Tue Jan 14, 2014
They say to leave the best for last, but I'm just too excited about these sweet and spicy Korean wings to save them until the end of this special Meatwave wing-month. If you're not familiar with Korean fried chicken yet, you should be. Over the past ten years or so, this twice fried, super crispy style of fried chicken has made its way across our nation, finding a lot of love and for good reason. The ultra-crunchy, ultra-light skin achieved is just part of the attraction though for me—the sauces that these wings are coated in are equally delectable. I find the spicy variation particular intoxicating. It delivers a deep and earthy chili flavor that starts with a bit of sweetness before the heat kicks and is unique from any other wing sauce I've had before.
Luckily, this sauce is pretty simple to put together. Its flavor comes mostly from one main ingredient—gochujang. I've yet to learn how to properly pronounce it, but I've become very familiar with its distinct fermented pepper flavor that's pungent and hot. I've also been seeing this condiment pop-up in the standard grocery more often, so it no longer always requires a trip to a speciality store (although I do need to go to the Korean mart to pick up my desired brand).
Beyond that, I took help from Kenji over at Serious Eats in decoding the rest of the sauce, which consists of brown sugar for sweetness, soy sauce for saltiness, rice vinegar for tang, garlic and ginger for a bit of bite, and sesame oil for a background note of roasted sesame seeds.
Of course you're not going to get a wing textured like Korean fried chicken on the grill, but my standard procedure of coating wings in baking powder and letting them rest for eight hours in the fridge does end with a nice crunch.
Over indirect medium-high heat, the dried wings get a nice toasty brown color with a skin that has a nice crispness to it.
Once done on the grill, its time for the magic to happen. This sauce has a great consistency that's a bit thicker than Buffalo sauce and coats the wings really well. As the sauce and chicken are tossed together, the aroma of the gochujang comes to life, and as its earthy heat starts to fill my nose, it's hard for me to wait to get them to the plate to dig in.
That meant waiting to take their photo was an arduous effort in self control, but after I had finished up the glamour shots, I had my way with those wings. The deepness the fermented chilies give to these wings is incredible—the flavor is so much more layered and complex than normal wings that it's amazing that this sauce is comparably almost as easy to make. For the past year, these have been my go-to wings, and each time I grill or fry up a batch, they never fail to impress, and I can't imagine myself tiring of them ever.
Sweet and Spicy Korean Chicken Wings
Sauce adapted from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
- Prep Time:
- 10 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 8 Hours
- Cook Time:
- 40 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 8 Hours 50 Minutes
- 4-6 servings
- For the Wings
- 3 pounds chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- For the Sauce
- 1/4 cup gochujang
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vineger
- 1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic, about 3 medium cloves
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- For the chicken: Pat chicken wings dry with paper towels. Place wings in a large bowl and sprinkle with baking powder and salt, 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: Whisk together gochujang, brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil in a small bowl.
- 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.