CHICKEN NUGGETS WITH CHARACTER. With crunch and fierce chiles. With oomph. Nuggets that challenge you to rethink nuggets. That’s what this recipe from Paul Qui, Moto Utsonomaya, and Ek Timrek gets you. It uses the Japanese cooking technique karaage, where poultry or meat is marinated, dusted with a starch, and then fried. The herbs are key here. Don’t stint. As for the chile sauce, if you can’t find the brand suggested, you can substitute another Thai sauce so long as it’s sweetened with palm sugar.
SERVES 4 TO 6
1 cup Asian fish sauce 1 cup distilled white vinegar 1 cup granulated sugar 1 head garlic, peeled and minced 4 Thai chiles, coarsely chopped 1 cup chile sauce, preferably Mae Ploy brand 6 skinless boneless chicken thighs (about 1 pound total), cut into chunks ½ cup cornstarch
Cilantro, mint, and basil sprigs, for garnish Lime slices, for garnish
Place the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic, Thai chiles, and 1 cup of water in a large mixing bowl and stir to mix. Place ½ cup of the fish sauce mixture in a small mixing bowl. Add the chile sauce, stir to mix well, cover the bowl, and place it in the refrigerator. You’ll use this as sauce for the cooked chicken. Let the sauce return to room temperature before using.
Add the chunks of chicken to the large mixing bowl and stir to coat them well with the fish sauce mixture. Cover the bowl and let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
Place the cornstarch in a shallow bowl. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shake off the excess liquid, and discard the marinade. Dredge the chicken in the cornstarch.
Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches into a cast-iron skillet and heat over high heat until it registers 350°F on a deep fry thermometer. Working in batches and being careful not to overcrowd the skillet, carefully add the chicken to the hot oil and cook, turning once, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to paper towels to drain.
Place the onion, jalapeños, and drained chicken in a mixing bowl and stir to mix. Add the reserved sauce and generously toss the chicken mixture with it and season with salt to taste. Garnish the chicken with the cilantro, mint, basil sprigs, and the lime slices.
1618½ East 6th Street, Austin, Texas
EAST SIDE KING
Every musician needs a diverting side project, a band that allows him to put aside his oboist day job and, say, rip through the Hoodoo Gurus catalog. That same logic applies to a cadre of chefs from Uchi, the hip and genre-defining Austin sushi restaurant. Late in 2009 three of those chefs opened a punk rock concession stand behind the Liberty bar in east Austin. The team consists of Paul Qui, a chef de cuisine at Uchi, along with
sushi chefs Moto Utsonomaya and Ek Timrek. Their fare is crisp sweetbreads with kimchi. And a salad of deep-fried brussels sprouts. And cucumber kimchi-garnished pork buns, inspired by Paul’s stint at Momofuku in New York.
This is late-night grub, cooked after the boys close down Uchi. They work in a trailer with two flat tires that looks like it’s been tagged by an early career Basquiat. Appropriate to the carnival-of-drunks vibe that defines the back patio at the Liberty, all food, prepared by an interchangeable crew of the three sushi vets, hits the bar-top tables served in tinfoil-wrapped cardboard boats of county fair corn dog provenance.