on a baking plate. With a spoon, scoop just a bit of the caramel sauce, making sure to include some of the glazed shallots and a couple of peppercorns on each chicken piece.
- Place the chicken in a preheated oven and grill at 250C (480F) for 5 minutes or until the skin begins to get crispy.
- Move the wings to a serving dish, drizzle more of the caramel sauce on each wing – and serve!