Give Me Chicken Wings or Give Me Death

In 2016 Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle, a hawker stall in Singapore, became one of the first street food stalls in the world to win a star. There are now two ramen restaurants in Tokyo with a Michelin star also.

The relevance of Michelin stars is on the wane as chefs “reject” or “give back” their stars (a tricky manoeuvre as the Michelin Guide awards stars to restaurants not chefs). Chefs complain that having the stars slapped next to their name leaves diners expecting dry ice and fanfare, and attracts an ossified class of "big game diners", for whom a meal at a starred restaurant is akin to crossbowing a sedated elephant at close range.

A newer generation of gourmands is on the rise, who for the most part are turned off by the stifled, whispery, white tablecloth haute-cuisine complex. Michelin’s inclusion of street food is likely a bid by the Guide to maintain its relevance. Note that there are no hot dog stands, burger joints, kebab shops, sandwich stores, or wing bars with a star. Only Asian street food qualifies and the Michelin Guide seems to take a quasi-orientalist view of Asian food, playing into clichés about wizened old Asian men plying their craft for generations.

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But I believe the humble Buffalo wing merits the same attention and criticism that countless food writers have poured into haute cuisine. The same applies for ramen, burgers, fried chicken, and all comfort foods. Some of the most entertaining food journalism right now is centred on late night eats and local fare.  

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My mother hails from upstate New York, birthplace of the Buffalo wing, and as a child her homemade version with blue cheese dip was my favourite meal. Even today I can’t resist the siren call of the buffalo wing when it crops up on menus. I have dedicated my time, my gut, and my complexion to seeking out the world’s best. Living in London made this difficult enough, and now that I’m living in Tokyo the task gets even harder. Like the cursed Cain of the Old Testament I am doomed to wander this island to search for great wings that deep down I know do not exist. There is a sort of stark beauty to this pointless mission, like a monk retiring to a mountain cave to count snowflakes. Most of the time it is a thankless, Sisyphean task, the problem arising from the fact that chicken wings are a uniquely profitable menu item given how cheap the meat is, so many otherwise respectable restaurants will stick a god-awful wing on their menu to boost their margins. But every so often I am offered a glimpse of the sublime, great wings to share with friends over cold beer, that singe your lips and leave fluorescent orange sauce around your mouth and under your fingernails. On this blog I will record my attempts to find great wings, and share with you my favourite places.