Nombe, a modern izakaya in San Francisco's Mission District, got its name from the Japanese word for someone who quaffs with gusto. As such, its roster of small plates is best enjoyed with drinks. These alarmingly good chicken wings epitomize the idea. Their secret: Chef Nick Balla coats the wings in rice flour before he plunges them into the fryer, then tosses them in a sweet-sour-spicy sauce made with honey, lime juice and ichimi togarashi (Japanese pepper flakes). They're a snack that makes you crave a cold beverage and wish you'd made more.
Honey-Togarashi Chicken Wings
Recipe adapted from Nick Balla, Nombe, San Francisco
Yield: 4 servings
2½ pounds whole chicken wings, separated at the joint
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup rice flour (such as Bob's Red Mill brand)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying
¾ cup honey
¾ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons fish sauce
¼ cup scallion, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
¼ cup thinly sliced serrano chile (with or without seeds)
1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons ichimi togarashi or red pepper flakes
1½ teaspoons minced garlic
¼ cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
¼ cup mint leaves, torn
1. In a large bowl, mix the chicken wings with the buttermilk. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours.
2. Place the wings in a strainer and drain for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350˚ and line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the rice flour with the cornstarch, flour and salt; toss the wings in the rice-flour mixture until well coated. Bake the wings on the prepared baking sheets until they are cooked through and the rice-flour breading is dry, about 20 to 25 minutes. Discard the remaining flour.
4. In a large bowl, whisk the honey with the lime juice, fish sauce, scallion, serrano chile, salt, ichimi togarashi and garlic. Set aside.
5. In a deep fryer or deep, heavy pot, heat the vegetable oil to 350˚. Working in batches, fry the wings until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes per batch. Transfer the wings to a paper-towel-lined plate and repeat with the remaining chicken.
6. Toss the wings in the honey-lime sauce and transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with the herbs and any sauce that remains in the bowl. Serve immediately.