#104 | Fried Chicken Chronicles
“Father and mother, please don’t worry about me,” then eleven-year-old Chanin Wibunrungrueang wrote while trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand’s Chiang Rai province five years ago. “I am fine. Please take me to eat fried chicken after this. I love you.”
It’s hardly surprising that one of the boys was craving barbecued pork, or that others asked for pad kra pao upon being liberated after more than two harrowing weeks, but fried chicken? In Thailand?
Yes, you may find on the streets of Bangkok a vendor selling chicken deconstructed, marinated, skewered, and grilled. You’ll likely come across someone dealing exotic edible bugs (expect to pay for the right to take photos), like the ones that Victor Limary and Jocelyn Chao of Talin Market declined to eat on last week’s episode of The Amazing Race. Often, you will also find someone with a large wok full of blistering oil, deftly dipping plastic-gloved hands full of marinated chicken into and out of a large bin of flour while customers anxiously crowd around. It’s a bit messy to dip bites in and out of the plastic bag of sweet chile sauce that sometimes accompanies it—but worth it.
Chanin may have been craving KFC, but the street vendors are more likely doing Hat Yai style than Southern fried. Derek Rugsaken of Southeast by Southwest featured Hat Yai fried chicken in an Open Kitchen class last year, but we’re not sure if or where it’s popped up in New Mexico since then.
Nonetheless, the opportunities for locally fried chicken are many. There’s the karaage at Naruto; the sticky, sweet, and spicy Korean fried chicken at K Style Kitchen; Frank’s Famous Fried Chicken & Waffles, best taken with syrup and hot sauce; the NM Hot Chicken at Nexus Brewery (they’re not kidding, so go Southern if you’ve got a tender tongue and/or tummy); and, not least, crispy wings dressed in garlicky honey or any of more than a dozen rubs and sauces at the sweetly run Wing It Up—and that’s just in Albuquerque.
Then, of course, there’s the beloved fried chicken at Santa Fe’s Horno. Sources with high standards have reported favorably on the fried chicken and waffles at Dolina Cafe & Bakery. And a recent sampling suggests that Richie B’s Hot Chicken, coming soon to Capital Coal Neighborhood Eatery in Santa Fe, will be worth waiting in line for.
Chicken is complicated, of course. And while we’ve heard the argument that some household budgets require it, we do not endorse the routine buying of rotisserie chickens at Costco. We do not suggest you eat ninety-nine pounds of fried chicken in a year, or even in three. But. If something in your life leads you to feel a little bit like you’ve just emerged from a cave, alive, blessed be the earth, well, then, we won’t begrudge you the satisfaction of a little fried chicken.
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Writing of Lumpini Park, cookbook author Leela Punyaratabandhu notes that she doesn’t take the subway there because it’s one of Bangkok’s greener places, nor to exercise. “My heart is in fried chicken, and that fried chicken is in the alleyway across the street from the gate.” Her destination, Polo Fried Chicken, fries marinated half chickens without batter, and we trust her that it is fantastic. Her take on their recipe can be found in Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand. But if you don’t want fried chicken, or you’re on strict orders not to eat it, she offers this easy peasy not so greasy recipe for a red curry stir-fry that can be made with whatever protein suits you.
Entrances & Exits
Time to buy freshly roasted green chile is running out. Last we checked, you could still get it at Chile Konnection, Rosales Produce, Big Jim Farms, and the Fruit Basket in Albuquerque. In Santa Fe, Fred’s Socorro Chile Stand predicts this will be their last week. Today you should also be able to buy some (although the organizers are hedging their promises) at the Great New Mexico Chile Taste-Off in Socorro. If you worry about fakery, smuggling, and such when it comes to your chile, know that only New Mexico certified growers are eligible for the competition. It’s too late to sign up as a judge, but we suspect there will be plenty of opportunities for armchair judging, debating between Hatch and Lemitar (and Pueblo, if you dare), and trying to outdo one another’s top chile memories.
Mulas Street Food is a new food truck, parking a menu of tortas, tacos, and quesadillas across from Ex Novo Brewing in Corrales. This seems to be a tease teasing out Debajo Tapas Y Vino’s grander tease for a soon-to-come restaurant “by Correleños for Corraleños.” If you want to get into the Corrales revival now, consider dropping by the Corrales Growers’ Market tomorrow morning. It’s sweet and mellow, and afterward you can swing by Fancies Bakery, Market & Cafe and let us know if we should add their chicken and waffles to our Fried Chicken Index.
Strawberry Shortcrepe, anyone? In our confusion and sadness over the demise of Santa Fe’s Opuntia, we forgot to let you know that much-loved southside crepes-and-more spot Crepas-oh! oh-pened (sorry) last month at the Railyard next to La Lecheria, and you don’t even have to climb the stairs to get there.
We’ve been thinking a lot about processed food, and with all that’s been written on the subject lately you might be doing the same. But all processing is not created equal. To wit: stomping grapes to make wine carries none of the nutrient-nullifying power of industrial food making (though it might not be entirely free of unwanted additives). You can get in on this ancient practice yourself this weekend at the Las Golondrinas Santa Fe Harvest Festival, an event overflowing with history and harvesty activities. Kids are free; buy tickets in advance.
Leaf peeping at Ski Santa Fe is pretty magical on its own, but those craving further sensory indulgence might consider venturing northward to NOSA this weekend. A 6:30 seating tonight (still available at this writing) includes pork-and-pistachio pâté and roast duck breast. On the menu for lunch tomorrow is a beef-cheek ragu with ricotta gnocchi.
Tonight, Marble Brewery hosts the Albuquerque Downtown Growers’ Market annual fundraiser, Hops & Harvest. There will be pumpkins (and a witbier called the Great White Pumpkin), painting, and a couple food trucks, including Cibo, whose Italian deli-style sandwiches look pretty good from the desk where we just spent lunch without lunching.
Next Saturday, you may know, a burning ring of fire is expected to briefly replace the sun. The opportunities to witness this in communion are too many for us to name, but Flock of Moons Brewing is one spot hosting a viewing party, where you can pair Snapdragon Tea brunch fare with a Belgian tripel named for the stellar event.
If you’re more interested in a personal viewing, consider packing your own tea party and heading to Valles Caldera. If so inclined, you can play citizen science, and log observations of how other animals are affected by the eclipse.
Afterward, assuming you’ve remembered to use solar viewing glasses and can still navigate the world, consider heading to Villa Hispana at Expo New Mexico, where this year’s New Mexico Brew Fest will be going down. In addition to breweries upon breweries, Umami Moto will be there (known for their fab fried chicken sandwich, among other Asian-inspired fare) along with Phat Stax, NewMex-A-Que, and Doner Kebab.
Still on October 14 (do eclipses make days longer?), in Santa Fe, El Nido is hosting a new moon / solar eclipse harvest supper that begins with music and a fashion show. Models will show off extravagant christie nell garments, created by hunter and writer (and sometimes contributor to our sister mag) Christie Green. The menu, like the clothing, has a wild vibe. Word is that you’re to input your name and contact info in Open Table, whereupon El Nido will follow up; the experience is from 5 pm to 8.
Oh, and have you heard about the Balloon Fiesta? It’s a thing. And it’s happening very close to Vara Winery and Distillery. In honor of the occasion, Vara is extending their hours and offerings, with grab-and-go options, breakfast burritos by Voltage Coffee Project, and, on October 11, a pop-up at which barbecue personality Calvin Evans will perform mystical acts (a.k.a. grilling tomahawk pork chops over open flame). Reservations are recommended if you want to catch his performance.
Another surprising tidbit on fried chicken: “In 1773, biographer James Boswell wrote a diary entry explicitly describing a fried chicken dinner that an elderly tacksman served him at Coire-chat-achan on the Isle of Skye. Mariani’s theory then, is that as hundreds of thousands of Scottish and Scots-Irish settlers emigrated to the Southern US colonies during the 1700s, they brought their tradition of frying chickens in fat with them.” Food historian and certified barbecue judge Adrian Miller breaks down the mythology of Southern fried for BBC.
One more option for celebrating the sun’s little magic trick next weekend? A soak in the natural pools in Jemez Springs. Susanna Space dips in to the foodie soul of the little mountain village in our latest long-form dispatch, “Hot Springs Holiday.”
Got a tip? Wish we knew about your favorite bakery/brewery/hole-in-the-wall? Give us a shout!