1% Yakamein

This is yok, for a better complexion and zip code. Yakamein (aka yokamein, yak, or yok) is an old-school fusion of Chinese and ghetto (actual ghetto, not figure-of-speech ghetto) cuisines. You can find it on the menu of every single Chinese food place in the hood, guaranteed. It varies widely from region to region, but there are a few musts: chicken wings must be cooked in the broth, it must have a breath-destroying amount of onions, and the broth must be vinegary. Many regions require ketchup in the broth, but I don't like that, so it's optional in this recipe. This is as close to a gourmand version of this down-home classic as you're going to get. Don't let its humble roots fool you though, it's packed with umami flavor, is super easy to make, and is very satisfying...especially doused in hot sauce (Texas Pete!). Yields 2 big servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ pounds chicken wings
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 scallion per serving
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 large shallot
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2x 1-inch knobs ginger
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 dried shiitakes
  • 6 1x2-inch pieces kombu
  • 8 ounces bucatini pasta
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • Ketchup and hot sauce, to serve

Instructions:

  1. Remove the wing tips. Cut each wing at the joint. In a bowl, toss with the teaspoon salt and set aside at least 15 minutes. Peel and halve the shallots. Peel the garlic. Peel and crack the ginger.
  2. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Cut the root end off the scallion, then cut into a baton 4 inches up. Very gently, slice halfway through the scallion baton and pull the sides apart to lay the baton out like a book. Slice into the thinnest ribbons you can manage, separating any conjoined ribbons. Place into the ice water and swish around. Repeat with the rest of the scallions while the chicken macerates. The scallions will slowly curl over about a half hour's time.
  3. Bring a pot of salted boiling water to a boil and set out another large bowl of ice water. Set out another large pot with the stock.
  4. In a large pan, drizzle the oil. Put the wing pieces in with the flattest, fattiest side down. Place the scallions in the pan, cut side down. Scatter the garlic and ginger around the pan. Turn the heat on to medium. You want to render the fat from the wings slowly, 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Check the shallots after 10 minutes or so. Flip the garlic and ginger once they become aromatic and charred. Flip the shallots once deeply charred and softened.
  6. After one side of the wings have rendered and cooked to a dark brown color, flip and cook another 10 minutes, until dark brown on the other side. As the aromatics are done, transfer to the pot of stock. Once the wings are done, add to the pot of stock.
  7. Bring the pot of stock, bay leaves, shiitakes, and kombu to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer very low, uncovered, 1 hour. Be sure the heat is very low so as not to over-reduce it.
  8. At some point, boil the bucatini until just before al dente. It should still be a tiny bit crunchy. Remove from the pot and shock.
  9. After 1 hour, the stock should have reduced a little and deepened in color. Remove from heat and remove the shallot and ginger. You can remove the garlic if you want to as well. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, mirin, sriracha, and vinegar. Taste for balance. It should be highly seasoned and somewhat vinegary.
  10. Add the undercooked bucatini to the broth, cover, and let sit a few minutes until it becomes al dente.
  11. To serve, place the bucatini in a bowl. Top with a few chicken wing pieces, and ladle over the broth. Top with the curled scallions. Serve with ketchup and hot sauce on the side.