During her 25 years as the food and drinks editor for Hong Kong’s internationally-renowned English daily newspaper The South China Morning Post, Susan Jung published more than her fair share of fried-chicken recipes that did not involve the 11 herbs and spices that are favored by America’s most famous fast-food fowl firm.
A California native who’s currently a food columnist for Vogue in Hong Kong, Jung decided she was passionate enough about poultry to create a cookbook of chicken concoctions and penned Kung Pao and Beyond: Fried Chicken Recipes from East and Southeast Asia after leaving her position at the SCMP. Filled with more than 60 recipes grouped together by the part of the chicken they require (boneless breasts, bone-in thighs, drumsticks, etc.), the book is fairly comprehensive and showcases the love and affection that Jung has developed over the course of her lifetime.
Appropriately enough, that love affair started with a fried chicken dish Jung’s mother made for the family while she was growing up. Known simply as “mom’s wings,” the dish was the first variety of fried chicken Jung learned to make on her own and is also the first recipe in Kung Pao and Beyond.
“It’s something I’ve loved ever since I was a kid. Mom’s chicken wings were just something she made for us every once in a while when she didn’t know what to make for dinner,” Jung tells InsideHook. “She’d say, ‘What do you want to eat tonight?’ We’d say, ‘Mom’s chicken wings.’ It was something my brothers and I just really loved. When I go back to visit my mother, I plan on cooking it for her because she’s living alone now and doesn’t cook as much. I want to make something for her that I hope will bring up memories.”
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“Mom’s Wings” are floured, double-fried and then seasoned with a sauce made with ingredients including ginger, garlic, sugar and soy sauce. “Soy sauce isn’t used just in Asian kitchens anymore. It’s a pretty typical ingredient in a lot of kitchens,” Jung says. “A lot of chefs use it because it has a deeper saltiness than salt. It also has caramel tones and a little bit of smokiness. It’s just a deeper flavor than saltiness.”
After being coated in the saucy mixture, the wings are baked so that the skin doesn’t lose any of its crispiness. To Jung, that’s an important step. “Crunchiness is a very popular texture that people just like,” she says. “Some people don’t like steamed foods because they say it’s too soft. Some people don’t like baked foods because they say it’s dry. I don’t know if it’s universal, but I’ve never met anybody who doesn’t like crunchiness. The wings don’t have a hard crunch, but it’s appealing. There are all different kinds of crunchiness when it comes to chicken.”
To write the book, Jung whittled her recipe list down from around 90 to the finalists that made it into the book. While she didn’t grow up eating all of them the way she did with her mother’s wings, Jung has made each one of the selections that made it into the book at least twice.
“We were eating fried chicken every day for three months, at least once a day. I would usually test the recipes for dinner, but when it got down to the end of the book I was testing the recipes for lunch as well,” she says. “My husband was kind of sick of it at the end. I was never sick of fried chicken because the recipes are so varied and ther are so many different flavors. It just didn’t get boring to me. Even when I traveled after I was done, I was eating fried chicken.”
If you feel like doing the same, here’s Jung’s favorite wings recipe.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hr
Servings: Serves four to six
- 4 peeled garlic cloves
- 4–6 thin slices of peeled ginger
- Generous ½ cup soy sauce (all-purpose Kikkoman or your favorite brand)
- 4 tsp. granulated sugar
- 5 tbsp. water
- 2–4 spring onions (scallions)
- A few leaves of iceberg lettuce
- For coating and frying the chicken:
- 2 lb. 4 oz. chicken wings – mid-joint and/or drumette portions
- 4¼ oz. potato flour or cornstarch
- 3¼ cups cooking oil
For the sauce, thinly slice the garlic cloves and julienne the ginger, then put them in a pan with the soy sauce, sugar and water. Do not cook yet; set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Dredge the wings in the potato flour or cornflour and shake off the excess. Lay the wings on a cooling rack placed over a tray and air-dry for 10 minutes.
Pour the cooking oil into a pan, preferably a medium wok, and place over medium heat. Fry the chicken at 320 degrees in four or five batches. Fry for 5–6 minutes, then drain on the rack placed over the tray. After frying the last batch, fry the wings again, this time at 340 degrees for 1½ minutes.
Turn on the heat under the pan and bring the sauce to a simmer. Quickly coat the hot wings in the sauce, several at a time, and lay them on a foil-lined tray. After coating all the wings, use a pastry brush to brush them with any remaining sauce.
Place the tray in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. While the wings are baking, mince the spring onions and cut the iceberg lettuce into shreds.
Spread the shredded lettuce on a plate, add the chicken wings, then scatter with the spring onions.
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