Why It Works
- Kashmiri red chiles, tamarind, and palm sugar give these wings a balanced spicy, sweet, and tart flavor.
- Cooking the chile paste before tossing with the wings ensures that it fully coats each piece.
- Preheating the baking sheet keeps the chicken from sticking.
There are few ingredients that you can keep in your pantry that offer more bang for their buck than dried chiles. A paste of blended dried chiles may start out astringent and bitter, but cooking transforms it into something aromatic, fruity, and complex. Dried chiles are the secret to my hands-off braised lamb shoulder and grab the spotlight in my dried chile harissa (oh yeah, and let's not forget my chili crisp recipe). Dried chiles save the day again in these simple chicken wings, with an assist from tart tamarind paste, smoky palm sugar, and fiery ginger.
Unlike crispy fried chicken wings, these are tender from a gentle roast in the oven, which caramelizes the palm sugar into a sticky, finger-licking glaze. The Kashmiri red chiles I use here are on the mild side, so I pair them with fresh Thai chiles for some extra punch. Luckily, the tamarind and palm sugar help balance the heat, so you’ll want to keep nibbling on wing after wing.
To make the wings, I start by snipping down the length of the dried chiles to remove the seeds before toasting them in a dry sauté pan until they're fragrant and pliable. When their bright red hue has transformed into a rich mahogany, I put the toasted chiles in a blender along with fresh Thai chiles, seedless tamarind paste, ginger, palm sugar, and salt. With some hot water added to soften the chiles and tamarind paste, the mixture easily blends into a smooth purée.
Using the same sauté pan I toasted the dried chiles in, I briefly cook down the chile paste to evaporate some of that added liquid, stirring and scraping with a heat resistant spatula to prevent the mixture from burning. Since I’m not looking to caramelize the sugar or fully develop the flavors in the chiles—there’s time for that in the oven—I just cook the paste until it's thick enough to coat the wings.
In a large bowl, I combine the chicken wings with the chile paste and toss them until they're evenly coated. Meanwhile, I preheat a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. This ensures that the sticky glaze sticks to the wings and not the baking sheet, because it will begin caramelizing as soon as it hits the hot pan. I grease the baking sheet and add the wings, topping each with any remaining chile paste, before sliding them into the oven. As they bake, the chile paste becomes bright red, aromatic, and sweet.
I like to serve the chicken wings with cooling cucumber raitha for sweet relief between spicy bites. These wings offer a zippy change of pace from your standard Buffalo, without much extra work. The dried chiles do all the heavy lifting, bringing layers of flavor to every bite.
18 dried whole Kashmiri red chiles (about 1 ounce; 28g) (see note)
6 tablespoons tamarind paste (3 ounces; 84g) (not concentrate)
6 fresh Thai red chiles (about 4g)
4 inch piece of ginger, sliced (about 2 ounces; 60g)
1/4 cup grated palm sugar or light brown sugar (2 ounces; 60g)
4 teaspoons kosher salt (0.5 ounce; 16g)
2 1/2 pounds (1.1kg) chicken wings
Raita to serve (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and set the rack to the lower-middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place it in the oven to preheat as well.
Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chiles and toast them whole in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant and pliable. In the canister of a blender, combine the toasted chiles, tamarind paste, Thai red chiles, ginger, palm sugar, kosher salt, and 1/2 cup hot water. Set aside to steep until the chiles are softened, about 5 minutes, then blend until smooth.
Transfer the purée back to the pan used to toast the chiles and cook over medium heat while constantly stirring with a flexible rubber spatula until the paste is thick, lost much of its moisture, and leaves a streak behind when a spatula is dragged across the bottom of the pot, about 8 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, toss the wings with the chile paste to coat. Spray the preheated baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or brush with oil. Spread the chicken wings on the prepared baking sheet, topping each with some of the chile paste. Bake until sticky and tender, about 45 minutes. Serve right away with raitha.
If you don't have Kashmiri red chiles on hand, feel free to substitute one or a combination of your favorite dried chiles in its place.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 21g||27%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||30%|
|Total Carbohydrate 32g||12%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||5%|
|Total Sugars 24g|
|Vitamin C 14mg||69%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|