Let me preface this by saying that this recipe was inspired by a recent trip to Traif in Williamsburg. While their take on massaman wings was quite serviceable by any account, they weren’t exactly what I had imagined or hoped for when ordering them. That said, they are running an absolutely fantastic restaurant, both in terms of food and service, and are well worth a visit.
12 whole chicken wings
1.5 cups flour
Canola or other suitable frying oil
3 tbs thin soy sauce (see eew khao, aka: white soy)
2 tbs rice vinegar
1 tsp sweet soy sauce (see eew dum, aka: black soy)
2 tsp garlic powder
1 can (approx 12oz) coconut milk
1.5 tbs massaman curry paste
1 whole kaffir lime leaf
1 heaping tbs peanut butter
*thin soy sauce to taste
*You might not need this, depending on what brands of curry paste and peanut butter you use.
I recommend using whole wings for this recipe. They are generally cheaper and easier to find than pre-butchered wings, and you can save all of the tips for making chicken stock. When you get whole wings, they come to you looking like this:
Although it might seem like a daunting task at first, it’s actually really easy to break them down into their constituent parts. Holding the joints in your fingers and moving the wing around will give you a pretty good idea of where best to cut them. Personally, I like to take the tips off first, but realistically, it doesn’t matter what order you butcher them in.
Once the tips are off and set aside, you can go ahead and separate the drumette from the flat. Again, manipulating the wing around with your fingers on the joint really helps to give an idea of where best to cut. Done properly, you should feel little to no resistance when slicing through.
Once you’ve got your wings all nice and butchered, you can whisk together the thin soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, rice vinegar, and garlic powder for the marinade. Toss the wings in said marinade, and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring or tossing them occasionally. Leave them much longer, and you run the risk of the final product being too salty.
Now that the wings are done marinating, it’s time to get your frying oil up to temperature (350 degrees Fahrenheit). A frying thermometer that isn’t touching the bottom or side of the pot will greatly help in gauging your temps. I used about a quart of oil in a 6 quart heavy bottomed pot. In any case, you want more than enough oil to cover the wings entirely, but with ample room left in the pot to safely contain any bubbling up.
While waiting on your oil to come to temp, it’s time to get to work on the massaman sauce. In a small saucepan, put 1 tbs of canola oil on over medium heat. Once you can see it sort of shimmering in the pan, add about 1.5 tbs of the massaman curry paste and stir well. Yes, you can make your own curry paste, but the Maesri brand stuff is pretty fantastic, and so cheap that I can’t really justify the expense and effort necessary to home make a batch. Whatever you don’t use will be fine refrigerated in a tupperware for at least a few weeks. Frying the curry paste in oil helps to add a nice depth of flavor, and really starts releasing the aromas. Once the oil starts to take on the color of the curry paste, it is time to add your coconut milk. Whisk thoroughly to ensure that everything is well mixed, and turn the heat to low.
By this point, your oil should be pretty close to hot enough, and you can turn your attention back to the chicken. Give your wings a final toss in the marinade, and dredge them thoroughly in flour before adding to the oil.
Fry the wings in small batches of 4 or 5 at a time, ideally in segregated groups of all flats or drumettes to facilitate more even cooking. Mine took about 8-10 minutes a batch, but this will likely vary somewhat based on the size of your wings. Generally, it’s safe to take them out after they’ve been bobbing at the surface for a couple of minutes. Frying in small batches helps the oil stay nice and hot, guarding against greasy and soggy wings. Once the wings are through frying, fish them out, and blot off any extra oil with paper towels. Obviously, you want all the wings to be crispy at once, so pop earlier batches into a 250 degree oven on a wire rack until the remainder are done.
Hopefully you’ve been keeping an eye on the sauce this whole time, occasionally stirring, and checking to ensure that it stays at a medium to low simmer. Once it has reduced to about 1/3 of the original volume and thickened up considerably, it is time to remove the lime leaf, and add the peanut butter. While this is certainly not a fixture of traditional massaman curries, it helps to thicken the sauce, and adds a touch of sweetness that goes really well in this dish. At this point, remove the sauce from the heat if you’re not done frying up the wings. This would also be the time to adjust the salt level to your taste, keeping in mind that the chicken itself has also been seasoned. As a general rule, it’s very easy to add more salt if needed, and basically impossible to remove any excess once it’s been added, so season judiciously. Once it’s all cooked, transfer the wings to a large mixing bowl, and drizzle the sauce on top.
Toss them together until the wings are thoroughly covered, and transfer to your serving vessel. Garnish with crushed peanuts and kaffir lime leaf chiffonade, if you’re into that sort of thing. Obviously, the faster they hit your mouth, the crispier they will be, but take care not to get hurt in your haste to consume these delectable treats.
Note: I used 7 whole wings when making this tonight, but the marinade and sauce quantities are more than enough to handle the extra 5 specified in the recipe. Apologies for the crappy pics. They were the best I could do with one hand, while cooking.