Everything about Thai food appeals to me: the layered flavours, the colours, the textures, the fresh ingredients. Same goes for Vietnamese; I’ve been a lover of these countries’ foods since I moved to the big city in the early 80s and discovered South East Asian foods in Edmonton’s Chinatown. But two years ago, I had an out-of-body experience at Pok Pok, a Thai restaurant in Portland, Oregon.
My first trip to Pok Pok took place in 2011 (you can read about it here) and my second in 2012. It was during that first visit that we got hooked on Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings. The wings are named after Chef Andy Ricker’s first employee, Ich “Ike” Truong, and it was Ike, a Vietnam native, who helped Ricker crack the recipe code of these roadside snacks that Ricker discovered in Saigon.
Andy Ricker cooks food mainly from northern/north-eastern Thailand but also some dishes (like the aforementioned wings) from neighbouring countries. Once you’ve tasted these wings, you will know why they were the break-out dish for Pok Pok and largely responsible for putting the restaurant on the map. They are a perfect marriage of flavour and texture and are wickedly addictive.
Thankfully, Ricker’s recipes are now available in his cookbook, Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand (available here from Amazon).
You can also find recipes online, but note that even though various online recipes are for the same dish, some of the ingredients and methods are not the same.
The recipe I have always used for Ike’s wings is the one from Food and Wine, and it has never failed me. The authentic recipe (involving more ingredients and a few more steps) is found in the Pok Pok cookbook.
Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings (Food and Wine Magazine)
- 1/2 cup Asian fish sauce
- 1/2 cup superfine sugar
- 4 garlic cloves, 2 crushed and 2 minced
- 3 pounds chicken wings, split at the drumettes
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon chopped mint
- In a bowl, whisk the fish sauce, sugar and crushed garlic. Add the wings and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 3 hours, tossing the wings occasionally.
- Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a small skillet. Add the minced garlic; cook over moderate heat until golden, 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
- In a large pot, heat 2 inches of oil to 350°. Pat the wings dry on paper towels; reserve the marinade. Put the cornstarch in a shallow bowl, add the wings and turn to coat. Fry the wings in batches until golden and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels and transfer to a bowl.
- In a small saucepan, simmer the marinade over moderately high heat until syrupy, 5 minutes. Strain over the wings and toss. Top with the cilantro, mint and fried garlic and serve.