KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 10 — More and more of us are eating out during the first couple days of Chinese New Year. Restaurants, in response, have opted to remain open to welcome eager customers. Certainly saves the trouble of cooking at home during the festive period.
Still, for many families, tradition requires raucous bouts of manoeuvring around one another in the kitchen. It’s time for loved ones to gather, after all, and what better way to catch up than around the stove and sink?
(Yes, someone has to be on dishwashing duties; there’s no escaping that, not even during Chinese New Year.)
There will be the classics: Steamed fish and fresh large prawns. Ambrosial abalone with bright green florets of broccoli and fat heads of mushrooms. A whole chicken, for that sense of completeness. Oodles of noodles, for longevity.
Someone had the foresight to order a roasted suckling pig for the whole family to feast on. And everyone loves lap mei fan, that staple dish (at least during Chinese New Year) of fragrant rice with preserved meats.
And so on.
Why not switch things up a little this year? Time for something new to appear on the usual rotation of tried and tested dishes.
Instead of hot wings, try these auspicious huat wings for Chinese New Year. Crunchy from double frying and delectably sticky from a tangy-sweet glaze, who can resist these?
The secret lies in the use of mandarin oranges for their citrusy juice and zest. Their name in Cantonese, kam, sounds like “gold” and symbolises bountiful wealth in the year to come.
Other fortune-bringing ingredients include a generous amount of garlic (its name in Cantonese, shun, sounds like “counting” as in “counting lots of money”) and a dash of dried sardine powder (fish is yu in Cantonese and denotes having extra every year).
Now that’s good taste and good meaning, all in one flavourful bundle!
One could certainly make more straightforward versions of these huat wings. For something akin to American style hot wings, one could add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a hot sauce of choice (remember, the higher the S.H.U. or Scoville Heat Units, the fierier that bottle; use sparingly).
Maybe you prefer spicy Korean fried chicken or yangnyeom chikin. If so, try a spoonful or two of gochujang, a spicy-sweet red chilli paste made from gochu-garu (Korean chilli powder), glutinous rice and fermented soybeans.
But those can wait for other times. It’s Chinese New Year now; mandarin oranges are at their best. Their juice and zest will transform these from ordinary fried chicken to truly huat wings!
Red hot chillies give these huat wings a fiery kick while tomatoes in the form of purée or ketchup give the dish its distinctive tanginess. Don’t forget pungent garlic, which ensures these chicken wings are absolutely flavourful.
Everything combines to create a beautiful glaze that is equal parts spicy, sweet and tangy.
Ingredients: Auspicious Sambal
- 4-6 shallots
- 10 large fresh red chillies
- 10 dried red chillies
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 large knob of fresh ginger
- ½ teaspoon dried sardine powder
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil
Ingredients: Huat Wings
- 70g potato starch
- 50g all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 1kg chicken wings
- Neutral cooking oil
- 3 tablespoons auspicious sambal
- 1 mandarin orange, juice and zest only
- 75g tomato purée
- 75ml rice syrup
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon runny honey
- Toasted white sesame seeds, for garnishing
- Sliced green onion, for garnishing
To make the auspicious sambal, combine all the ingredients for the sambal in a food processor and mix until smooth. Heat the cooking oil in a pan. Add sambal ingredients and fry for a few minutes till fragrant and darkened in colour.
Remove the auspicious sambal from heat and set aside to cool. The cooled sambal can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for a week.
Combine the potato starch, all-purpose flour, baking soda turmeric powder, salt and ground black pepper. Crack two eggs into the dry mixture. Stir until everything is well combined. This will be your base batter.
Coat the pieces of chicken wings with the batter. When ready, fry the chicken wings in oil over medium-high heat.
Turn the pieces occasionally and watch closely to make sure they don’t burn. Once golden brown, remove from oil and allow to drain on kitchen paper. Set aside.
In a clean pan, sauté the auspicious sambal in oil over medium heat until aromatic. Next add the mandarin orange juice and zest, tomato purée, rice syrup and vinegar. Turn the heat to low. Stir until the sauce has reduced and is gently bubbling. Remove from the heat.
At this point, you may choose to use the once-fried chicken wings as is or return them for a second fry, again at medium-high heat. Twice-fried chicken will be crunchier than those that are fried only once, but I have found frying just once to be fine too.
Mix the fried chicken wings and the sauce together with the runny honey. Stir well to combine and coat the chicken with the sticky glaze.
To garnish, sprinkle some toasted white sesame seeds and sliced green onion on top of the huat wings. Serve immediately whilst hot.
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