My dear friend and consultant at large for all things about Chinese cooking, Steven Hu who lives in Shanghai, was back in Chiang Mai for a couple of weeks and we decided to have friends over for a farewell dinner together. Steven kindly offered to make his hot and numbing Sichuan Chicken wings to start off the evening along with drinks. The wings were such a big hit I thought Steven’s recipe had to be written up and shared. I realize everyone has their favorite chicken wing recipe, but these Sichuan wings are a must try for all you adventurous cooks.
Sichuan pepper ( hua jiao) is not a true pepper, but dried pepper husks from a native woody shrub harvested in the mountains of Hanyuan in western Sichuan. The aroma is heady and intoxicating as is the slow lingering numbing effect on the palate. There is no substitute so head to your local Asian market where you can pick up the Sichuan peppercorns as well as all the other ingredients for this recipe, all of which are handy to have on hand in your pantry for cooking other Sichuan and Chinese recipes.
Sichuan Chicken Wings: serves 4
- 16 chicken wings, trimmed, rinsed, and drained
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns, lightly toasted
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted
- 5 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing cooking wine (or dry sherry)
- 2 tablespoon Chinkiang black vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoons red chile oil (see note)
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan pepper oil (see note)
- 1½ teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
- 1/3 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon fine chile flakes or to taste (optional)
- 1 star anise
- 2 teaspoons honey for drizzling
Lightly toast the Sichuan peppercorns and cumin seeds together in a small pan over low heat. Once aromatic remove from the heat and promptly transfer to a mortar and set aside to cool. When cool coarsely grind and set aside.
Select a bowl large enough to hold the chicken wings and add the ground Sichuan pepper and cumin seed mix, soy sauce, Shaoxing cooking wine, Chinkiang black vinegar, red chile oil, Sichuan pepper oil, garlic, ginger, white pepper, and chile flakes (if using). Whisk the ingredients together, stir in the star anise, and set aside.
Layer the chicken wings into the marinade and press them into the mixture until they are completely covered, stirring in a little water if needed. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for several hours.
Remove the marinated wings from the fridge and bring to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 425f/200c with the rack set in the middle of the oven.
Line a baking tray with parchment or foil and set aside.
Place the wings, skin side down, in the tray so they are just touching for even cooking. Drizzle the wings with a little marinade and a scant drizzle of honey over all the wings. Place the tray in the oven and roast for about 12 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and turn the wings skin side up. Drizzle with a little marinade and honey and return the tray to the oven for another 16 to 18 minutes, or until the skin is bubbling, browned, and crispy.
While the wings are roasting transfer the marinade to a small sauce pan and boil it for 3 minutes and set aside to cool.
Promptly remove the wings from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Lightly drizzle the wings with marinade.
Transfer the wings to a serving bowl or platter and serve.
Red chile oil (hong you, which means red oil) is sometimes available in Asian markets, but if not you can easily make your own.
Place ¼ cup of coarsely ground dried red chile flakes in a small stainless bowl. Heat1 cup peanut or corn oil over medium heat until nearly smoking. Turn off the heat and let the oil cool for 10 minutes and then pour the oil over the ground chile, which will sizzle at first. Stir and set aside to cool. Once cool transfer the mixture to a jar and seal with the lid. Store in a dark place for a week or so to infuse the oil with the essence of the chile. Refrigerate for long term storage.
Sichuan pepper oil is prepared in the same way as the chile oil. Simply follow the same procedure as above.
Gong xi fa cai (Mandarin)…Kung hei fat choi (Cantonese)….a happy and prosperous lunar new year from my kitchen to yours!
The recipe that follows is probably more a figment of my imagination or a recreation of a dish I vaguely recall from the distant past. I am of course not Chinese and make no claims for the authenticity of this recipe other than than to say it is one of my favorite Chinese inspired cold weather quick meals using lap cheong (Cantonese)/ la chang (Mandarin)/ Gun chiang (Thai), a dry Chinese sausage with a sweet and spiced flavor as the main ingredient. The aroma and warming flavors of this dish are sure to sooth away any of winter’s biting chill.
Braised Chinese Sausage with Glass Noodles serves 4
Have on hand a lidded ceramic baking casserole.
Preheat to oven to 350f/180c
- 3-4 dry Chinese sausages
- 2 tablespoons cold pressed peanut oil
- 6 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced batons of young ginger
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
- 2 cups thinly sliced bok choy (or green cabbage)
- 2 ½ cups chicken broth (heated)
- 6 oz/180g dry glass rice noodles (rice vermicelli)
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1/3 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder (wu xiang fen) (see note)
- fresh ground toasted Sichuan pepper (hua jiao) to taste
Prick the sausages all over with a wooden skewer and place them in a large skillet along with about a cup of water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove the sausages and set aside to cool. Discard the cooking water.
When the sausage is cool enough to handle thinly slice it on the diagonal and set aside.
Return the skillet to the stove set over medium heat. When hot add the oil. When the oil is nearly smoking add the onions, garlic, and ginger and saute while continuously stirring, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the Shaoxing rice wine and saute until it is nearly evaporated. Add the bok choy (or cabbage) and the sliced sausage and cook until the bok choy is wilted. Promptly add the hot broth and stir in the rice noodles. Then stir in the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, 5 spice powder, and Sichuan pepper to taste. Cook until the noodles are wilted, about 1 minute.
Transfer the mixture to the baking casserole and cover with the lid. Place in the oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until most of the broth has been absorbed and the noodles are lightly browned around the edges.
Remove from the oven and serve in individual bowls!
Note: Five Spice Powder (wu xiang fen) is a seasoning mix of ground star anise, ground cassia bark (cinnamon), ground Sichuan pepper corns, ground fennel seeds, and ground ginger. There is no set recipe but equal parts of each ingredient works well. You can adjust the mix to suit your own tastes as well.
From my kitchen to yours…
wishing One and All the Merriest of Holidays
and a Splendid New Year of cooking adventures!
There’s nothing like Christmas in Santa Fe! With the mountains blanketed in snow, the crisp winter evenings scented with pinon and sage, flickering farolitos lining the winding roads, and the aromas of New Mexico’s world famous red and green chile cuisine that makes Santa Fe a destination like non other for celebrating the holidays.
Anise and cinnamon scented Biscochitos are synonymous with holiday celebrations throughout New Mexico. Origins date back to the Spanish colonists in Mexico who ventured northward and settled in the Sangre de Christo mountains of what was then called Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico.
Biscochitos are very easy to prepare and add a special flavor from Santa Fe to your holiday celebrations wherever you happen to live.
Santa Fe Biscochitos makes about 60 two inch cookies
Traditionally biscochitos are made with lard which may be hard to find these days or, for various other considerations, you may prefer an alternative which I have included for this recipe. That said lard has been determined to probably be a healthier choice than hydrogenated vegetable oil (Crisco) and lard was after all what made your grandmother’s pie crusts so flavorful, light, and flaky. If using butter I would recommend using a European butter with a higher fat content for a lighter flaky result.
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons lightly toasted anise seeds, coarsely ground
- 2 tablespoons orange zest
- 1 1/4 cups lard or unsalted butter (or 3/4 cup vegetable shortening and ½ cup unsalted butter)
- 1 cup super fine sugar
- 1 large egg 1
- teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon brandy or anise liquor
- ½ cup super fine sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Stir in the anise seeds and orange zest and set aside to use later.
Place the lard or butter (or vegetable shortening and butter) and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat together on medium high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Whisk the egg and add it to the bowl along with the vanilla and brandy (or anise liquor) and beat until completely combined. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in two additions and mix until the dough clumps together without over mixing. The dough will be a little softer than pie dough would be.
Remove the dough from the mixer bowl and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two equal portions and gently form each portion into ball and then gently flatten the balls into discs about 1 ½ inches thick. Wrap each disc in plastic film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours until firm.
Line 2 cookie sheets with cooking parchment and have 2 cooling racks set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350f/180c
Working with one disc of dough at a time, roll the dough out gently on the floured work surface to about ¼ inch thick. Using 2 inch cookie cutters, cut the cookies out and place them on the lined cookie sheet with a little space between each cookie. When the sheet is full sprinkle the cookies with the cinnamon sugar topping. Transfer the tray of cookies to the refrigerator to chill.
Repeat the same process for the second and third tray of cookies.
Remove the first tray of cookies from the refrigerator and place them in the oven. Put the second tray of prepared cookies in the refrigerator while the first batch of cookies is baking.
Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes max. The cookies should be light in color. Do not over bake!
Promptly transfer the cookies from the oven to a cooling rack. Let the cookies rest on the tray for a minute or so and then slide the parchment with the cookies onto the cooling rack.
Again repeat the same process for baking the second and third trays of cookies.
Storage: Be sure the cookies are completely cool before storing them!
A cookie tin with a tight fitting lid is ideal for storage. Fill the tin gently and place plastic film over the top of the rim of the tin and place the lid on firmly to make the tin airtight. The biscochitos will remain fresh for at least 7 to 10 days at room temperature. They can also be frozen in the tin.