Citizens, your bibulous and occasionally well-marinated Leader – the tipsy Immortal currently known as TFD! – is especially fond of Chinese dishes that take advantage of the fabled alcohols of this legendary cuisine!
This recipe dates back more than 1,000 years to the Tang dynasty, where China’s capital was Chang’an, an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history, today known as Xi’an.
Chang’an means “Perpetual Peace” in Classical Chinese since it was a capital that was repeatedly used by new Chinese rulers. By the time of the Ming dynasty, a new walled city named Xi’an, meaning “Western Peace”, was built at the Sui and Tang Dynasty city’s site, which has remained its name to the present day.
As noted on the fantastic Chinese recipe blog by Madame Huang:
Red wine is rarely associated with traditional Chinese cooking, but at least one ancient dish comes as close to coq au vin as possible: Consort’s Chicken Wings, or guifei ji.
As was described a few months ago when I talked about lychees, another one of the Consort Yang’s favorite dishes, this dates from about 1,300 years ago.
The Xuanzong emperor was so besotted with this plump and lovely consort that although he had over a thousand women in his harem, the only one whom he wanted was Yang Guifei.
This bewitching woman also had a taste for wine and liked getting tipsy. The story behind this chicken dish is that one day she and the emperor were in the Hundred Flower Pavilion sipping wine and having fun when she said mischievously, “I want to fly to the sky!”
The emperor was probably in his cups too, as he thought his beloved consort wanted to eat something that flew, so he ordered his imperial chefs to immediately prepare just such a dish for them.
These harried masters of the kitchen quickly came up with a dish of chicken wings for the imperial table, by which point Yang Guifei was sober enough to be so delighted with what they had served that she proclaimed it delicious. And so it was named in her honor.
She was right. This is a wonderfully simple yet utterly divine chicken dish that can be served hot or cold or anywhere in-between. Some people who don’t know the story behind Consort’s Chicken Wings use the whole chicken, but I think that only the tender wings should be used, as it’s only fitting.
I like to cut each wing into three pieces, since they are much easier to enjoy that way. Keeping the wing tips for ourselves as little snacks, I then serve the drumsticks and middle sections, often nestled up against a pile of Beijing-style spinach and peanut appetizer, which both contrasts with and complements the flavors and colors of the chicken.
But back to that red wine. We will talk more about this in the near future, but red wine in particular has been made in north-central China for ages, and also has been memorialized in certain dishes, such as the Grape Fish of Anhui, which uses wine in the sauce.
Noted wine expert Gerald Asher recently spoke to me about pairing Western wines with Chinese food, an idea whose time has surely come. When he came over for dinner the other night, we had this chicken dish as first course along with a California Chardonnay.
Knowing Ms. Yang, she would have asked for seconds of both.
Citizens, my version of this ancient recipe is especially imperial and based on the version from Madame Huang. My version uses a hint of rosewater to simulate the Chinese rose wine the original recipe called for, plus the eccentric but apropos use of Benedictine and Brandy (B&B) to simulate a Chinese herbal liqueur that is almost impossible to obtain in the U.S.
I prefer a noble Port in this dish as opposed to the more pedestrian red wine. The use of a bit of tomato paste is common in most modern versions of this dish and I enjoy a bit more spice, so I also use a bit of Guilin chili paste.
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
The Hirshon Chinese Imperial Concubine Chicken Wings – 貴妃雞翅
- Total Time: 0 hours
- 8 whole chicken wings, preferably free-range and organic
- 3 tablespoons top-quality soy sauce
- 2 cups peanut oil
- 1 leek, trimmed and cleaned (cut into sections)
- 5 quarter-sized slices ginger
- 7 tablespoons regular Chinese soy sauce
- 6 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 1/2 cups filtered water
- 2 tablespoons Chinese yellow rock sugar bits
- 1/2 cup Port
- 1/4 cup Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
- 1/8 cup Benedictine and Brandy
- 2 tbsp. Guilin Chili paste
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 tsp. Cortas brand Rosewater (optional, but recommended)
- Rinse the wings and pat dry. Pull off and discard any feathers and loose fat or skin. Cut each wing into three sections, discard the tips. Place the wings in a work bowl and toss them with the soy sauce to coat. Leave to marinate for 1 hour.
- Heat the oil over medium high heat until a chopstick inserted in the oil immediately bubbles all over. Drain the wings and discard the soy sauce.
- Fry the chicken wings in two batches of all drumsticks, and all middle sections so that they fry evenly. When each piece is golden brown, remove to a colander and place this in the sink. Rinse the oil off of the wings under running water to make the final flavors as light as possible.
- Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the oil from the wok. Heat the oil over high, and toss in the leek or green onions. Stir-fry them quickly until browned, and then add the soy sauce, rice wine, water, and rock sugar. When it comes to a boil, add the browned chicken wings. Bring the sauce to a boil again and then lower to a simmer.
- Cook the wings uncovered for about an hour, or until the sauce is reduced and the wings are very tender. Remove the ginger and leek pieces; save them for a snack, as they are very tasty but not particularly good looking.
- Add the port, optional rosewater, B&B, tomato paste and chili paste to the chicken and bring the sauce to a boil again. Simmer the sauce for a short while so that the chicken can absorb the wine flavors; the sauce should again be reduced to a thick sauce. Taste and adjust the flavors. Serve the wings hot, cold, or warm.
- The sauce can also be used for something else, like cooking bean curd, carrots, or potatoes. It will gel up once it gets cold because of the chicken skin, so remove the chicken from the sauce before you refrigerate them.
- Prep Time: 0 hours
- Cook Time: 0 hours
- Calories: 1286.34 kcal
- Sugar: 13.02 g
- Sodium: 2291.47 mg
- Fat: 115.53 g
- Saturated Fat: 20.49 g
- Trans Fat: 0.04 g
- Carbohydrates: 32.13 g
- Fiber: 2.44 g
- Protein: 14.17 g
- Cholesterol: 55.5 mg
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