Just a warning …. Short recipe but long post.
While the other half of the world is going nuts over the arrival of strawberries and rhubarb, in this part of the world things are looking up for mangoes, durians, longans, mangosteens, rambutans and many summer fruits that start appearing in the markets just about now. Many tropical fruits are just stunning – the way they swell up when they’re ready for the taking and the phenomanal aroma that permeates the air as they ripen beckon you to stop, sniff and admire them.
For some, mangoes conjure up memories of mango margaritas and something from a tin can but for me, they remind me of two cherished memories I have of eating mangoes from that time I was volunteering for an NGO in Mumbai. I was in my mid-twenties, still in university and all I had was some spending money and a zeal to travel parts of West India on my own. On one of those blazing summer days, I’d decided that I should take up some yoga during my spare time at a yoga school near Santa Cruz railway station. I hadn’t yet decided to sign up for the course even after I had finished my trial. However, upon ending the trial, I packed up to head back and walked to the railway station and on that walk to the station I had decided that I’ll sign up for the month long course. It wasn’t the yoga school nor the lessons which sealed the deal- it was mangoes.
The area just outside Santa Cruz station housed many wholesalers who were exporting Alphonso mangoes to international markets. This was before the import ban on Indian mangoes a few years ago. Anyways, there were rows and rows of mango wholesalers and each store probably had hundreds and thousands of mangoes in boxes and crates. Imagine walking past lines of neatly arranged Alphonso mangoes… all buxom and intensely fragrant. To call it mango heaven may not be such an overstatement.
I distinctly recall the very first moment I’d laid eyes on them. Barely out of the yoga school, I stood transfixed at the side of the street staring at the employees packing the mangoes in protective styrofoam nets and carefully arranging them into boxes boldly labelled ‘For Export’. Each mango was slightly larger than your palm and heavy – a sign of a fully ripened Alphonso and its intensely turmeric hue made it all the more alluring to the senses. And dare I say that in terms of aroma and taste, no other mango variety comes close to the Alphonso – its flesh is denser than any other mango variety I’ve tried and each bite is velvety smooth, sweet and delicious. Juices running down your hands and forearm as you rip into its flesh is part of the experience because, just like eating ice lollies, the fun is in making sure nothing drips onto the ground.
So, each week, I used to look forward to yoga so that I could gawk at mangoes, haggle with the salesman and buy a lovely mango for 30-40 rupees , if memory serves me well, come back home to Bandra and devour the whole gorgeous fruit on my own. Each time was equally intense as the previous.
The other memory associated with mangoes was when I was in a Baroda, Gujerat for the same above mentioned volunteer work. I was sent to Baroda to look after a group of young boys who’d been sent to the boarding school there. On one of the afternoons when the boys had decided to skip classes ( obviously I wasn’t doing a great job looking after them!), they gestured for me to walk over to a mango tree just outside the school compound. One of the boys pointed to a ripened mango on the tree and then immediately after, took a small stone he had in his hand and aimed at it. On his first try he managed to hit the small branch that held the mango and the ripe fruit fell to the ground. It was only slightly bruised from its fall and then, what happened next changed my life – he showed me how to gently roll the fruit between my palms till all the pulp became somewhat liquefied, nick the top and suck on the pure mango juice. I’m not sure if it was the simplicity of the experience of sucking on mangoes in a quaint Indian village or that the fruit had just fallen off the tree- that has to be the most memorable and intense mango laden experience of my life! The boys were amused at having shown a grownup the simple joys of sucking fresh mango juice and I felt like a kid again to experience something new from something familiar.
These baked mango chilli wings will have you feeling like a kid again – from licking off the sticky, sweet, spicy mango sauce from your fingers while you reach for another piece. They’re incredibly crispy even though they aren’t deep fried and ridiculous addictive because who can say no to chicken wings smothered in sauce?
I had bought one too many mangoes so had to find ways of using them up. Sticking to my love for spices, I added just a touch of ground spices that complement the fresh mango taste and at the end the zest of a kaffir (market) lime and flecks of fresh red chilli awaken the bright mango flavour. I wanted the mango flavour to come through obviously so I opted not to add any other hot sauce as this is not a buffalo wing – type recipe. Marinating the chicken injects more flavour ‘inside’ the meat rather than only the flavour from the sauce on the outside and keeping them uncovered in the fridge dries out the chicken resulting in a crisp skin. The rice flour coating for the chicken creates little crunchy bits sticking to the skin which helps the mango sauce adhere to the skin better. I was pleasantly surprised by how crispy the skin was and the trick is to use baking powder which draws the moisture to the surface and helps creates little bubbles on the skin.
Though the sauce is a little sweet from the mango, the ginger-garlic paste, spices, lime juice and zest make it more savoury than sweet. On my second round of recipe testing, I decided to add lime zest just before serving and that made a huge difference – the pop of colour and fresh flavour elevated the overall taste. I’ve used both alphonso and thai mangoes when recipe testing and they both work well. Thai mangoes are sweeter and have a less pronounced mango flavour whereas alphonso mangoes have a stronger mango taste. Add honey to the sauce only if mangoes aren’t sweet enough or if like the sauce to be a little sticky, which I tend to favour. As the chicken takes close to an hour to cook till crisp, I baked a large 1 kilo batch as it justified the oven time. However, the recipe works great halved as well, on the rare occasion when you think lesser chicken wings should suffice!
Crispy Baked Chicken Wings in Mango Chilli Sauce
Dry Marination/ Oven Fry
- 900grams – 1 kilogram chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats, discard tip
- 1.5 teaspoon sea salt / chicken powder
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1.5 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 cup rice flour
Mango Chilli Sauce
- 1.5 cups fresh mango pulp
- 1-2 tsp sea alt
- 1 tbsp red chilli powder
- 2-3 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 2 teaspoons coriander powder
- pinch of garam masala
- 2 tbsp honey (optional)
- Every mix chicken drumettes and flats in sea salt/ chicken powder , chilli powder, garlic powder and baking powder. Place chicken pieces flat on a tray and leave to marinate in fridge , overnight, uncovered on.
- Next day, preheat oven to 120ºC / 250ºF, fan forced and bring marinated chicken pieces to room temperature. Lightly coat chicken pieces in rice flour and lay each chicken piece flat on a baking rack (to allow for air circulation all around) that is on a lined baking tray. Bake at 120ºC/ 250ºF , fan forced for 20-30 mins and then at 200 ºC/ 392ºF for another 30 minutes till very crispy.
- Meanwhile, add all ingredients for mango sauce into a saucepan and boil for about 10 minutes till ginger-garlic paste is cooked. Check for seasoning. Cool completely.
- Once chicken wings are done, using tongs carefully remove from baking rack and toss in cooled mango sauce before serving. Add finely chopped red chilli and fresh lime/kaffir lime zest on top.
Finger-licking good chicken wings that beg to be eaten with cold beer and company. This has become our regular weekend beer food as it requires very little stove time and hence, maximum couch time.