How to make Cantonese Swiss Chicken Wings
? Swiss chicken wings are a classic Cantonese dish, and obviously, have precisely zero to do with the country of Switzerland.
The name’s had a number of urban legends attached to it, but unfortunately the ultimate truth behind “why Swiss?” seems to’ve been lost to history.
What we do know is where they originated – they came from an old restaurant in Guangzhou called Tai Ping Koon, or “The Pacific House”.
In 1860, the Pacific house was the very first Western restaurant to open in Guangzhou, and over the years developed a signature style of Canto-western cuisine now referred to as “soy sauce Western”.
How To Make Cantonese Swiss Chicken Wings?
Among the older generations in Guangzhou, Tai Ping Koon is a cultural institution – famously, it was even the place where Zhou
Enlai had his wedding reception.
These days, Tai Ping Koon functions as a sort of a minor tourist attraction – people can come, order the same set meal that they
served at Zhou Enlai’s wedding, or perhaps munch instead on their iconic.
Swiss Chicken Wings.
Now, sometime in the mid 20th century, the dish made the jump over to Hong Kong, where it became a mainstay at Cha chaan teng, Hong Kong’s own Canto-western tradition.
So these days you can find those Swiss wings next to stuff like the cheesy seafood rice or the black pepper beef, and in the context of home kitchens it’s become a ‘modern classic’ of sorts for many Cantonese home cooks.
And so while I’ve always liked Swiss wings, I actually wasn’t really hooked until I tried that original version at the Tai Ping Koon Restaurant.
Their sauce had this sort of deep, caramelized flavor that was unmistakably reminiscent of a Western-style roasted stock. And so thus began our borderline obsessive search for figuring out how exactly Tai Ping Koon pulled that off.
So. After researching, we found that their wings do indeed use a stock base, and luckily, Steph was able to track down one interview of a Tai Ping Koon chef where he gave away the broad strokes of how they made it.
And so while we did have to fill in a couple of gaps with a bit of educated-guess-work, the end result landed quite close, flavor
wise, to what you find at Tai Ping Koon.
So right, history aside… the first choice you’ll have to make here is what kind of stock you wanna use.
Option one is homemade, based off the recipe given by that aforementioned chef.
But honestly, because Swiss wings are such a home-cooking classic these days, just in case you don’t feel like making an all-day stock, we also decided to test a recipe using a bit of box stock instead,here we just used a bit of Swanson’s, but honestly, if you happen to have some Western-style roast chicken stock, that’d be even better.
But either way, just in case you do feel like going that extra mile, let’s just show you how to sort that Tai Ping Koon stock base real quick – which fascinatingly doesn’t roast meat to get its deep maxillary flavor, but rather, stir-fries it.
Now, unlike most Western stocks, this guy is a compound stock, which means we’ll be using a combination of chicken and pork.
So first swirl in a bit of peanut oil and with the flame on high, toss in a half a chicken cut into pieces, or about 500 grams worth.
Then just fry that for about five or six minutes or so, or until the chicken pieces start to aggressively brown, like so.
Now just take that out and go in with an equal amount of pork bones, and we decided to also toss in a quarter kilo of chicken feet for that extra hit of gelatin.
Fry those all till they’re good and browned, and take them out.
Next up, swap the flame to medium and go in with half an onion, cut into about inch and a half chunks, and fry for about a minute or so till softened.
Then toss in one carrot also chopped into inch and a half chunks, and fry for one minute more.
Then go in with one small bunch of Chinese celery, cut into two-inch pieces, together with an inch and a half of smashed ginger and feel free to swap the Chinese celery for a stalk of Western celery if needed.
Fry all that for about a minute til fragrant, then toss in a quarter cup of liaojiu a.k.a. Shaoxing wine, and scrape a bit of the fond off the wok like you would in the Western manner.
Then just add back in your meat pieces, fill it all up with water so that the meat’s totally submerged, and let that simmer over a low flame for at least eight hours.
So. Eight hours later, shut off the heat and remove those meat pieces.
Definitely don’t waste your meat though save it.
This stuff is great reheated and eaten alongside a bit of soy sauce for dipping as a quick and easy protein component for dinner.
So then just strain your stock, and toss in the fridge.
Then the next day, just scoop off that layer of fat on top to decrease, and this stuff is good to go.
So right. To reiterate, all of that there was optional.
You can use that, or a box stock like we’re using here now, or your favorite homemade roast chicken stock, all totally cool.
No matter what though, just toss 750 mL of stock into a pot together with a half a cinnamon stick, four dried bay leaves, two star anise, and one Chinese black cardamom pod, and just skip that if you can’t find it.
Then over a medium flame, bring that all up to a heavy simmer.
Let that simmer away for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until your stock’s reduced by about half.
Then just remove those spices, and you’ve got yourself some now-spiced concentrated stock.
Now to a saucepan toss in your stock, which should be about 375 milliliters at this point, together with 6 tablespoons of light
soy sauce, 6 tablespoons of dark soy sauce, six tablespoons of Taiwan thick soy sauce, and if you can’t find that just swap that for an equal amount of light soy.
Now toss in 100 grams of either slab sugar or dark brown sugar, and let that dissolve. And then with that, you’ve got yourself some “swiss sauce”, which – kinda like a Lo Shui master stock is what we’ll be cooking our wings in.
Before we get to that though, we’ll be giving our wings a quick blanch in boiling water. We’re going in with ten wings today – this pre-blanch is gonna help make our wings a bit more plump in the end.
So just blanch those for two minutes, remove, rinse under some cool water, and toss in an ice bath leaving them to soak there for at least five minutes.
Now. Back to the Swiss sauce. Just bring your sauce up to a boil, then toss in your now-blanched wings.
Leave them boiling in the sauce for about one minute, then shut off the heat and cover.
Leave those soaking there in the hot water for a half an hour, then flip the wings.
These’ll need at least another half hour to soak, but there’s honestly not too much of an upper limit here – the longer they soak, the more delicious they’ll be, and we personally often like these best the following day.
But regardless, after your soak-length of choice, take out your wings and it’s time for the final step – frying the wings in the sauce.
Now, this stuff gets very sticky so we recommend a non-stick for this – just toss in your wings, ladle in about a quarter cup of your Swiss sauce, and swap the flame to medium-low.
Cook the wings in the sauce for about five minutes, or until the sauce cooks down into a thick syrupy consistency, like so.
Remove the wings, drizzle over a bit of the sauce, and with that, your Swiss wings are done… as close as we could possibly get them to Tai Ping Koon in Guangzhou.
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