Singapore Stories: Finger Lickin' Good Singaporean-style Barbecue Wings
Editor's note: Yvonne Ruperti shares stories of the cuisine from her current home in Singapore every other week. Today for Barbecue Week, she shows us the Singaporean way of making and eating barbecue chicken wings.
I consumed my weight in chicken wings during college. My friends and I would always find our way to the local pub for karaoke and platefuls of cheap chicken wings. It was always the classic Buffalo wing style—dripping wet with deep red vinegary hot sauce, and stinging hot. Americans love their chicken wings, but it's mostly party or bar food, synonymous with football and pretty much any sports bar in the country.
Singaporeans, however, take wings to a whole other level. Chicken wings are common everyday snack in Singapore. Wings are not only on the menu at everyday eating houses, but specialized "bbq wing" street hawkers grill it up. Singapore wings also differ when it comes to flavor. Here, it's not about tossing a bag of frozen wings in the fryer and then smothering them in hot sauce. And forget about the blue cheese dip and the celery. The focus is on chicken flavor. Singapore is all about the barbecue.
Barbecue chicken stands are easy to find—almost too easy—and if you love chicken wings (that's me), this can turn into a real problem. Just look for the simple straightforward signage or the scores of golden skewered wings lining the shop window. Many of these stalls also serve satay, which makes total sense (you might as well make the most of your grill). Wing aficionados have their favorites in this city, but as for me, I haven't met a wing I haven't liked. For a guide to some of Singapore favorites, check out the list on soshiok.com.
Wings are separated into wing tips and drumettes and roasted over the open charcoal fire for the most incredible smoky flavor (though I believe some vendors use electric grills). The skewers are carefully hand turned so that they bronze evenly (foosball, anyone?). The fan hanging on the wall in the back in the pic above is used to fan the flame.
Check out this video that shows my local chicken wing hawker, Huat Huat, in action. I love the wings at this shop. The skin is chewy-crisp, the fat is totally rendered, and they're so succulent thanks to the wings getting marinated for hours before cooking that it's easy to forget to dip them in the homemade chili sauce.
I sampled Teddy Bear BBQ Chicken Wing while on a bike ride out to East Coast Lagoon Food Village, and they're my favorite so far. The skin was perfectly crisp and the meat was falling-off-the-bone-tender and absolutely dripping with juice. The flavor was nice and smoky, bringing back memories of the grilled barbecue chicken in my parent's backyard. The bright heat of the tangy chili sauce and a squirt of lime highlight the flavor and made these wings even more addicting.
As with all wings, no matter where in the globe you savor them, nothing washes it down better than a beer. While you're gobbling down enough wings to win you an all-you-can-eat medal you won't be thinking about how sticky-oily wings are, so do come prepared. It's BYO wet naps and having to resort to a paper napkin will just make you miserable.
About the author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of the new cookbook One Bowl Baking: Simple From Scratch Recipes for Delicious Desserts (Running Press, October 2013), also available at Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Powell's, and The Book Depository. Watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. Follow her Chocoholic, Chicken Dinners, Singapore Stories and Let Them Eat Cake columns on Serious Eats. Follow Yvonne on Twitter as she explores Singapore.