A simple way to prepare Chinese-style braised chicken wings. The use of whole white peppercorns makes this dish unusually aromatic.
I experienced some culture shock when I came to England the first time as a postgraduate student. I was shocked by the price of food. When doing grocery shopping, I used to convert the price shown in pounds into Chinese currency. “That’s far too expensive!” I would murmur to myself. However, there was one thing that surprised me with its relatively low price: chicken wings. In Europe, chicken wings are much cheaper than chicken breast, whereas in China they are the most expensive parts. That was a great discovery for me as I was on a budget, and most importantly, I LOVE chicken wings! They are flavoursome, juicy, delicious served either warm or cold.
As a popular ingredient in China, chicken wings can be cooked in numerous ways: red-cooked, honey-ginger flavoured, fried with chilli and Sichuan pepper, roasted with Chinese BBQ sauce, even braised with Coca-Cola or beer etc. A few years ago, I was impressed by a chicken dish that I had in a restaurant in Beijing. It was steamed pieces of a whole chicken with lots of whole white peppercorns. This dish is spicy but it doesn’t burn your mouth (very different from the sensation that chilli provides). It has a wonderful aroma that will linger in your mouth for quite a while.
Traditionally, when a Chinese recipe calls for pepper, it mostly refers to white pepper, more precisely, white pepper powder (black pepper only became popular in recent years because of the influence of Western cuisine). So that steamed chicken dish was rather unusual to me. I’m not sure what ingredients were used in that particular restaurant dish. I tried to imitate it with four key ingredients: chicken wings, white peppercorns, ginger and dark soy sauce. It worked wonderfully! In order to make it completely fuss-free, I give it a couple of my own twists: using chicken wings instead of cutting a whole chicken into small pieces (too much bother for everyday cooking); braising it instead of steaming (so it can be done in any wok or pot).
My version of braised chicken wings is one of our family favourites. It goes well with many kinds of staple foods, such as rice, noodles, potatoes or pasta, etc. I served it the other day with egg noodles and green beans as shown in the picture above. You can also serve these braised chicken wings cold, as finger food for example.
My friend Heddi (who is writing a great blog on Swiss food) recently expressed to me her love for easy recipes. But who doesn’t? I’ve encountered quite a few people who believed Chinese cuisine was somehow intimidating. I have to admit it can be. However, there are many ways to make it simple and accessible, without compromising the taste. This “fuss-free braised chicken wings” is a good example of the easy recipes I’d like to share with you on my blog.
One piece of advice for you before moving on to the recipe: I don’t recommend that you use ground white pepper as a substitute. It doesn’t taste the same and it would get burnt easily when fried. You can find whole white peppercorns in Chinese shops, Indian groceries, whole food stores and some mainstream supermarkets.
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