Flowers of Vietnam’s crispy fried Caramel Chicken Wings are an example of traditional-meets-inspiration. This is a Vietnamese classic taken to the next level.
Courtesy of Detroit, Michigan’s Flowers of Vietnam restaurant.
Chicken Prep & Marinade
Batter / Dry Mix
Caramel Glaze & Second Fry
Rau Mau & Mayo
Assembly & Garnish
Clean and assemble chicken wings.
Place chicken wings in mixing bowl. Set aside.
Prepare the marinade by measuring out ingredients and placing in a mixing bowl: sugar, rice wine, oil, sesame oil and golden mountain.
Mix marinade ingredients with a whisk until combined, and then pour over chicken wings.
Cover the bowl with the wings with plastic wrap and place in fridge overnight, or at least for 4 hours.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, begin to toast star anise, cinnamon and shallots until fragrant. Set aside.
In a separate small sauce pot, again over medium-low heat, add palm sugar, a splash of water and lime juice; begin to melt and caramelize the ingredients. The palm sugar can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes to turn completely into a liquid. Palm sugar is an unrefined sugar, so it may be a bit grainy at first, but it will smooth out. If the melting palm sugar smokes a bit, it’s fine. If the melting sugar starts to burn or seize, reduce the heat.
Once the sugar appears dark red-brown, the caramel has formed. Remove the pot from the heat and slowly add in the fish sauce while continuously stirring. Be careful: the caramel may splatter, as it is very hot and can burn. Add in the reserved toasted spices and dried chiles to the caramel sauce, pour into a heat safe container, cover, and place in the cooler overnight to allow the flavours to steep. Note: the caramel is very sticky.
When you are ready to fry the chicken wings, remove them from cooler and prepare the batter/coating for the chicken wings.
Pre-heat fryer to 300°F (149°C) or pour oil into a 7 ½-qt deep pot.
In a mixing bowl, create batter by combining potato starch, wondra and salt; whisk to incorporate.
Pour the dry batter mixture directly onto the marinated chicken wings. Using your hands, fully incorporate the dry ingredients into the marinated wings until it forms a wet batter.
To begin the first fry, set up fryer station with tongs and sheet tray with rack.
Once the fryer has reached temperature, drop each batter-coated chicken wing into the oil. Be sure not to crowd or over-fill the fryer. This will cause the oil to decrease in temperature.
Fry for 2 minutes; then, remove the chicken wing with tongs and place onto a sheet tray with a wire rack.
Once all the chicken wings are fried, begin to prepare them for a second fry for that extra-crispy taste, ensuring they’re also fully cooked. You can also place wings in the freezer overnight to fry the next day or when you feel the need for these wings.
Remove reserved caramel from cooler and allow to come up to room temperature. Once the caramel is at room temperature, strain the caramel into a sauce pot using a fine mesh strainer. You can then discard the spices.
Gently reheat caramel sauce. Keep warm on range at low heat. Make sure the sauce does not scald or burn.
Prepare for the second crispy fry.
As for the first fry, pre-heat fryer to 350ºF. (177ºC) or pour oil into a 7 ½-qt deep pot.
Drop chicken wings (frozen, if refrigerated overnight) into fryer and fry for 8-10 minutes, until fully cooked at 160ºF/ 71ºC. The wings will look to be a deep walnut-brown colour.
Once wings are fully cooked, remove from the fryer and dip chicken wings into warmed caramel sauce for 1 minute.
Remove chicken wings from the caramel bath using tongs, and then place glazed wings on a baking sheet with rack to allow extra caramel to run off.
Clean and measure out fresh herbs for rau mau and mayo. Chop all fresh herbs and set aside.
In a food processor or blender, combine mayonnaise, and measured rau mau herbs and lime juice. Blend until combined, and add water as needed to thin out rau mau mayonnaise.
Remove rau mau mayonnaise from food processor or blender with rubber spatula and place in a plastic container until later use.
Grab an oval plate and place a dollop of rau mayonnaise on the plate.
Place caramel chicken wings on top of rau mayonnaise and garnish with fresh rau mau herbs.
Serve and enjoy.