Given the numerous Pok Pok posts on this blog, it’s clear I’m a girl with a serious hang up. Maybe it’s because I eat there often enough to know how good the food is, giving me extra motivation to replicate the dishes at home using the cookbook. Or because I know Chef Ricker’s recipes are spot-on and precise, which makes going through the effort all the more rewarding.
But, besides delights like yam khai doa and phat si ew, if you also own this cookbook, it’s possible you bought it just for one recipe: Ike’s Fish Sauce Wings. It’s okay — no judgment here! Ike’s wings are killer. The most perfect bar snack since beer nuts, they are at once salty, sticky and sweet. Every bite is full of umami bliss.
I can say with certainty I have never been to Pok Pok without ordering these wings. (Wait! The very first time I was there the wings hadn’t even been put on the menu yet!)
However, since I don’t do much deep frying at home, and rarely stray from my favorite, super easy and very delicious chicken wing recipe, it’s taken me seven months to get around to trying these at home.
After having eaten them, I can say those seven months were totally wasted. I should have been eating wings, wings and more wings.
While they aren’t hard to make, these tasty treats do require time, specialty ingredients and some patience. But oh are they worth it!
The first part of any Pok Pok DIY project involves taking a trip to an Asian market because Ricker is pretty serious about what ingredients he recommends for each recipe. If you’re making Thai fried rice, the rice, soy sauce and fish sauce should also be from Thailand.
Thanks to him, my fridge is practically bursting with various fish sauces and yet to make this dish, I had to hunt down another — a bottle from Vietnam.
This should have been a fairly easy mission, however I was having a bad day at the market and couldn’t find the right anything to save my life. Frustrated, I grabbed the only bottle of Vietnamese fish sauce in the store and decided to call it a day.
But let me tell you, when the cashier gives you a side eye and says “Wow, I’ve never been brave enough to use this. I wouldn’t even know what to do with it!” you have probably made a grave mistake. (Though I’m sure my friend Sean of Skinny Girls & Mayonnaise would consider it a challenge!)
Once I was home and able to turn to Google, I realized I had bought mam nem instead of nuoc mam. They are both sauces made of fish but one is a rather unsettling grey color and according to the blog Wandering Chopsticks, “if you think nuoc mam is pungent, then this stuff will positively reek.”
Looks and smell aside, mam nem is supposed to be delicious, so one day it will get its turn. For this task though I ended up at Fubon, the massive Asian market of my dreams, and procured a more familiar bottle of 3 Crabs Vietnamese Fish Sauce (produced in Phu Quoc and in Thailand), which was exactly what I needed.
From there, things were all good. The wings marinated in fish sauce and garlic for five hours until they were ready to be tossed in tempura batter and rice flour and fried up.
Once the first batch was done, I couldn’t resist tasting one before I made the sticky fish sauce reduction. They were awesome! Even without the intense sweet and salty tang, they were great. In fact, I need to start marinating more stuff in fish sauce. Like immediately.
Then I made the sauce which is a bit like a fish sauce caramel. Once it has reduced, the wings are tossed in it and then topped with tiny bits of crispy fried garlic.
Then it’s time to savor the magic! Serve the wings with homemade daikon and carrot pickles (a must!) and feel free not to share. Hey you slaved over them — you should get to enjoy every bite!
Recipe disclaimer: In previous posts, I’ve encouraged you to buy the book to get the recipe but I’ve always been lucky enough to find a “printed with permission” link in case you’d rather go that route. All of those times, the recipes were written exactly as they are in the cookbook.
This time however, the online recipe is very different from the one in the book. I’m sure it’s still great and it certainly cuts down on some of the steps and ingredients, but I can tell you the recipe in the book is sticky, sweet, funky flawlessness. It also has the recipe for the amazing pickles which complement the wings perfectly.