Farewell old friend

26 Jan

The House of Chan has fallen.
Yesterday’s Chinatown fire ripped through our beloved childhood Chinese joint. As bulldozers demolished the blackened ruins of the two-storey red brick building, our heart broke.
True, the mostly-Cantonese buffet had long ago closed and had been replaced by a succession of others.
But during childhood, it was our family joint.
Past the mahogany roasted ducks hanging by their necks in the butcher’s window, through the red wooden doors, up the steep staircase, through the bamboo curtain the five of us went on Wednesdays or Sundays. The day of the week never mattered. The lure of the constantly topped up steam trays, while perfect for little kids, predictably wore off as our palates grew up along with us. After a decade, we simply stopped going.
The neon plastic sword-decorated Shirley Temples, won ton soup, sweet and sour spareribs, and thickly-battered egg rolls were easy to leave behind. But the chicken wings became the stuff of family legend. Hot from the fryer, they were crispy, dry, garlicky and salty. Our kid brother plowed through them like a small feral animal, typically leaving a mound of knawed bones so high our parents were forced to look elsewhere as waiters collected the plates.

 


The fresh, plump wings came straight from Chinatown butchers. Today’s pre-frozen and commercially-sauced pub wings aren’t in the same league.
The restaurant is gone for good now. The exotic fish tank, velvet wallpaper and smoky mirrors remain a hokey memory. But we miss the idea of having a family joint — a small place where the friendly owners greet you by name and no matter how sophisticated you consider yourself, you comfortably lapse into ordering the same dishes over and over again.

House of Chan was everything good Chinese food and custom is: family time spent sharing tasty favourites. (More early Chinese takeout tastes here.)

With nostalgia in mind, here are some memories…

DRY CRISPY GARLIC CHICKEN WINGS

4 lb/2 kg chicken wings
2 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
Oil spray
Place chicken wings on a tray and leave in the fridge for a few hours to dry. Or just use a paper towel to pat the wings dry.
Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions.
Preheat oven to 250F
Line a baking tray with foil and top with a rack. Spray the rack with oil spray.
Place wings in a ziplock bag. Add the baking powder and salt, then toss to coat evenly.
Place the wings on the baking tray in a single layer with the skin side up. They should just fit snugly. They will shrink when they cook as the the fat renders.
Place wings on the lower middle oven rack and bake for 30 minutes.
Move wings up to the upper middle rack and increase the oven temperature to 425F Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through.
Remove baking tray from the oven and let it stand for five minutes.

Season with a light shake of garlic powder/garlic salt blend. *We would love to try a scant shake of five spice powder.

Serve immediately.
____________________________

CHINESE CHICKEN BALLS
from Michael Smith

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, skin removed
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Few drops sesame oil
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 3 green onions, sliced

Fill an electric deep fryer with peanut or canola oil and heat to 365°. (I think I will try roasting these in oven).

Puree chicken, soy sauce, ginger, cornstarch, sesame oil and egg whites in a food processor until smooth. Add the carrots and green onion and whiz briefly just until stirred in but not pureed.

Using a pair of tablespoons form the chicken mixture into rough ball shapes. Carefully drop them into the fryer oil using one of the spoons to push the mixture off the other spoon. Fry until they are golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes depending on the size.

_________________________________________
RED SAUCE

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon water

2/3 cup pineapple juice

1/3 cup rice vinegar

1/3 cup light brown sugar

3 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon soy sauce

In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and water. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine pineapple juice, rice vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, and soy sauce and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir in cornstarch slurry and cook until thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

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