3 pounds chicken wings, separated into drumettes and midsections (or flats), wing tips discarded
1 star anise pod
2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
1 cup dried red Chinese chiles or dried arbol chiles
1 (1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled, very thinly sliced, then thinly sliced into matchsticks
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 hr, plus freezing time
Makes:6 to 8 servings
Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco employs an interesting technique for its popular fried chicken wings: The wings are poached in oil, salted for flavor, frozen, deep-fried, then tossed in a spice mixture. Chef Danny Bowien says that the freezing helps stretch the skin slightly so that the second fry makes the wings extra-crispy.
Special equipment: You’ll need a spice or coffee grinder to make the spice blend. We used this Krups coffee grinder with good results.
Serving tip: Bowien says that you don’t have to eat the chiles—they’re there to add a spicy aroma when thrown on top of the hot chicken wings. And they look badass.
1Pour 2 inches of the oil into a Dutch oven or a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Heat over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 300°F on a deep-frying/candy thermometer.
2Working in batches of 6 to 7 pieces, fry the chicken wings in the oil, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a temperature of 300°F, until the skin is opaque but not browned, about 3 to 5 minutes (the wings will not be cooked through). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the wings to a large bowl and toss with a generous amount of salt. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet.
3When all the wings are fried, let them cool completely. Cover the baking sheet and place in the freezer for at least 3 hours or overnight. Set the oil aside for use later.
4Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Place the star anise, red pepper flakes, cumin, and peppercorns in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool completely. Using a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder, grind into a fine powder; set aside.
5Place the chiles in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast until slightly darkened and fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes; set aside to cool.
6When ready to serve, set the reserved frying oil over medium-high heat and bring to 350°F on a deep-frying/candy thermometer. Working in batches of 6 to 7 frozen wing pieces, fry, turning the wings occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a temperature of 350°F, until the wings are cooked through, golden brown, and crispy, about 6 minutes.
7Immediately transfer each batch to a large bowl, season with salt and 1 teaspoon of the spice blend, and toss to coat. Place on a serving dish and repeat with the remaining wings.
8When all the wings are cooked, place the reserved chiles, ginger, 1 teaspoon of the spice blend, and 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil in the large bowl and toss to combine. Scatter the mixture over the chicken wings and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve immediately.