Sunday, September 25, 2011

fish sauce drumsticks

mmm, these drumsticks are pretty great, i have to say. i've made them three times in the last couple of weeks, which is really saying something because generally the only thing i make that frequently is bean & cheese tacos (the house go-to for quick simple dinners).

they were inspired by the fish sauce chicken wings at pok pok, which is a pretty well-known thai place here in portland. people go nuts for those things, which is justifiable, because they are delicious. i wanted to try to do a similar thing but with drumsticks and without deep frying. this is because drumsticks are a little meatier and less pointless than chicken wings and because i am afraid of deep frying.

drumsticks are pretty cheap, too, even when you buy cuddled-to-death free range ones. for these pictures, i used the toaster oven because it was hot at the time. i have to really recommend that you use a regular oven though - it does a much better job crisping the skin.

so roast some drumsticks at 400 for about 40 minutes. i salt and pepper them a little bit first.

while that's going on, you can make the delicioso glaze/sauce.

this was what i used for the first batch. it was great, but i subsequently used brown sugar instead and i think that was better. brown sugar has molasses in it, which seems to caramelize better and add a little bitter note that is really good. i also added a tablespoon of honey in a subsequent batch and that's also something you should do.

first, chop up a couple of cloves of garlic. this is going to be fried in a little olive oil and will add some crunch at the end, so you don't want to totally mince it up all tiny. just get it into smallish chunks, like this (i should have put a quarter or something in there as scale. this is a large plate):

fry the garlic in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil - i set the heat on medium and let the oil get hot, add the garlic, and stir pretty much continuously until it gets nice and golden. you have to get it out of there pretty quickly after that to make sure it doesn't burn. i just use a spatula or spoon, but if you have a tiny sieve or something it might work better. you can save the oil for some other use - it will be nicely garlicky.

set the crispy garlic and the oil aside and you can use the same pan to make the glaze. it consists of 1/2 a lime's worth of zest and juice, another couple of cloves of garlic, either minced very fine or (preferably) grated on a microplane, about 1/3 cup of fish sauce, 1/4 - 1/3 cup brown sugar, a tablespoon of honey, and a teaspoon or more of sriracha and some chili flakes, if you're so inclined. cook this all together on medium heat, stirring often. it will start to boil pretty rapidly and get all caramelly. let it cook down a bit and get thick - maybe 6 or 7 minutes.

if you happen to be lucky enough to have a thermometer that isn't broken and half-filled with water, that's the best way to determine whether your chicken is done. otherwise, do the usual clear-juices-not-pink thing and hope you don't get food poisoning! good luck!

once the drumsticks are pretty much done and the skin is all nice and crispy, toss them in a large bowl with the glaze and the fried garlic bits (or you could pour the glaze on the pan and try to roll them around in it. this doesn't really work as well, though). then place them back in the pan and cook them a bit more so the glaze bakes in nicely - maybe another 10 minutes or so. i find that it's hard to seriously overcook drumsticks - they generally will stay pretty moist.

finally, sprinkle those puppies with some chopped cilantro and have at it. we've had them with salad, with rice and roasted broccoli, and on their own. each time they were delicious, but i think the rice and roasted broccoli were the best accompaniment, not least because you can roast the broccoli at the same time as the drumsticks.

this picture makes them look a little anemic, but when you are smart enough to roast them in a real oven they get really deeply caramelized, which is better. trust me.


~ 1 lb chicken drumsticks (6 or so)
1/2 a lime's worth of zest and juice
3-4 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup of fish sauce
1/4 - 1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon (or so) honey (optional, but wonderfully sticky)
a teaspoon or more of sriracha and some chili flakes (optional)
cilantro (optional)


  1. This looks great! I wonder how palm sugar would work? Don't know how well it caramelizes, but since I've really gotten into Thai cooking I've finally stopped using brown sugar as a substitute. It makes a difference.

  2. i'm sure palm sugar would be great. i just never remember to get any when i go to the proper stores. thanks for the reminder!

  3. i can't stop thinking about these...

  4. mmm, me too. i wish i was eating some for dinner tonight! sadly, it is not to be.