The Dish: Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker

Andy Ricker grew up in North Carolina and New England, but his culinary education came from thousands of miles away. Thirty years ago, as a backpacking traveler, he became enchanted by Thailand and its remarkable food culture. He brought the region’s cooking secrets home and founded his first Pok Pok restaurant in Portland, Oregon. The intense, authentic flavors were a revelation and won him two James Beard Awards and a Michelin star. He now runs a food empire that includes restaurants in Portland, New York and Los Angeles.

Here are some of Ricker’s signature recipes: 

Ike’s Vietnamese Fish-Sauce Wings 

Marinade ingredients

1 ounce peeled garlic 

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup warm water

1/2 cup Vietnamese fish sauce

1/2 cup super-fine sugar

Directions

1. Very finely chop the garlic, sprinkle on the salt, then chop the two together for 15 seconds or so. Scrape the mixture into small bowl, add the 1/4 cup of warm water, and let it sit for a few minutes. 

2. Set a fine-mesh strainer over another bowl, pour the garlic mixture into the strainer (or squeeze the mixture in cheesecloth over the bowl), and use the back of a spoon to stir and smoosh the garlic to extract as much liquid as you can. Reserve the garlic. Add the fish sauce and sugar to the bowl and stir until the sugar has fully dissolved. You should have 1 cup of liquid. 

3. Put the chicken wings in a large mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup of the fish sauce mixture, reserving the rest, and toss well with your hands. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or as long as overnight, tossing every hour or so.

4. Meanwhile, pour enough oil into a small pan to reach a depth of 3/4 inch or so and set it over high heat until it shimmers. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a heatproof bowl. Test whether the oil is hot enough: as soon as a piece of garlic added to the oil bubbles right away, add the rest. Decrease the heat to medium-low (you don’t want to rush the process with high heat), and stir once or twice. Cook the garlic just until it’s evenly light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Strain the garlic, reserving the flavorful oil for another purpose. Gently shake the strainer, then transfer the garlic in more or less one layer to paper towels to drain and cool. You should have 2 tablespoons of fried garlic. It keeps in an airtight container at room temperature for a day or two.

Wings ingredients

Vegetable oil for deep frying

1 cup white rice flour 

1/4 cup tempura batter mix

1/4 cup water

1 to 2 teaspoons roasted chile paste

2…

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