Thoughts on wings and sauce




Only a few days left before our annual Octoberfest and as I said before, we’re serving unlimited wings and unlimited beer. By this time, everything from top to bottom should have been planned out. We’re about 90% done with everything and I’m feeling really really good about the event.

Now, unli wings is not a new thing. It has been around for quite a while now but had only recently exploded. Just within a few kilometers from Benny’s Lounge, there are two places that serve unlimited wings. One is done daily and the other one is done twice a week. To be fair, Malabon is quite packed with dining establishments. Not as packed as say Maginhawa but definitely more than your average residential/semi-industrial area.

Now the only thing that I really need to do is come up with 10 different flavors. I took is as a no brainer. How hard is it to fry up some wings and make some sauce to go with it? Right? Chicken wings are saintly forgiving because of how good they naturally are. I could go on and on about why the wing is probably the best part of the chicken but that’s for another show. Maybe.

We’re pretty damn proud of our Original Benny Wing Sauce. It’s really, really good. To be fair, I really took time in developing that recipe and shortening it to make it viable for restaurant service. I won’t spend the same amount of time in each sauce as I did to our original sauce because I don’t have 20 weeks and to be perfectly honest, I’d rather focus my attention elsewhere.

That doesn’t mean we’re slacking or letting our mediocrity come through, no. The reason for this is because people have expectations and most of the people that will avail our Octoberfest 2018 promo have eaten flavored wings before and we want to appeal to what the people already know. Sure we can be “creative” and make like a Maple Guava Glaze, or a Mango Bourbon Sauce but be honest. You’ll probably just try it once and move on to buffalo, honey garlic, and bbq. Right? We want our customers to have the best chicken and beer experience possible. With that said, here are the initial proposed flavors.

Benny’s Original Buffalo
Honey Garlic
Honey Soy
Honey Butter
Teriyaki
Barbecue
XXXTra Hot
Sweet and Spicy
Chili Cheese
Salt and Pepper

Lots of honey based sauces, right? Yes, honey is not a cheap ingredient but we feel like it’s a must for chicken wings. Sweet sauces are always good with salty wings but the flavor of honey just compliments the wings in a way that any other sweet ingredient couldn’t.
Another recurring theme is the addition of a spicy element to the sauce. It’s a known fact that spicy food goes well with a good cold beer. Also, it’s a personal preference of mine. I really enjoy spicy foods and I really believe most people do too, just on different levels. Most of the ‘spicy’ sauces listed are purposely tamed to a safe level just so it can appeal to most people, except for the XXXtra Hot. I bet for at least once in your life, you’ve been warned by a server about the level of spiciness of a certain item that you are about to order but in reality it’s child’s play? Yeah. Won’t happen here. This one is really hot. Like, really damn hot. Like see you on the other side type of hot. Like welcome to hell type of hot. Like holy mother of dragons type of hot. Like that one summer noon where you’re waiting for a jeepney and the sun is kissing your skin and you try your best to avoid the rays but resistance is futile so you just accept your fate as a young toasty boy as you curse the sun for being the sun type of hot. You have been warned.

The other sauces like teriyaki, bbq, and honey soy is very typical in flavored wings. These sauces are almost always present in wing-centered establishments because they are all safe and familiar. Not to mention very, very easy to produce and hey, they go really well with wings.

Soon enough, I started developing the sauces. It really did not take very long cus of how easy and forgiving the sauces are. I let a few people taste the sauces, adjusted it a bit and soon enough, I was done. Or so I thought.

A conversation with the General Manager unearthed a very significant nugget of information about me which I never gave importance to but in reality, it meant the success of this event: I’ve actually never had an unli wings experience before. Yeah. Never. I’ve dined on several wing-centered establishments before and I deemed that enough experience but we all know there is a huge difference in providing and experiencing. A lot of things that is seen in the perspective of the customer is not seen in the perspective of the restaurant. Try as we may, we can never really emulate in our brains the experience of the real thing. There really is no reason for me not to try so as swift as the winds on the back side of our exhaust, I went ahead.

The shop offered 10 flavors as well and is very reasonably priced. I thought to myself that I can probably down 15-20 wings. Even with that amount, they’ll still have a bit of profit from me. Me being me, I tried to beat the system. I set out to eat the most wings humanly possible.

The wings were served. First, we got the best flavors: buttered, teriyaki, bbq, and chili cheese. I tried the buttered first since it’s the closest thing to unflavored and not surprisingly, it was good. Really good. Next was the bbq. The sauce looked thick and really really sweet. You can tell that the viscosity of the sauce mostly comes from the sugar rather than any kind of starch. I bit it and I felt like a teenage kid forcefully placed in a church choir. I don’t want any of this. It was too sweet and overpowering. I can’t taste the chicken anymore. It just tasted like sugar and catsup. Sadly, I need to finish it all. I moved on to the teriyaki and it’s mostly the same. I mean, yes, I said before that sweetness goes very well with fried chicken wings but for some reason, it doesn’t work well here.

Next, I tried the chili cheese. The cheese was bland… but it how it combined with the wings was good. I stopped for a bit. How can this bland sauce be the better choice over the two. I drank some water to refresh my palette and i tasted the sauce that collected on the bottom of the plate. The teriyaki and bbq actually tasted very good and cheese tasted mostly of nothing but milk and salt. I stared into space wondering why as my vision focused on the table across us.Two girls with unflavored wings on their plates. Then it made sense.

The plain wings was really really good. Simply good. Naturally good. To coat the wing with another sauce that is mediocre or equally tasting at best does not do the wing justice. Either you come up with a really amazing and thoughtful sauce or you tone down all the flavors way below what is expected. Purposely make a slightly under seasoned sauce and let the natural flavor of the wing shine through. This, however, does not mean that the sauce will be made cheaply with lesser quality or literally watered down. No. What I need to adjust is the level of salt and sugar. All other ingredients stay the same quantity. It also needs to be stated that the viscosity of the sauce plays a huge role. It should be thin enough to coat the wing by a thin film but thick enough for it to cling to the crevices made by the breading.

This, however, proposes another threat to us. Since we are purposely slightly under seasoning the sauce, we really need to make the wing spectacular. Yes, I said that wings are really forgiving and no matter how you fry it, it’ll taste good but we want our guests to have the best experience possible. We have to make amazing wings! But how does one do that? With an ingredient list of 3: wings, salt, pepper, how do you make it amazing? It’s a known cooking fact that the less ingredients there are in a recipe, the harder it is to perfect since there are no less ingredients to cover up for the lack of quality from the others.

I feel like it’s not gonna work if I add any ingredient beyond salt and pepper as a seasoning. We are serving 10 different flavors so the wings should be neutral BUT amazing. How does one do that?

Cooking, I believe, is mainly about controlling variables that you CAN control. In this case, we can control the overall quality of the raw wings (origin, size, freshness), the seasoning (salt, pepper), the breading (flour, cornstarch), the cooking utensils and methods (fryer, wok, oil), and the manner of cooking. Out of all of this, the one with the biggest impact and the most difficult to consistently achieve is the manner of cooking. Flour, salt, pepper, even the wings are mostly a given in this equation. They are the variables that are less likely to change very much if at all. I’m just rambling here. Basically my point is we need to cook the wings with as much love and care as we can give it. In the kitchen, it translates to sticking the thermometer on every (ok, maybe not every) wing that comes out of the oil and make sure that it’s a solid 155f.

That’s gonna be a challenge since we’re be cooking about 200 kg of wings. I’m now rethinking if this is really an easier task than making 11 different pulutans.

With everything considered, here is the final list of the flavors that will be served on our Octoberfest 2018 at Benny’s Lounge.

Benny’s Original Buffalo
Honey Garlic
General Tso’s
Butter
Teriyaki
Barbecue
XXXTra Hot
Sweet and Spicy
Chili Cheese
Salt and Pepper
Sweet Tamarind

We hope to see you here on October 19! The event will start at 8 pm but I suggest you come earlier to get your preferred seats. See you!


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