Andy Ricker’s deep-fried, fish-sauce-dressed chicken wings have been called one of the best restaurant dishes in America, and the chef even won a James Beard Award for his Thai cooking at his Portland restaurant, Pok Pok. Ricker’s planning to open a full-blown Pok Pok outpost in Red Hook, but until then, heat seekers and wing lovers can get a preview at Pok Pok Wing, located in the old Baohaus space at 137 Rivington Street (212-477-1299). And as hyped as the wings are, we’ve gotta admit it: This is some damn good chicken.
The menu at Pok Pok wing is notably brief. You can get either plain or spicy wings for $12.49 (for six full wings, drumstick included), papaya salad for $8.50, khao man som tam (a/k/a shredded pork over rice) for $10.50, coconut rice for $2.50, sticky rice for $2, and roasted peanuts for $5. To drink, there are Pok Pok’s signature drinking vinegars (available in tamarind, apple, honey, or pomegranate) and Stumptown coffee.
The wings come with pickles and assorted herbs (including rau ram!) and are actually a huge portion. To make the wings, Ricker marinates the chicken in sugar, garlic, and fish sauce, then deep-fries them and finishes them with more garlic and a caramelized fish sauce. The result is both savory and sweet and most certainly sticky. You’re going to want to get these for your Super Bowl party — promise.
That said, just eating the chicken can be a bit intense, and that’s where the papaya salad comes in. A classic Northern Thai preparation, with shredded green papaya, long beans, tomatoes, peanuts, chiles, and a limey dressing. It’s tangy and spicy and pairs really well with the wings.
And if you want to go for an all-out pig fest, there’s the pork-topped rice. Probably our least favorite of the three dishes, it features pork cooked in palm sugar and dark soy until fork-tender. Served over coconut rice, it’s showered with fried shallots and cilantro sprigs. It was good, don’t get us wrong, but not chicken good.
If you don’t like green papaya salad, the drinking vinegars can help cut through some of the richness, being a tonic that’s both tart and cleansing. We tried the pomegranate and apple and would probably choose the pomegranate again as the apple reminded us too much of that time we went on a cider vinegar diet.
So there you go. Believe the hype. Go forth and eat some wings.