Like many people, I dream about recreating dishes from my travels. The thing is, though, these dreams stay largely in my head. Why? Well to draw a sporting analogy, cooking is very much like diving or gymnastics. By that I mean both 'difficulty' and 'execution' come into play when judging how well a particular dish turns out. And as I am far from being adept in the kitchen, I'm limited to dishes that aren't that 'difficult'. So sorry guys, my attempt at knocking up xiao long bao will just have to wait another day.
Instead, here's a simple recipe inspired (not for the first time) by a Beijing restaurant: Xinjiang-style chilli & cumin chicken wings. I tried these out at a joint called Xiao Wang's, and while I have no idea if it's an authentic dish as rustled up by the Uyghur people from Xinjiang in China's Wild West, who really cares? After all, these chicken wings, liberally laced with chilli and cumin, are proper fiery, super-tasty and highly addictive. And the best thing of all is that even kitchen-numpties, like me, can score high 'execution' marks!
Xinjiang-style Chilli & Cumin Chicken Wings
The ingredients and instructions are just a guide, and you should feel free to experiment and play around with the ingredients in proportions that work for you.
12 chicken wings (around 1kg)
For the marinade
Shot glass of sesame oil
Juice of one lemon
For the spice mix
Dried chilli flakes
Coarse sea salt
Toasted cumin seeds
For the garnish
1) Mix the juice of a lemon with a shot glass of sesame oil in a bowl.
2) Mince a couple of cloves of garlic and add to the marinade.
3) Place chicken wings in a large freezer bag and add the marinade.
4) Give the bag a bit of a grope to ensure the marinade covers all the wings.
5) Tie the bag and leave for a few hours (twitter consensus says 3 hours is plenty).
6) Pre-heat oven to 200C.
7) Line an oven tray with foil and place a wire rack over it.
8) Arrange chicken wings on rack and place tray in oven for 40-45 mins.
9) Toast cumin seeds in a dry frying pan for 5 mins or so.
10) Add the toasted cumin seeds along with dried chilli flakes and coarse sea salt to a mortar & pestle and give them a good old grind.
11) Remove chicken wings from oven and test a larger one to check that it's cooked through.
12) Add some of the chilli cumin salt mix to a mixing bowl.
13) Add a couple of the wings to the bowl and toss in the mix until covered to your satisfaction.
14) Repeat steps 12) and 13) until all the wings are covered in the spice mix.
15) Serve chicken wings on top of some lettuce with some lemon wedges on the side.
1) Toast the cumin seeds on the lowest heat and give them an occasional toss to prevent burning.
2) Make plenty of spice mix – you don't want to be left short with a few wings to go! Any spice mix you don't use can be saved and used in other dishes e.g. spare ribs and lamb chops.