Chef Kasem “Pop” Saengsawang’s signature chicken wings — slightly sticky, lightly sweet and spicy — are a crowd pleaser at his Farmhouse Kitchen restaurants in Oakland and San Francisco. He makes them the way his grandparents taught him, when he was growing up in Northeast Thailand, marinated in pineapple and Thai fish sauce and then grilled or fried.
Here’s how it’s done:
Farmhouse Kitchen’s Thai-style Chicken Wings
Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer
Note: Plum sugar and nam prik pao (Thai chile paste) can be found in many Asian markets. You can also make your own nam prik pao using chef Saengsawang’s instructions below.
½ cup Asian fish sauce
½ cup plum sugar or brown sugar
½ cup water
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
½ cup pineapple, chopped
3 pounds chicken wings
Oil for frying
6 ounces pineapple, chopped
3 tablespoons Asian pickled garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon nam prik pao (Thai chile paste)
½ cup rice vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons fish sauce.
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
¼ teaspoon dried Thai chile
In a large bowl, combine the fish sauce, sugar, water, pineapple and chopped garlic. Add the wings and toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight for best results.
Remove wings from marinade and place them in a bamboo or other steamer. Fill a pot with an inch or two of water and heat over medium high until it starts to steam. Place steamer over hot water, being careful not to let the water touch the steamer basket, and steam over medium-high heat for 15 minutes until cooked through. Let wings cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, make the wing sauce. Blend pineapple and pickled garlic together to make a paste. Transfer to a saucepan set over medium-low heat, add remaining sauce ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes, until sauce has thickened. Pour sauce into a large bowl.
Just before serving, heat ½ inch of vegetable, canola or peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the wings in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook approximately 5 minutes per side until golden and crisp (alternatively, cook in an air fryer). Remove the wings to a paper-towel lined plate and pat dry. Repeat with remaining wings. Add wings to the bowl of sauce and toss to coat. Serve.
Nam Prik Pao
½ cup canola oil
½ cup shallots, sliced thin
2 tablespoons ground mild chile powder (any variety will work, as long as it’s not blended with other spices such as cumin)
In a small sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat to 300 degrees. Add shallots and fry until golden. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to a paper towel-lined plate.
Remove oil from heat, add the chile powder and let heat for 10 seconds. Return fried shallots to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
Use a blender or food processor to pulse the mixture into a paste. Paste will keep for several weeks and can be used in soups, stir fries and even as a taco garnish.