I’ve got a terrible secret – I love crispy chicken skin. Oh, and if you want me to run fast, you’ll dangle pork crackling from a stick, but that’s another story. Most civilised, health-conscious people would diligently slice off this part of their meat, and push it to the side of their plate with an air of disdain. Often, that’s just after I’ve wolfed mine down, robbing me of any chance I had to look less neanderthal. Upsides? I get to eat theirs too. Them – “Ooh, I don’t know how you can eat that!” Me – “Nom, nom, nom.”
If you’re a heathen too, I have thrilling news. We know most animal fat is saturated fat, which can increase your cholesterol and heart disease risk. But! According to the Harvard School of Public Health (and you know how brainy Harvard folk are), the majority of fat in the chicken skin is ‘heart-healthy’ unsaturated fat. They reported that 28 grams of chicken skin contains about 3 grams of saturated fat, but provides 8 grams of unsaturated fat. Sure, it’s extra kilojoules, and you won’t find many bodybuilders chowing down. But, it’s becoming clear we’ve been deceived in general about eating fat for years now, and as new research comes to light, the picture just keeps getting brighter.
Cue chicken nibbles.
If I asked someone from the United States what their favourite type of chicken nibble was, I’d almost certainly hear “Buffalo Wings”. Honestly? I’m underwhelmed. The vinegar-based hot sauce is almost always too tangy and too hot to appreciate the flavour of the crispy chicken skin delights smothered beneath it. I reckon a good East Asian marinade takes the prize every time, and the following recipe is one of the best. Popular food blogger Nagi from Recipe Eats.com, says this is a family recipe that has been perfected over the years, and you can tell.
It may look complicated, but many of the ingredients can be conveniently substituted. You can cook them on the BBQ too, but on medium-low to avoid the sugar glaze sticking to the grill.
1-1.5kg chicken nibbles – drums and wings
½ tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine (or sake, or sherry, or mirin – but reduce sugar to 1 tbsp if mirin)
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar or honey
¼ cup ketchup or tomato sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce (or hoisin sauce but do not add the ½ tsp of five spice powder.
2 tbsp hoisin sauce (or extra oyster sauce, but add an extra ¼ tsp of Chinese five spice powder)
2 tbsp sambal oelek (any other Asian chilli sauce or paste)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped or minced
½ tsp Chinese five spice powder
Finely sliced spring onions
Finely sliced fresh chilli
Combine marinade ingredients in a large bowl or in a ziplock bag. Add wings and coat well, then leave aside for 10 minutes (no more than 1 hour). Preheat the oven to 180C. Line baking tray with greaseproof paper. Shake excess marinade off wings, reserving marinade and spread on a baking tray. Baste generously once or twice during baking, using up all the remaining marinade. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until the meat comes off the bone fairly easily and the wings are just starting to char and are a sticky, dark red/golden colour. Sprinkle with coriander leaves, sesame seeds, chilli, sliced spring onions.