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.