What Are Sweet and Sour Wings?

A.M. Boyle
A.M. Boyle

Sweet and sour wings is a culinary dish in which chicken wings are paired with a sauce that has both a sugary and tangy quality. People prepare this dish in a variety of different ways. It can be served as either an appetizer or main dish.

Sweet and sour wings may be served as an appetizer or main dish.
Sweet and sour wings may be served as an appetizer or main dish.

Originating from Asian cuisine, sweet and sour wings combine two contrasting tastes in a unique and tantalizing manner. Typically, chefs either coat the wings in a specialized mixture while cooking or cook the wings separately to later be dipped into a sweet and tangy sauce. The wings themselves can be left whole or separated at the joint so that each wing actually creates two pieces. Whether the wings are separated or not, most cooks prefer to remove the pointy tips.

The key to sweet and sour wings is the sauce, which must contain a tasteful balance of both sweet and tart flavors. For the most part, chefs uniformly create the sour taste with vinegar, preferring white or cider vinegars over red or balsamic. On the other hand, cooks can use a host of different ingredients to create the sweet flavor in the sauce. For instance, some people simply use either white or brown sugar, while others prefer the fruity taste of grape jelly or apricot preserves. Still others opt for the natural taste of honey or molasses.

Some recipes for sweet and sour wings require that the sauce be added directly. Usually, people deep-fry, pan fry, or bake the wings before coating them with the sauce. Oftentimes, chefs cook the wings again after the sauce is added so that the flavor has a chance to set and adhere to the chicken. Occasionally, chefs will batter dip the chicken before frying so that the sauce, once applied, can soak into the batter, giving the wings a more intense flavor.

Certain recipes for sweet and sour wings don’t use the sauce during cooking at all. Instead, people prepare the mixture for dipping the wings after they are cooked. For this style of recipe, the chicken is typically coated with a selection of spices or tasty batter to give them a little more stand-alone flavor before they are dunked into the sauce.

Many times, chefs add different twists to their sweet and sour wings to make them even more distinctive. For instance, when cooking the wings with the sauce, some chefs throw in chopped scallions, sesame seeds, or crushed peanuts. In addition, to give the dish a more Asian flare, many cooks include spices such as ginger and soy sauce. Additionally, some cooks add a bit of cayenne pepper or hot sauce to give the wings an extra spicy kick.

This dish is versatile enough to be served as either an appetizer or a main course. If being used as an entree, a side of rice or sautéed vegetables will generally complement the plate very nicely. Regardless of how the sweet and sour wings are presented, plenty of napkins should usually be included.

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    • Sweet and sour wings may be served as an appetizer or main dish.
      Sweet and sour wings may be served as an appetizer or main dish.