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Even if Bar Louie’s Szechwan wings weren’t at all spicy, they did ignite a fire of sorts. They’ve left me obsessed with Asian-style wings.
I thought I could convince Great Wall-Szechuan House to whip me up a batch despite not having wings on the menu. Their ma po tofu had the exact flavor profile I wanted, matching an intense heat with a numbing, almost electric quality. Why not fry up an order of wings nice and crispy, and then toss them in a wok with that beautiful red chili-spiked oil?
I tried ordering in person for take out. I tried ordering in person for dining there. I tried phone orders for delivery. I tried disguising my voice and having a friend call, and now I’m completely certain I will not be getting Szechwan wings from Great Wall. This, despite my attempts to convince them they are sitting on a potential bar-food gold mine.
Battered and broken I was about to give up my hunt, when I remembered one of my favorite chefs who liked to play with Asian flavors also hailed from upstate New York. I shot Scott Drewno an e-mail and asked if he had any interest in cooking up some ma la-style chicken wings. A week later, I was at his bar bathing in a Szechwan peppercorn-induced bliss.
Like many things at The Source, Drewno’s wings get all dressed up before leaving the kitchen. Each wing is frenched, exposing a length of bone that makes for a nice handle. The wings are then marinated in oil, ginger, garlic, and scallions before receiving a liberal seasoning of Chinese five spice and a Szechwan peppercorn salt.
Just before frying, they also get a light dusting of rice flour that yields an intensely crispy skin. Finally the wings are re-seasoned and tossed with fried jalapeño slices, shallots, and garnished with cilantro and green onion. It results in an outstanding balance of crunch, salt, and heat.
The wings, unfortunately, aren’t always on the menu.
But even if ma la wings were to become a staple of The Source’s menu, I’m not sure I want to visit a fancy izakaya every time I want a wing fix. With its late night feel, worn vinyl tiles, and lightning-quick delivery, Great Wall continues to draw me to its fiery red chili oil. Maybe I should give them another call?