Tue Jan 21, 2014
My gateway food into Filipino cuisine was chicken adobo. In the early years of dating my wife (a Filipina), the bright red meats, chocolate laden rice, fried pork knuckles, and other traditional dishes served to me were hard pills to swallow as I was trying to navigate a way into liking Filipino food. Back then I was not an adventurous eater, so I needed something familiar enough that I would want to eat, and that came in the form of chicken adobo.
This dish is comprised of chicken pieces simmered in a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaf, and black pepper. It's simple, which made it appealing, but also provided a taste of the garlicky and sour flavors that are a common part of the Filipino territory. From that singular dish, I opened up and have embraced the food culture of this Southeast Asian nation. Chicken adobo has actually become one dish I rarely eat anymore—why get flabby chicken when you can have crackling lechon kawali or sweet barbecue—so I thought it was time to get back to a first love and see how I could translate into chicken wings.
I knew I didn't want to do this in a traditional adobo style—the stewed approach would create a mighty tasty meat, but leave the skin soggy and unappealing, and with so much skin on wings, that's not a good thing. Instead, I went with my standard procedure to get crispy grilled wings, which involves coating them with baking powder and letting them air dry.
I saw this step a good point to start building adobo flavor though, so in addition to the baking powder, I added both garlic powder and black pepper to the "rub." All the wings were generously coated in it and set on a wire rack, placed in the fridge, and let sit for eight hours.
I wondered how I was going to get all that adobo flavor into the wings though. Luckily I had just gotten Marvin Galputos's The Adobo Road as a birthday present last week , and that book already has a recipe for adobo wings. It looked solid to me, so I decided to go with it, starting the sauce off by melting butter alongside a bay leaf. Garlic was then added and let cook until browned, infusing the butter with an intense garlic flavor.
Next came the require vinegar and soy sauce, plus a little departure form tradition with brown sugar and red pepper flakes. The mixture was simmered until it thickened into a light glaze to ensure it would coat the wings nicely later on.
I then grilled up the wings over indirect medium-high heat until the skin was crunchy and the wings were lightly browned—about 40 minutes.
Then into the sauce those little chicken pieces went, tossed until they were well coated and had a nice glisten to them.
One taste of these wings brought me back to why I originally loved adobo so much. They had a sharp combo of vinegar tang and garlic bite that made them taste uniquely Filipino, along with depth from the soy sauce and bay leaf. These wings didn't stop there though, they added sweet and spicy components—a departure from traditional adobo that made them feel fully realized as chicken wings. I would say these made me want to go back a rediscover my fondness for chicken adobo, but really, they just left me wanting more of these wings, which I kind of liked better.
Filipino Chicken Adobo Wings
Sauce adapted from The Adobo Road by Marvin Galputos.
- Prep Time:
- 20 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 8 Hours
- Cook Time:
- 40 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 9 Hours
- 4-6 servings
- For the Wings
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 pounds chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats
- For the Sauce
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic, about 3 large cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- For the chicken: Mix together baking powder, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. Pat chicken wings dry with paper towels. Place wings in a large bowl and sprinkle with baking powder mixture, tossing to coat evenly. Arrange wings in a single layer on wire rack placed over a baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 8 hours.
- To make the sauce: Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat with bay leaf. When foaming subsides, add in garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until garlic starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in vinegar, soy sauce, and dark brown sugar. Bring to a boil and let simmer until sauce has thickened into a thin glaze, 10 to 15 minutes. Set sauce aside.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place the wings skin side up over the cool side of the grill, cover, and cook until skins are crisp and are starting to brown, 30 to 40 minutes.
- Transfer wings to a large bowl. Add in sauce and toss to thoroughly coat. Transfer to a serving tray and serve immediately.