Thursday, June 23, 2011

Grilled Lemongrass Chicken Wings

Since my lemongrass has been growing rampant in my little container garden, I decided to thin it out and do something with it.  My mom used to make a fish sauce marinade for pork that went with her bun thit nuong.  Bun thit nuong is a cold Vietnamese noodle dish that consists of marinated grilled pork, vermicelli noodles, an assortment of thinly shredded lettuce, cucumber, sprouts, pickled carrots and daikon, coarsely ground roasted peanuts, mint and a nuoc mam cham vinagrette.  It's a really refreshing rice noodle salad that replaces my pho cravings in the summer.  Unfortunately, I have yet to find a restaurant in San Diego that measures up to my mom's bun thit nuong.  The grilled pork is just never quite right.
My mom's marinade for her grilled pork was savory, citrusy and slightly sweet.  I didn't have all the ingredients for bun thit nuong, but I did have a huge bag of frozen chicken wings. While the wings defrost in a bowl of cold water in the sink, I began pounding together the ingredients for my marinade.  Unfortunately, I didn't pay that much attention to what my mom threw into her marinade or even the measurements for that matter.  So I kinda winged it.  I tasted and adjusted until I finally got it close enough.  So here's the recipe for my Grilled Lemongrass Chicken Wings, which is inspired by my mom's Bun Thit Nuong.  My measurements are not exact, but hey, it's close enough.

Grilled Lemongrass Chicken Wings
10-12 chicken wings
2 cloves garlic
4-5 stalks fresh lemongrass, white parts only and minced
1 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp nuoc mam (fish sauce)
1 tsp sesame oil
juice from 1/2 lime

With a mortar and pestle, pound together the garlic, lemongrass, and sugar.  A food processor will do if you don't have a mortar and pestle.  
In a small bowl, combine the lemongrass mixture with the nuoc mam, sesame oil and lime juice.  Rinse the chicken wings and pat dry.  In a large bowl or freezer bag, toss the chicken wings with the marinade until completely coated and marinate for at least 4 hours.  Re-toss the wings every hour or so to get them to marinate evenly.
Fire up the grill and cook the chicken wings for about 15 minutes each side or until the meat closest to the bone is no longer pink.

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