Restaurant Review – Buffalo Wings London

Sticky wings chicken

Buffalo wings are not native to England.  I’ve never had a proper buffalo wing in this country which is strange because there’s a chicken shop on every corner.  When an English person asks for a hot wing, they’re expecting fried chicken wings with cayenne mixed in the flour.  No sauce on them, no blue cheese, no carrots, no finger licking.  This has posed quite a challenge for me because Buffalo wings are my favorite food.  OK so it’s my second favorite food.  My most favorite food since I was five years old is Salisbury steak TV dinners…the ones with the mashed potatoes and corn (and remember back in the day when there was the cherry crumble for dessert) but I’m definitely not getting that in England.

Well, no more.  Houston, we’ve got WINGS!

Mike and I discovered Sticky Wings on a whim while walking along Brick Lane.   Now for those of you who have never been to London, Brick Lane is the heart of Indian cuisine in the City. The narrow, partially cobbled street is line with Indian restaurants with curry wafting through every door.  As you walk down the street each restaurant host tells you how lovely you are and offers you a deal on the best curry in London.  As we walked past each restaurant wondering which “award winning” establishment we would grace,  I saw something different.  A sign not touting Bombay’s best but Sticky Wings.  My heart stopped.  Could it be?  Were my eyes deceiving me (because you know I’m getting older and everything else is breaking down)?  Was this a wing shack?  I looked at the menu posted on the glass and to my utter glee, discovered that Sticky Wings is a US style wing joint.

When we go in we’re greeted by Darul, the English owner who spent several years working and eating in the US.  We could see by the Frank’s Red Hot and French’s mustard on the tables that he’d really paid attention.  He even imported old Chili’s tables to make the restaurant even more American. His one-page menu has only a few flavors of wings but that’s the key. A short menu means more time to focus on getting those few dishes right.  On our first visit, we tried the buffalo and the sticky BBQ with fries and a side of deep fried corn on the cob (no that’s not a typo it was deep fried).  We chose the American portion (11 wings) to share between the two of us. The UK portion is a more manageable 6 wings (yes, now that we live in England I can’t handle an American sized portion of anything anymore).  The wings are cooked perfectly and you can tell that the meat is high quality (definitely no arsenic in these chickens).  I’ve eaten Buffalo wings in their birthplace, the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, and these weren’t far off.

The trick to a good naked wing is to fry them (without breading) so that the skin crisps up.  Then you coat them with the sauce just before serving while they’re piping hot so that the skin stays crispy.  Not a lot of people can get the crispy part just right but Darul did it.  No soggy wings here.  The sauces were excellent.  My only complaint was that the sticky BBQ wasn’t sticky enough.  On our second trip later that evening (yes we had a fat day that day and went back a few hours later), we tried the jerk twist which was, quite honestly, one of the best wing sauces I’ve eaten.  I don’t want to give away the twist but it was definitely a pleasant surprise.  We also had the fried mushrooms on our second trip.  I literally couldn’t stop eating them.  When we were down to the last one, we nearly fought.  And back to that deep fried corn on the cob.  Yes, everyone thinks that we Americans deep fry everything so why did I need to come to the UK to try deep fried corn? Pure GENIUS!  The corn isn’t battered or breaded; it’s just dipped in the hot oil to cook.  Darul adds some secret spice to give it some kick and voilà!

As we left the second time, the owner gave us a parting gift.  Two slices of homemade Oreo cheesecake.  I don’t eat cheesecake but Mike’s direct quote as he stared dopey eyed at his empty, chocolate smeared fork “this guy is doin’ something”.  I think he might love Sticky Wings’ Oreo cheesecake at least as much as fried chicken.

So if you happen to come to London head over to Brick Lane and say hi to Darul at Sticky Wings and tell him the Americans sent you.  It’s definitely worth the stop.

Sticky Wings

40 Brick Lane

E1 6RF London, United Kingdom

http://www.stickywings.com

Twitter: @StickyWings

Facebook:   StickyWings

My Friend Fried Chicken

My husband loves fried chicken.  No, I mean he’s really in love with fried chicken!   I don’t think you understand how serious this is.  If it were possible to marry fried chicken, I would be kicked to the curb.  And I really can’t blame him.  Fried chicken is one of those pleasures in life that the vegan, healthy eating, everything-that-you-put-in-your-mouth-that-even-remotely-tastes-good people have waged war against.

I’m not talking about the fried chicken that comes from the Chinese carry-out with a bit of mambo sauce on the side (what is mambo sauce anyway?) or the faux home cooked, mechanically shaped stuff that you get from KFC.  I mean the juicy, salty, sweet, crispy deep fried hugs that your Grandma would stand over the stove for hours cooking in that old black iron skillet. Chicken that’s so good you would seriously contemplate selling one of your kidneys for just one juicy leg.  Because you always have another kidney, but fried chicken like Grandma made is hard to come by.

I don’t remember my first experience with fried chicken because, like a loyal friend, it’s always been in my life. And it always makes me smile. Most of my best memories revolve around food, and more specifically around fried chicken.  I suspect, if you are Black and from America, yours do too. Remember your loyal friend lovingly nestled in the shoe box when you took those long car trips (or was that just my husband’s family)? Remember those family picnics where the fried chicken took center stage? Everyone’s Grandma had a Crisco can on the stove full of bacon grease. For many of us, our first experience with cooking was shaking the chicken and flour in the brown paper bag.  And that first bite of chicken hot from the grease, the crunch giving way to the juicy molten goodness dripping between your fingers.  Fried chicken has just always been part of the family.

I don’t fry chicken often now.  Even on the best of days, it’s not that great for you. This is really interesting since our grandparents ate it at least once every week and they lived well into their gray old chicken eatin’ days.  Nonetheless, the health gods tell us that we shouldn’t eat it at all or “oven fry” it without the skin because it tastes just the same. Yeah right… who ever said this has never had a Grandma that fried chicken. So now, in my effort to keep my husband around for at least the next 80 years, I save it for special occasions – birthdays, family get-togethers, the first Eagles football game of the season, or when I just feel down. And of course, anytime a little extra happy won’t hurt. I will continue to fry chicken and making wonderful memories.  One day, I’ll be the old grandma in the kitchen with the iron skillet frying up a batch with plenty of oil, plenty of seasoning and plenty of love.

Tools

You’ll need several basic tools which you should have already.

A high sided heavy gauge pan (high enough to hold 1 inch of oil and the chicken without spilling over) with a well fitted lid

Tongs for turning the chicken (you don’t want to pierce the chicken with a fork as you’ll lose all the juicy goodness).

Paper towels and a heat proof bowl for drying grease from the chicken

Paper towels or a clean dishtowel to dry the chicken after cleaning

A plastic bag for coating the chicken with flour

A kitchen thermometer to test the temperature of the oil

Ingredients

2 lbs (1 kg) chicken parts

1 cup plain flour

3 tbls seasoning (plain salt and pepper, Lawry’s, Season-All, All Purpose seasoning, or my chicken seasoning described below)

1 ltr oil (any oil with a high smoking point and no flavor like sunflower, peanut, canola, or vegetable)

Wash chicken and pluck any stray feathers (yes in the UK you must do this) and use clean paper towel or dishtowel to completely dry it.  If you’ve chosen to make chicken breasts, cut the breasts in half to ensure the meat gets thoroughly cooked. Season chicken with your preferred seasoning and refrigerate for at least an hour.

When ready to cook, remove chicken from fridge and set aside.  Place the dry pan on the stove on medium heat (5 on electric stoves) for 2 to 3 minutes.  NOTE: If you have a pan lined with Teflon or you are unsure whether the pan is lined with Teflon do not follow this step (Teflon can be toxic when burnt).   While waiting for pan to heat, add about 1 cup of flour to a plastic bag and add two generous pinches of seasoning to the flour and shake.  When done, fill the pan to a depth of about 1 inch and increase heat to medium high (7 on electric stove).  While the oil is heating, place chicken in flour a few pieces at a time and shake to coat.  Once all the chicken is coated, check the heat of the oil by using the kitchen thermometer. The temperature should be between 350 and 375F.  Another method is to add a piece of bread to the oil, if it turns golden brown within a minute the oil is hot enough.  If the oil is too hot, move the pan away from heat for a minute or two and test the temperature again.  Once the oil is hot, it’s time to cook!

Carefully place the chicken in the pan one piece at a time.  Make sure that the pieces are not touching.  Once the pan is full, cover it tightly.  The oil will be rapidly bubbling at this point.  Remember this sound.  When the bubbling slows down, it’s time to check the chicken.  This should be about 15 minutes.  If the chicken is the proper crispness, careful turn each piece, and continue to cook uncovered. Again, you should hear rapid bubbling.  When it slows down (about 5 to 10 minutes), check again by removing the largest piece and piercing the meatiest part with a sharp knife.  If the juice comes out tinged red or pink, put the piece back in and cook some more.  Once done, remove the pieces and place them in paper towel lined bowl.

Seneca’s Fried Chicken Seasoning

Mix together:

2 tbls sea salt

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp garlic powder

½ tsp sugar

¼ tsp chilli powder

¼ tsp white pepper

1/8 tsp mustard powder