*** I've revised my recipe a bit. You can find that post here.
Looking back, life was pretty simple and easy for me during the Mid-Late Eighties through the Mid Nineties. Four times a week, I'd get off work and work-out with my Buddies, first at World Gym on the Ala Wai, later at The Gym in Kakaako. And at least once (and as many as four) times a week we'd grab dinner at Chicken Alice on Kapiolani Blvd, right outside of Ala Moana Center. Many a good "pau hana" started at "Alice", over her crunchy, slightly spicy wings, and ended up in my Buddies drive way, with jokes and conversations, after more than a few cold ones.
Then rather suddenly, Alice closed her Restaurants, and seemed to have disappeared. And a piece of me evaporated along with those wings....
Flash forward a decade later, and I've been periodically checking the Internet to see if anybody has a reasonable facsimile of Alice's chicken recipe. Well there it was, in black and white; written up in the Honolulu Star Bulletin. And along with the story of Chicken Alice, was the recipe for those awesome wings! I was so thrilled, but then something brought me crashing to Earth:
You see, according to the article "The key ingredient is Parks brand kim chee sauce -- made locally and used primarily as the base for kim chee." This is something that you pretty much won't find on the Mainland; I was crushed; so close, yet still thousands of miles away! Enter Reid, of 'Ono Kine Grindz. I had made a passing comment to him about the sauce, and before you knew it, he had sent me two bottles of Parks brand Kim Chee sauce in a styrofoam cooler, and kept it cold using freezer gel packs! Talk about resourceful!
So what's in the Kim Chee sauce? According to the bottle, it's Chili Pepper, Garlic, Fish Sauce, Salt, Sugar, MSG, Paprika, and Ginger. What a combo! I got down to cooking right away, using the recipe from the article; right here.
So how did it turn out? Well I found it to be a bit on the mild side, and not salty enough, though the crispy stickiness was still there; and the color looked right. Also, the flavoring was just a bit "off".
So, armed with that experience, I made my adjustments, and came up with this recipe:
1/2 cup Parks brand kim chee sauce
3 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons salt
2-1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups water
Combine kim chee sauce, garlic, salt and flour. Add water gradually, enough to make a thick batter, about the consistency of pancake batter.
Add chicken pieces to batter, mix well and marinate in refrigerator overnight.
Heat oil to 350 degrees.Deep-fry chicken pieces until chicken rises to surface and coating is deep brown.It's important to keep the oil at this temperature in order to assure the perfect crisp coating.
So you're wondering what it looks like, right?
I was amazed at how the color turned out; just a tad "lighter" than I remember, but close enough. The crunchy, slight stickiness was there. And the taste was nice and a mild-medium spicy. The changes I made; more garlic; more salt; a bit more water; and especially marinating overnight, instead of the 2-3 hours in the recipe did the trick. The chicken was still tasty and a bit crunchy 4 hours later, just like it used to be. Though it seemed the batter was thicker than I remembered, even though I added a bit more H2O.
My tastes had changed over the last decade; I'm now used to really spicy Sichuan Food, among other things, and though Alice's Chicken doesn't thrill me like it used to, it's still darn good. But the memories are what this was really all about. Sitting down, munching on wonderful memories, my mind was a thousand miles away to a place and time when things were alot simpler, and time seemed to pass at a less frenetic pace, even if just for a few moments, made the decade long quest worth while.
Mahalo Reid, I'm forever in your debt!