Sesame-Ginger Chicken Wings, and a Lesson in Frugality

This is my entry for this month’s #LetsLunch, a virtual potluck on Twitter.  This month we’re celebrating Father’s Day.  Here’s my recipe for sesame-ginger chicken wings, a Taiwanese classic, inspired by a story about my father, who taught me to never, ever, waste.

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wings by Linda Shiue

The memories of early childhood are often muddled together so much, it’s hard to separate reality from fiction, or someone else’s story.  For example, do I really remember Leslie putting a hot baked potato in my jumper’s front pocket when I was 3, or was it a fable my mother told me? Did that 5 year old girl across the street, the one whose name I have blocked out, really give me a random leaf to chew on, after she had given my brother, whom she liked, a tender mint leaf? Childhood memories can be vague and yet simultaneously vivid.  So I can’t necessarily attest to the accuracy of the story I am about to share, but it is at least partially true.

My mother used to make sesame-ginger chicken wings while my father watched basketball for what seemed the entire day on the TV downstairs.  I think it was mainly college basketball.  I have no idea how he became such a fan.  It’s such an All-American pastime, I really don’t know how my father, who came as an organic chemistry graduate student from Taiwan in the 60s, could have gotten so hooked.  But he did, and I think he still watches when he gets a chance.  While my mother would busy herself in the kitchen upstairs, and the aroma of her heavenly sesame-ginger chicken wings would gradually fill the entire house, there was my dad on the couch downstairs, feet propped up on the coffee table.  That image, I am sure, is true.  He would have really All-American snacks while watching the game: a 6-pack of Budweiser, a bag of Lay’s potato chips, before they were baked into healthier submission, and a container of Breakstone’s sour cream clam dip.  He is a compact man, and I do not know how he managed to consume all of that himself, but I think he pretty much finished all of the above during the course of a Saturday afternoon game.   Although if you asked him, he would say, “Linda always exaggerates.”

Afterwards, it would be time for dinner, and we’d have my mother’s glistening chicken wings with steamed white rice and some stir fried Chinese greens on the side.   The flavor of the rich sauce soaked into the rice was incredible.

When not lazing and snacking in front of the game, my father would spend most of his time teaching me and my brother life lessons.  His most often repeated lesson was on frugality.  Nothing could go to waste– he would routinely inspect my trash can and remove items which I was ready to discard, but he felt still had some life left.

I thought I had come a long way.  Now living in San Francisco, a city with a goal of “zero waste,” I have become quite skilled and dogmatic about recycling and composting.  We produce very little trash for my father to inspect when he visits.  On a recent visit, when I was done with the scallions I was using in a dish, I automatically began to put the cut off roots into my composting pail.

scallions by Linda Shiue

True to form, my father said, “You waste too much.”  Seeing as I was an inadequate role model for his version of “zero waste,” my dad used the scallion roots as an opportunity to teach my daughters how to be less wasteful than their mother, and also how to grow their own food.  They were excited to plant the roots in the mini potted herb garden just outside our front door.  Magically, and within days, we had more scallions!

scallions by Linda Shiue

In tribute to those chicken wings my mother would make on my father’s game days, and to the goal of “zero waste”, I’ve re-created a version of her wings, garnished with the scallions my father and my daughters resurrected from what would otherwise have become compost.

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Sesame-Ginger Chicken Wings

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 lbs  chicken wings

1/4 cup Asian sesame oil (Kadoya brand is my one and only)

1/8 cup soy sauce

4 quarter sized slices of fresh, peeled ginger

1/3 tsp white pepper powder

1 tsp. sugar

1 1/4 cups water

1 tablespoon canola oil

green tops of 5 scallions, julienned

Accompaniments: steamed rice, stir-fried greens

Technique

1. Combine sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, white pepper and sugar in a mixing bowl.

2.  Add chicken wings to the sauce and marinate for 30 minutes.

3.  Heat canola oil in a skillet over medium heat.

4.  With tongs, remove wings from marinade and place into heated pan.  Allow to brown for a few minutes on each side.

5.When wings are browned, add water and the marinade, bring to a simmer, and then lower heat and cover skillet.

6.  Stir occasionally so that the chicken skin remains intact.

7.  When half of the sauce has reduced, turn off heat, add scallions and allow them to wilt.

8. Serve hot, over steamed white rice, with a side of stir-fried greens.   Drizzle sauce over wings and rice.

Also great cold for a picnic.

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For more #LetsLunch entries for Father’s Day, please check out these other posts:

Aleana‘s Homemade Scottish Oatcakes at Eat My Blog

Charissa‘s Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks & Uncle Andy’s Chimichurri Sauce at Zest Bakery

Cheryl‘s Mee Pok Ta at A Tiger in the Kitchen

Eleanor‘s Salmon Bok Choy Soup at Wok Star

Emma‘s Ham and Rice at Dreaming of Pots & Pans

Jill‘s Root Beer-Glazed Onion Dip at Eating My Words

Grace‘s Taste of Diversity at HapaMama

Lisa‘s Hot Sugary Lip-Smacking Jam Donuts at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Patricia‘s Egg Candy at The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook

Rashda‘s Beth Howard’s Apple Pie at Hot Curries & Cold Beer

Sonja‘s Spicy Smoked Paprika Lamb Shank Goulash at Foodnutzz

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22 responses

  1. This recipe sounds so delicious, Linda…and your Dad sounds great. He kind of sounds like my Dad, too. The latest is, he’s trying to get me to use used teabags as little scouring pads. o_O

    I’ll try to plant the scallions bottoms; that is a wonderful tip! That’s pretty impressive that San Francisco has a goal of zero waste…I hope it spreads to the rest of the country!

    • Hi, Helena. Tea bags as scouring pads– that is a new one! SF’s composting program is truly fantastic– in concept seems difficult to “convert” people but it becomes second nature pretty immediately.

  2. I actually do something similar with my scallion bottoms. I put them in a mason jar and cover the roots with water. They sit in my window and grow back after they’ve been cut allowing me to use them over and over!

    Great story and I wish folks in my family were as conscious of their waste as he is!

  3. Pingback: Egg Candy Omelet–A Father’s Day Tribute « The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

  4. Where can I get the ingredients you mentioned aside from Amazon? White pepper powder, Kadoya, and which brand soy sauce do you use? Either San Francisco or San Jose, CA, works for me.

    I love your posts.

    • Marcie, so nice to hear from you! White pepper is available in any Asian grocery, big (like 99 Ranch, Sunset Supermarket) or small. Same goes for Kadoya sesame oil (it’s the one with the yellow cap)– and I think I’ve also seen it at Safeway. If you sub tofu, I’d recommend the fried kind.

  5. Great post Linda! What a good lesson for all of us who waste waaaaay too much, and a terrific recipe that I can’t wait to try. May be dinner tonight…and i will make sure I do not waste any usable part of the scallion…

  6. Pingback: Harry’s Matzo brei « GrongarBlog

  7. Whenever my dad comes to visit he would plant the green onion roots I lop off in any pot he can get his hands on. I’ve found green onions sprouting around my kaffir lime tree, next to my tomato plants and growing together with my jade plant! Dads are the same everywhere aren’t they?

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