Saturday, May 21, 2022

Mi Zhi Ji Chi Chuan

Behind every recipe there is a story or an image. That is certainly the case when it comes to Mi Zhi Ji Chi Chuan, which are chicken wing skewers. I struggled to tell that story or frame the image. Someone else has fortunately captured what I was thinking when I came across a recipe for these chicken wings. It is cook and author Lillian Chou, who wrote the following in an article for the food magazine, Saveur:

My favorite chicken wing joint, Kuan Dian, is set atop a shack in Xicheng district, near central Beijing. Here, a grill in a makeshift kitchen overlooks a maze of hutongs, the traditional alleyway dwellings unique to Beijing, and rowdy students clamor over chicken wings that have been smoldering over charcoal embers until the blistered skin resembles a crisp veil the color of mahogany. 

Lillian Chou, Fire in the Belly, Saveur No. 157 (June 6, 2013). Her words conjured up exactly what I was thinking: a small restaurant or food stall in or near a maze of alleys, with a cook standing over a grill, turning skewer after skewer of chicken wings.

The word "chuan" refers to a range of kebabs, from those made with proteins (like lamb, beef, chicken or pork) to those made with seafood or even vegetables. I have previously made Yangrou Chuan, lamb kebabs as part of my Kebab-apalooza challenge. When I prepared for that challenge, I researched a variety of chuan recipes. When I came across a recipe for Mi Zhi Ji Chi Chuan, I was immediately intrigued by the use of chicken wings. These wings were not the diminutive wings that are dumped in a deep fryer, tossed with a sauce and dumped into a basket like buffalo wings in the United States. This chuan requires full-sized wings -- marinated in a sauce that combines elements of sweet, spicy, and salty -- skewered and then grilled to perfection (or, in my case, as close to perfection as an amateur cook can get). 

A chuan vendor in Xinjiang.
(Source: Wikiwand)
And, as much as I love this recipe, it nevertheless conjures up another image, one that is far less enjoyable than a small makeshift kitchen overlooking a maze of alleyways in an old part of Beijing. This image is a much darker one, and, it is one that is currently unfolding. The many forms of chuan originate with the Uyghur people. They are the people of East Turkestan, now known as the Chinese province of Xinjiang. The Uyghur culture is the subject of a systematic attack by the Chinese government. This attack is all encompassing and, to say the least, very inhumane. I have previously discussed this matter at length. I won't repeat it here, except to say that the attack upon the Uyghur culture threatens the very source of beloved recipes or foods such as Mi Zhi Ji Chi Chuan. That is the darker image: a juxtaposition of the Chinese love for chuan and the cruel oppression of those who brought forth the recipes.  

In the end, every recipe has a story or conjures up an image. I stand corrected in that, some recipes may conjure up more than one story or image. Some may be good, while others are bad. The important thing is to ensure that all images can be seen and that all stories can be heard. Nothing should be hidden or repressed. Every person should know what truly lies behind what they eat.


Recipe from

Serves 4


  • 1/3 cup soy sauce, divided
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup Sichuan peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • salt to taste
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 scallions finely chopped
  • 1 ginger, peeled finely chopped (2 inches)
  • 2 pounds whole chicken wings, tips removed
  • 6 12-inch bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons hot sesame chile oil

1. Marinate the chicken. Stir together 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 tablespoon peanut oil, half of the Sichuan peppercorns, black pepper, honey, toasted sesame oil, 2/3 of the minced garlic, scallions, ginger and pinch of salt in a bowl.  Add chicken wings and toss to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. 

2. Prepare for grilling. Heat a charcoal grill or set a gas grill to high.  When hot, bank coals or turn off burner on one side.  While grill is heating up, remove chicken from marinade and working in batches, thread 2 wings lengthwise onto a skewer and set aside.

3. Grill the wings. Grill the wings on the hottest part of the grill, turning as needed until charred in spots and cooked through (about 12-15 minutes). If the outside starts to burn before wings are cooked, move to cooler section of grill until done. 

4. Finish the dish. Whisk remaining soy sauce, peppercorns and garlic, plus vinegar and hot sesame chile oil in a bowl and drizzle over wings on serving platter.


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