San Tung Fried Chicken Wings and Sauce

San Tung (山东小馆) is a restaurant in San Francisco that serves chicken wings that are just delicious. Ever since my first visit, I have been curious how they are made. After eating many orders, talking to insiders and reading a few books, I have uncovered their secret; the wings are actually a fusion of Chinese and Korean cooking styles. Here’s how to make it yourself:

Equipment:
Dutch oven, deep fryer, or pot; something to fry in
Thermometer, such as a candy thermometer; one that you are positive can handle 350°F
Wire rack(s)
Oven

Ingredients:

3 quarts vegetable oil
2 cups cornstarch
1.5 cups water
salt
pepper
3-4 lbs chicken wings and/or drummettes

and for the sauce:
2-3 scallions, finely chopped
10-15 cilantro sprigs, coarsely chopped or ripped
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar and/or honey
1/4 cup water
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce and/or dried red chili peppers

Directions:

1. Start heating the oil over medium-low heat.
2. Wash your wings. If your wings are whole and have the tips and drummettes still attached, you should trim off the tips and then decide whether you want to separate the wings and drummettes. Cook time doesn’t change either way, so it’s just a matter of preference. I’ve made this recipe with both whole and separated wings. In this particular case, my wings are pre-separated:

3. Pat the wings dry and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

4. Place 1/2 cup corn starch in a container and coat the wings with dry cornstarch.
5. In a separate container, mix the remaining 1.5 cups cornstarch with 1.5 cups of water.  This batter settles quickly so you will need to thoroughly stir it up for each batch of dipping. It can get dense at the bottom and will take some muscle to mix well.

6. Check the temperature of the oil and adjust the heat to medium-high. We want 350°F.
7. Set up your wire rack station.
8. Heat the oven to 200°F.

9. When the oil reaches 350°F, stir your batter up (get the dense glob that settled on the bottom), then dip each wing in the batter before placing it into the hot oil. A few seconds after placing a wing in the oil, you should move it a little just to make sure it does not stick to the bottom or to any other wings.

10. Put 6-8 wings in the oil at a time, fry them for 5 minutes and then let them rest on the wire racks for 5 minutes. You may need to adjust the heat to maintain the temperature of the oil.

11. While the first batch of wings are resting, fry the second batch in the oil. Don’t forget that you need to thoroughly mix the batter before dipping the next batch wings.

12. Fry the first batch of wings again for 5 minutes (yes, each wing is fried two times). No additional batter is used in this step.

13. Place the twice-fried wings on the wire racks for a few minutes and then on a tray in the warm oven. Continue frying and re-frying the wings in small batches, collecting them in the oven, until you are done frying and are ready to sauce and serve.

Ingredients for sauce:
2-3 scallions, finely chopped
10-15 cilantro sprigs, coarsely chopped or ripped
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar and/or honey
1/4 cup water
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce and/or dried red chili peppers

Pictured are two slightly different variations of sweet and spicy agents I have tried.

Directions for sauce:

1. Chop the scallions, garlic and cilantro. Set aside half of the scallions and the cilantro for later. Mix everything else together.

2. Pour the mixed ingredients into a pan and simmer for 5-10 minutes until thickened.

3. Toss or cover the wings with the thickened sauce and garnish with the cilantro and green onions you set aside earlier.

Enjoy!

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46 Responses to “San Tung Fried Chicken Wings and Sauce”

  1. Erika says:

    Yum! Looks really good!

  2. Jade says:

    thanks for the recipe! this was so great – my friends and I have been on a quest to recreate the San Tung wings and your recipe and photos were really helpful. I’ve tried a couple others but you’re the closest!

    • tao says:

      Thanks for the compliment, Jade! I love taking photos, especially of food, plus I like to teach. And I find that many cookbooks lack photos, which can make some steps confusing.

      To be honest, I can’t quite figure out how to replicate San Tung’s sauce exactly. I’ll have to have another crack at it next time I make some wings. Let me know if you discover their secret…

      • wendy says:

        Hi my parents seem to think they used a kinda chinese sugar syrup similar to honey but really thick. kids use to stick a chopstick in it and lift, twirl until it becomes a lolipop cause its soo thick and we just eat it like it was a lolipop. i cant remember what the name of that syrup/honey thing is but maybe you have a friend that knows.

  3. Craig says:

    Tried your recipe and it turned out pretty good! I used version 1 of the sauce, with sugar and chili paste. It was close but it seemed a little thin and sweet. Gonna try the honey and whole chili version next time.

    • tao says:

      Hi Craig, try simmering the sauce longer. It will reduce and thicken up more as more water evaporates. Also, try using a little less sugar and/or more soy sauce if you find it too sweet. Not all soy sauces have the same salt content.

      Honey adds a different flavor and is not what San Tung uses, but I still like it. I usually make both sauces and coat half my batch of wings with each.

  4. dave says:

    Thank you so much for your recipe, ive been looking all over the web for any recipe that resembles san tung and this looks really close to it. Please update this recipe if you find any new secrets. again thank you so much!

  5. Thai says:

    Have you tried saute’ing the garlic and onions then deglazing them with Sake or mirin or another rice wine? Afterwards, you can add all the other ingredients for the sauce and let it reduce to thicken it.

    • Matt says:

      Great idea Thai, I don’t know why anyone else hasn’t commented on your post.

      I sautee the onions and garlic first, then add the rice vinegar to deglaze. It gives it a great flavor that would otherwise be missed.

  6. Bob says:

    I think they use white pepper in the batter instead of just regular black ground pepper. That is one dimension that may get you a little closer to the San Tung recipe!

  7. Karie says:

    Hi All,

    I just followed this receipe and made my first San Tung Chicken, I really have to tell you that I am SUPER HAPPY with the result, my hubby couldn’t stop eating since he is a big fan of san tung chicken wings and he said that I made it super similar to the san tung, I seriously feel the recipe is easy and came out commercial grade result. I actually failed doing this dish one time since I used Korean crispy chicken recipe, which is very similar to sun tung one. the sauce was too sticker and totally screwed the dish so I followed this site to try it again, actually the ingridents are simple and easy and result is the best. I will make it for my family function next time, I bet you they all gonna LOVE IT!!! Great job Melonoat!!

  8. Karie says:

    Hi Ellen,

    I had a very good result last time but now i am facing a challenge that will need your help….

    I made several times with big portion (like 2-3 times more than your receipe), when i was making the sauce, the flavor came out the same but the problem is that i couldn’t make the sauce very sticky to the consistance I look for, so I add “corn starch” to thinken it quickly…. the result came out to be…when you eat the chicken with sauce, you teasted the “powder” like very very gritty, I think it’s from the corn starch I put in to thinken my sauce….I want to follow your recipe which is to simmer it and thicken it naturally but it’s really hard to get it thickened (even i waited for almost 20 mins, still not to the level i want)…any tips on this? especially I made three times more sauce so it’s almost 3/4 cup water, it was hard to simmer until it’s thick, pls kindly teach me how i can make this work? I appreciate your help sincerely!

    • ellen says:

      Hi Karie,
      What kind of a pan/pot were you using to reduce the sauce? If you use a shallow pan with more surface area, more liquid will reduce. Yes unfortunately this does take a while. Cornstarch can help to thicken too- did you first separately mix the cornstarch with some warm water before adding in? This will help prevent the “gritty” taste so that all of it dissolves first. Good luck!

      • Karie says:

        I actually had a chance to make another time last night, I did use shallow pan to make sauce, I doubled your portion so I can have more sauce (but i only use 2 table spoon soy sauce X2 times = 4 tbspoon), the result was perfect. The sauce got sticky within 15 mins, I didn’t add any corn starch at all, the consistancy was great. Now I got the tips, after making several times, I am now able to make big portion of chicken wings with right amount of sauce, thank you!! Awesome dish!!! I even incorprated your sauce to other pork chops, fried fish, the result was great too!!

        • Karie says:

          Have you all tried their son’s restaurant in downtown SF? it’s called “SO”, I think the older boy came out to open this restaurant, the food is similar but he tailored the chicken to a different flavor, alot of pepper and spice, very hot but it’s good with beer (you can order mild flavor i think). Give it a try….their stir fried noodle is sooooo good!! The restaurant is designed to be more younger crowd and definitely more trendy than the traditional San Tung!! very interesting!

          • Ellen says:

            Awesome! great to hear you got it down.

            yes! We actually have been to So- we really liked their dumplings.. different flavors than SanTung. Also, we learned that when San Tung is busy (or on vacation like they were recently) you can go next door to the dessert store and order wings also! The younger son I believe works in the kitchen there. :)

  9. Lauren says:

    i tried your recipe and the photos really helped! We are from so cal so we don’t get a chance to eat at san tung as often. My nephew is from sf and loved the wings so I tried it only out on my family first and they told me that it is not the same however I think it is pretty close. If you ever perfect it please updat the recipe. I am trying it out today again.

    • ellen says:

      Thanks for your comments Lauren! We are definitely still working on it.. and it seems like many others are as well! If we don’t get to it first, hopefully one of our other readers will post an update too!

  10. Ken says:

    Love the recipe, I live in Denver and whenever we are in SF we always stop by San Tung. I used your recipe the other night and during a dinner party, I swear that the wings were gone in a period of seconds. Well done on the recipe and fyi my wife and I love the blog…keep it up :)

  11. Elsa says:

    How about the recipe for the sautéed green beans. Do you have the recipe for it?

  12. Elsa says:

    How about the recipe for the sautéed green beans

  13. Jim says:

    Great recipe! Thanks. Tried it and it was a slam dunk. For the sauce to thicken easier and faster, try using a large surface frying pan. Don’t mix the sugar with the rest of the sauce ingredient beforehand. Put the sugar in the pan first and pour the sauce mixture slowly onto it while stirring at the same time. I found sugar better than honey – and closer to the original San Tung taste. And instead of pouring the sauce over the wings, I put the fried wings into the pan and stir and toss them quickly in the sauce (

  14. Victor says:

    Thanks for sharing this great recipe. Though I haven’t tried it myself, I’ve always thought they use corn syrup instead of sugar to get that thicker consistency. Just an idea!

  15. Linda says:

    Eating San Tung wings now. I just bit into a tiny piece of grated ginger so that’s one of the missing ingredients. Yum!

  16. Gauri says:

    I’ve tried this recipe many times with many modifications, and I have noticed some crucial differences in San Tung wings vs. this recipe.
    (I’m quite a regular at San Tung for their wings and have the chance to have them often.)

    First, I don’t know if San Tung is double fried or breaded. Maybe, but the consistency might be closer if you only fried them once, at a lower heat, for a longer while.
    Second, Linda is right. There seems to be grated ginger in the sauce, but it’s slightly candied. It doesn’t have the tangy bite most ginger does.

    Third, there is something mixed into the sauce that is not in this ingredient list. If you check the consistency of the sauce, there is a spice flecked in there. Maybe it’s just bits of chili flake, but I don’t know..

    • ellen says:

      Great suggestions Gauri! I think I’ll need to make another trip out to San Tung to do some more taste testing… ;)

  17. nick says:

    Just wanted to point out that i work in a restaurant, and was looking for a similar sauce base to the ST wings. I used this recipe as a loose base for the sauce i made for a special, and was pretty happy with the result, with a few exceptions. I took some liberties adjusting the flavors a bit to get what i was looking for. Firstly, i chopped almost equal amounts of ginger and garlic. Secondly i doubled the cilantro recommended, and made sure to add the herbs at the end, as they die if simmered for too long, which happens when you are trying to reduce down a 10x or 15x recipe. I also added whole dried chile de arbol, as i believe it is common in that type of dish. Went heavy on the sambal chili sauce as well, as i think heat from spice really brings out the flavors of the sauce. I also think the recipe could use a little more acid, maybe 1.5 times the vinegar. Finally, in addition to the soy sauce, i added a decent amount(maybe a 2:1 soy/fish sauce ratio) of fish sauce as well, which gives more salt which i prefer, and really gives that” umami” savoriness. I think that may be an important “key ingredient” that you may be missing, because the very first time i had ST wings, it seemed like a very prevailant flavor.

    Was pretty happy with the outcome flavor wise, but didnt get that viscosity that i was looking for, kuz reducing down a 10-15x recipe takes fooorever. Also think i went light on the sugar, which woulda helped thinken it up, but 5 to 7.5 cups of sugar just seems like sooo much sugar. Perhaps i was just being too timid. If i try it again, id make a few tweaks, but overall, cheers for creating something so close and sharing it with everyone to enjoy!

  18. Vickie says:

    The chicken wings came out perfect. Nice and crispy. The sauce was not very thick. I guess I need to simmer longer. Also I should add the cilento and green onion later so they don’t get overcooked. What is your suggestion if I wanted to cook a lot of chicken wings but not end up working over the stove when the guest are here. Can I do anything in advance to save time?

  19. tania goldgewicht says:

    any updates on the st wing recipe?im a little confused as to cilantro in these wings? are you sure ?thats more of a mexican used herb not korean?

  20. I'm working on it says:

    This might take me a few months to really figure out but I’m gonna..

    http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/01/sichuan-dry-fried-green-beans-recipe.html?ref=search

    http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/01/wok-skills-102-how-to-dry-fry-in-a-wok.html?ref=search

    just another one of my favorite things there… and a better idea of technique on how they do these. :)

  21. I'm working on it says:

    basically, I think one of the more important tricks is tossing the wings with a sticky oil sauce based substance in the wok for a few minutes before serving. Beside that I am pretty sure ST just continuously fries them in the back ground and just finishes them when ordered with roughly 2tbsp oil used in first cooking and similar sauce as mentioned allowing it the oil to push out tons of moisture from the sauce and causing it to seap into the pores on the crust. I’ve done a similar finish with Dungeness crab before after steaming and it is stupid good. Like as in its Dungeness season now so I’m doing that ASAP

  22. Marion Tom says:

    I think you’re missing minced ginger and white pepper. I’ve tried to imitate as well but not there yet. Will share once I get it. Thinking there’s also Korean spicy sauce as well, but, just a dab.

    • Marion Tom says:

      I experimented with sauce and here’s what I got for 3-lbs. of chicken wings/drummettes:
      1 Tbsp. soy sauce
      1 Tbsp. dry sherry
      1/2 tsp. garlic powder
      1/4 tsp. white pepper
      1 tsp. sweet bean sauce (or bean sauce and sugar)
      3 Tbsp. each of honey and corn syrup
      1-2 Tbsp. sugar
      1/4 tsp ground ginger powder
      1/4 tsp. salt

      5-6 dried chile de arbol (or more if you like)

      Blend all ingredients (except dried chile) in small pot. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10-mins.; set aside. Fry chicken with Mochiko sweet rice flour (not corn starch) and drain over paper towels as you finish frying chicken. Re-fry chicken for the 2nd time. Then in a dry skillet, saute dried chile de arbol until fragrant. Return chicken to dry skillet and incorporate with dried chile. Pour onto serving platter and drench with sauce.

      I know I’m not there yet but this is pretty close. If you find the missing ingredient, please let me know. Thanks. Meanwhile, enjoy.

  23. Matt says:

    Thanks so much for this post!

    I just tried a small batch to test it out, and I didn’t have scallions or cilantro, and it was DAMN GOOD. The texture is awesome and the sauce is nice. Not quite as good as San Tung, but the sauce flavor was still complex and delicious.

    This is what I did for the sauce:

    Sautee some finely minced white onion and garlic in a sauce pan with a very small amount of oil for a minute or two. Add some rice vinegar and deglaze for a minute or two. Add the water, soy sauce, and sugar (I used raw sugar), and a little ground ginger, and stir and let cook to reduce (I didn’t use chilis because I will be cooking for someone sensitive to spicyness tonight). Don’t reduce too much, or over too high heat; it should only barely be bubbling (boiling). Use a spoon to taste, and reduce until you get a good consistency. It shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes.

    I’m sure with the dried chilis and fresh herbs and ginger it would be even better.

    Also, RE-USE YOUR OIL! I keep a batch of oil I always use for my fried chicken wings in the fridge. After you’re done, let it cool for about an hour or so, then use a strainer to remove the burnt bits and put the oil into a container and put it in the fridge. Smell the oil before you use it; if it smells bad, then don’t use it! You should be able to re-use the oil quite a few times before needing to start with fresh oil. I use safflower oil to fry, and that stuff isn’t cheap!

  24. Julie says:

    After going to San Tung a few years ago on my yearly SF trip I became obsessed. This has become my go to recipe for the sauce using chili garlic paste and sugar, and eliminating the water completely. I try to not over indulge at home so I make these as baked wings and skip the frying part. They seem to turn out different – yet amazing every time. And reheated are even better. I’ve tried marinating then cooking in the sauce. Cooking then tossing it in the sauce at the end. Broiling at the very end in sauce. Basting in sauce. I am still torn but LOVE it and it’s always a crowd pleaser.

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  29. Dina says:

    Unbelievable!!!! These were dead on San Tung sooooo tasty and gooooood. We loved them. They were a bit of a project but well worth it. My daughter and I worked together and got it done.

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