Cantonese “salt & pepper” dishes are among the most indulgent and intensely flavorful foods out there. Typically, they consist of deep-fried chunks of pork, squid, whitefish, or shrimp that are stir-fried with chiles, garlic, and scallions and seasoned with generous amounts of salt and white pepper. This recipe circumvents some of the guilt of eating fried foods with a foolproof oven-fried chicken wing method that serves as the canvas for the salt & pepper flavor profile.
The two critical factors in this recipe are baking powder and the elimination of moisture. For good reason, this method of baking wings has become popular lately and there are many suspect explanations for the mechanism of baking powder (for example, I would be reluctant to cite increases in pH when baking powder is not an alkaline substance). I prefer not to substantiate myths about a question that I don’t 100% know the answer to, but the explanation that sounds most plausible to me is that baking soda both dehydrates the chicken wing and produces carbon dioxide gas during the actual cooking. This yields the crispy, blistered skin that comes remarkably close to fried chicken without any actual batter or oil. The bottom line though, is that this recipe works – and all it takes is tossing the wings in baking powder, drying them overnight in the refrigerator, and baking them in a hot oven.
salt & pepper oven-fried chicken wings
- 4 lbs chicken wings
- 3 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 bird’s eye chile peppers, de-seeded and diced
- 2-3 scallions, chopped with the greens reserved for garnish
- 2-3 sprigs of cilantro, stems removed
- 1 lime, sliced into disks (optional)
Remove the chicken wings from the packaging, lay them on a baking sheet lined up parchment paper or aluminum foil, and pat dry with paper towels. If desired, slice off the wing tips and separate the wings from the drumettes.
Working in batches, toss 4 lbs of chicken wings with 3 tbsp of baking powder and 1 tsp of salt in a large mixing bowl. Return the wings to the baking sheet, skin side up, and refrigerate uncovered for 30 minutes – 24 hours. The longer the chicken has to dry, the crispier it will become after baking.
When ready to cook, transfer the baking sheet to an oven preheated to 450F and bake for 1 hour.
Remove the wings from the oven and set aside. Sauté the minced garlic, chopped scallion whites, and diced chile peppers over medium heat in a wok or large skillet until aromatic. Over high heat, add the chicken wings and stir fry briefly, adding salt and white pepper generously to taste. Garnish with the scallion greens, cilantro, and lime (optional) and serve immediately.