Fish Sauce Wings and the Pinnacle of Pok Pok

Ike's Famous Fish Sauce Wings

Ike’s Famous Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings

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.

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Adventures in Fried Chicken: Recreating the Cover

Bon Appetit's Fried Chicken Sandwich

I’ve done a lot of experimenting in the kitchen over the years — making everything from foie gras torchons to my favorite dim sum treats. But one thing I have always stayed away from attempting is fried chicken. It just seems like one of those things best left to the professionals — Southern grandmas, fast food joints and Thomas Keller. Plus there are plenty of places in Portland that make it easy to just go out for fried chicken when the craving hits — I’m looking at you, Country Cat.

But when reading the April issue of Bon Appetit, I was seduced by the cover recipe: a mile-high, slightly sloppy fried chicken sandwich. Conveniently enough my friend DB and I had plan to cook together but didn’t have a menu in mind. I sent him the link to the recipe and he was sold.

We started out making the spicy sauce (Hellman brand mayo mixed with shaved garlic and hot sauce, easy enough) and the cole slaw. The slaw recipe made us hesitate for a second — pickle juice used as a dressing? But we went for it…and oh man, I am so glad we did (more on that later!).

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Things That Make Me Happy: Fried Cheese Done Right

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Fiddlehead ferns, watercress and a croquette made from a blend of various aged cheeses and bechemel sauce, which is then fried until crispy. I would marry this salad! L’Express 2012

For our second to last night in Montreal, we followed numerous recommendations and had dinner at L’Express, a quintessential French bistro. We had the foie gras terrine, the steak tartare (a house specialty) and ended it all with a maple tart. But this salad, a special of the evening, was one of the best dishes of our trip so far — the fiddleheads were cooked perfectly and the cheese was gooey, crispy and fantastic.

A pork chop recipe for anytime — no Hallmark holiday required!

Pork chops do not need to be special occasion. I know this. I have been eating pork chops with applesauce since I was a kid. Yet I was intrigued when I saw a recipe in Bon Appetit last July called Father’s Day Pork Chops. If I had known they would turn out this beautiful, I would have been making them all winter long. The story in the magazine did not do these things justice.

I guess the reason I hadn’t made these yet is that I rarely think to buy pork chops. I swing more in the easy direction of pork tenderloins. But my boss had bought a few sample loins from a farm nearby and had them cut into chops so we were all able to take a couple home. They was a mad dash to the cooler and out we walked with two fat, 12 oz bone-in chops in our hands.

My co-workers were full of talk about how they were going to prepare theirs, but I didn’t have any good ideas, figuring I’d dig through my binder of recipes at home. Two recipes caught my eye as I flipped through the pages looking for anything mentioning pork chops. I studied the first one, Roasted Pork Chops with Lemon, with interest and then confusion. I’m sure it’s delicious but it was literally roasted pork chops served with lemon wedges. I have no idea how that rated good enough to keep. Maybe there’s a recipe for a chocolate coconut pie on the other side of the page?

The second recipe was for the Father’s Day Pork Chop. And even though it seemed decadent and not-at-all healthy, it beckoned me to give it a shot. After all, a fried pork chop would be a nice treat for my husband to find when he came home from work. A night off from chicken — wooo!

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Scallion Pancake Dreams

Scallion Pancake Perfection!

My love affair with the scallion pancake has been intense. And for good reason — they are crispy, salty, flaky and pretty much the best thing that dim sum has to offer, which is saying a lot. I was lucky enough to discover these by accident, and now I can honestly say I’m addicted.

What’s the next step then if you’re looking to avoid the hour-long wait to get into Wong’s King? Try to make them yourself. Although, like many things, it’s best to enlist a friend help you.

About couple months ago, my partner-in-crime DB and I decided to give it a go. We emailed various recipes back and forth, trying to find one that seemed to have the clearest instructions, the best reviews, and to be honest, the prettiest pictures. We settled on this one.

It was so easy. Almost disgustingly, tragically easy. I say tragically because I think about all the time wasted in the lobby waiting for a table at dim sum when I could have been making these delicious things at home the whole time. I also think of all the time wasted trying to order them from the waiters at dim sum who pretend they have no idea what I’m talking about. They ask “Green onion pancake?” with a serious side eye and a look of bewilderment.

You bet your ass green onion pancakes! I know you make them here — I’ve eaten them, don’t try to feign ignorance and pretend like I’m crazy! After much cajoling, they finally seem to catch on that I’m not going to let it slide. I will not eat dim sum without the scallion pancake. “Oh green onion pancake,” they say suddenly and scurry from the table before I have a chance to order more than my usual three.

Anyways…I digress. The point is now that I know how easy they are to make! The ingredients list is laughably short: hot water, flour, green onions, sesame oil, regular oil (and we added bacon grease) for frying.

I’d take you through the steps but the serious eats site gives very detailed directions that no one could mess up. I mean we drank a lot of beer and still managed to do just fine. The only thing I would do differently would be to add salt with the green onions prior to frying. There’s no salt in the dough so it can taste a little flat. Or, do as I do at dim sum, and dredge that sucker in soy sauce with a dash of chili oil.