Sichuan Chicken Wings

Sichuan Chicken Wings by

Your lips should gleefully tingle when you bite into spicy chicken wings.  The burst of flavor from the combination of crunchy, greasy chicken skin and a rich, charred marinade is what makes spicy wings a real sensation. 

But that sensation can be taken to another level with just one additional ingredient – Sichuan Pepper.  And we now have the science to prove it.

Sichuan Pepper Chicken Wings by

What is that tickling reaction in your mouth and on your lips when you bite into a Sichuan Peppercorn? 

We discussed The Sichuan Pepper Experience in a previous post, but what creates that pulsating experience is a compound called hydroxyl-alpha-sanshool.  Numbing to say, and numbing to eat. 

This numbing, tingling sensation was recently tested by researchers in London, who asked their subjects to compare the vibrations they felt on their lips when a Sichuan pepper solution was applied, with the vibrations they felt on their fingers from a vibrating mechanism.  The subjects reported that the tingling feeling on their lips matched the pulse of the machine at 50 Hz (50 per second), leading the researchers to conclude – after a few similar tests – that the sensation experienced from tasting Sichuan pepper, surprisingly activates the same nerve fibers that respond to touch. 

So when you bite into these Sichuan Chicken Wings, it’s not only stimulating your taste buds, but also activating all those tiny neurons on your lips and in your mouth to create a strange, but exciting culinary experience.

Spicy Sichuan Chicken Wings recipe by

Sichuan pepper is the key spice of this Asian-style chicken marinade, but it only provides a touch of flavor to this lip-smacking recipe. 

In addition to Sichuan pepper, the marinade consists of a balanced combination of Chinese cooking ingredients including ginger, honey, toasted sesame oil, Shaoxing rice wine, red chili flakes, and Chinkiang vinegar (a black rice vinegar with a mildly sweet, smoky taste). 

This is Chinese food at its best.  Salty, sweet, spicy, tart, and tingly.  Not just a flavor, but an adventure.

Sichuan Chicken Wings recipe by

Sichuan Chicken Wings by Season with Spice

10 - 12 chicken wings

1 tbsp of Sichuan Peppercorns
1/2 cup of reduced-sodium light soy sauce
2 tbsp of Chinkiang black vinegar 镇江香醋 (also known as Chinese black vinegar)
1 tbsp of Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry (optional)
2-3 tsp of red chili flakes
1 tbsp of freshly grated ginger
1 1/2 tbsp of honey
1 tbsp of toasted sesame oil

1. Place Sichuan peppercorns (discard any black seeds) in a frying pan and toast over low heat until fragrant. Let cool, and then crush to a coarse texture.
2. In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, toasted Sichuan peppercorns, Chinkiang vinegar, Shaoxing rice wine (if using), red chili flakes, ginger, honey, and toasted sesame oil. (Keep 2 tbsp of marinade separate for using as a sauce later on the cooked chicken wings)
3. Marinade the chicken wings well. Cover and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours, or overnight.
4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400F.
5. Line a baking pan or broiler pan with parchment paper, and place the chicken wings on top (keep any leftover marinade for basting later). Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes - flipping the wings over twice and basting each time - until chicken wings turn crispy & golden.
6. Drizzle the reserved 2 tbsp of sauce over the cooked chicken wings and serve. [Alternatively, you can thicken the sauce by heating it in a small pot while the wings are roasting. First, mix 2 tsp of cornstarch with 1 tsp water. Then bring the sauce to a simmer, add in the cornstarch mixture, stir, and let simmer until you reach the desired consistency.]