A few weeks again, I was ordering lunch at a seafood joint in Alexandria, Virginia after I spied a mainly named appetizer, “bang-bang” shrimp. As a pupil of Chinese cooking, I recognized the name, so I gave it an attempt.
What appeared numerous mins later had been deep-fried prawns tossed in a creamy combination of garlic, ginger, floor chilies, and mayonnaise. Sure, the call of this increasingly famous dish evokes an extraordinary ode to explosive Asian heat, however irrespective of how scrumptious the snack can be, Chinese cooks would be confounded. Deep-fried? Mayonnaise? Spicy? Heck, in China, no matter its fiery name, “bang-bang” does not even talk over with flavor!
Sometimes a Chinese dish is known as for its evocative appearance (“lion’s head” meatballs), at times for beautiful folklore (“barbarian head” buns), and in some fantastic examples, for the sound made while the meals are being organized. Bang bang hen’s name derives from the age-antique noise of a baton smacking a whole cooked hen, breaking it into serving quantities, wherein a kitchen cleaver simply wouldn’t reduce it (evenly). Chicken busted up in the sort of style is certainly bang bang, with or without a dressing. Over the centuries, however, the mythical name has come to mean the fully dressed masterpiece with a signature sauce.
Traditionally, the 5 flavors in Chinese cookery are salty, bitter, sweet, spicy and sour. Where an unmarried meal has to gift a balance of these factors, it’s excellent whilst a single sauce embraces all 5, and in a humble street snack at that. Today, wherein maximum bang bang chicken providers promote from name-logo stalls at morning markets, their history runs deep. Ingenious Southwestern chefs throughout the Ming Dynasty struck alchemy: simply poached hen and a combination of soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, chili oil, Sichuan peppercorn, and sesame paste. Virtually every current bang bang seller has a unique twist on the formulation, but the components and normal impact remain. (And, if you’re questioning, it’s quite different from Laotian bang bang sauce, which doesn’t include a creamy element.)
When I started my China wandering within the Nineties, I loved more than my fill of devilishly spicy Sichuan specialties. But the first time I tried a nicely dressed bang bang chicken, it was as though my palate had abruptly graduated from grammar school, skipped excessive faculty totally and turned into now enlisted in Sichuan University. My understanding of Sichuan delicacies moved from the concept of the stereotypical incendiary fare to the appreciation of it as a wealthy and complex delicacies that simply so befell to every now and then burn the tongue from your mouth. There is hardly every other Chinese sauce that evokes such perfection: spicy however not burning, sweet however no longer cloying, bitter however now not disarming, sour but not puckering, salty but no longer oceanic.
A decade later, whilst backpacking around Sichuan Province, I discovered my manner to Dave’s Oasis, a foreigner’s safe haven within the heart of the capital, Chengdu. The owner, Dave Fan, became a wide-ranging resource for the lost. If you wish an entry permit for Tibet, guidelines on navigating the pre-cellphone urban jungle or just an ice-cold Snow beer, Fan becomes your man and his Oasis become your oasis. On an average day, well before fusion was an element, Fan would be whipping up map tofu pizza, cheeseburger fried rice or my favored, grilled bang bang fowl.
Fan became born and raised in Chengdu, however grilling the beef could be seen as heretical in Chinese gastronomy, where retaining the person of a man or woman factor is sacrosanct and poaching or steaming fowl is the ultimate in preservation. Though examples abound of grilled snacks inside the Chinese road meals playbook, overlaying the flavor of expertly charred meat with some thing more than a dry dusting of spice, or maybe chili oil, is properly outside of the norm. And, within the case of Fan’s bang-bang bird, genius. As Fan said, “Every delicacy has its strengths. We can examine a lot by teaming them up!”
I’m quite certain Fan changed into just experimenting at the grill that day, however, it left an indelible mark on my thoughts and my palate. Most of my barbeque slatherings from cookouts beyond sang an unmarried note of sweet, bitter or spicy with perhaps a chunk of overlap. Bang bang sauce changes the song by using bringing alongside sour and salty for best harmony. And frankly, the origin tale gives a remarkable story the following time you’ve got parents over for an outdoor shindig.
By the way, in case you’re going to name it bang bang, at the least make sure to present the chook a terrific pounding. Gotta make some noise.