My mother will be the first to tell you that she is not a cook.
(Even though she is. Sort of.)
In my family’s Singapore home, however, it is our maid Erlinda who does the magic in the kitchen most days. Her dishes are typically simple, delicious and never fail to hit the spot.
Like many good home cooks, improvisation has been the mother of many of Erlinda’s inventions. One of my favorite dishes is a super-easy chicken-wing stew that she first tossed together while thinking of the adobos she grew up eating in her hometown of Baguio in the Phillippines.
The stew she makes here, however, is quite different because my mother typically doesn’t stock vinegar in her kitchen. Instead, dark, sweet soy sauce is the main ingredient — but the result can be just as satisfying.
First, you prep the ingredients: potatoes, garlic and flaming-hot chili padis (or bird’s eye chili).
Then, you heat up some oil in a pan and fry up the garlic until it’s fragrant …
… and then in goes the chicken and some water. You’ll need that water to come to a rolling boil before the next step …
You want to turn over the wings so they’re evenly coated with sauce before covering the pan and letting that stew boil for a while.
Next, the potatoes and sliced chilis go in and the stew is covered again for more boiling.
And 20 minutes later, you have a super-easy lunch or dinner on the table.
Now, this is a basic recipe and variations can be made, of course — if you like carrots, toss them in. If you like pepper and salt, ditto. Erlinda sometimes fries up some minced shallots along with the garlic for added flavor as well.
It is recipes such as this one that make me marvel at the many years I went not knowing how to cook because I was so intimidated by the process.
If only Erlinda had been around then to tell me just how easy it would be.
Erlinda’s Easy Chicken-Wing Stew
5 chicken wings
1 TB vegetable or corn oil
1 TB minced garlic
1.5 tsp minced chili padi (Add more if you like it spicier)
1 ti 2 potatoes, peeled and sliced into wedges or cubes
1/2 cup water
3 TB dark soy sauce
1 TB regular soy sauce
Heat oil in small pan and saute garlic until fragrant. Add chicken and water and bring to a boil. Then, add two kinds of soy sauce, turn the chicken to coat and then cover and boil for 15 minutes. Halfway through, take off the cover and turn the chicken so it cooks evenly.
Next, add potatoes and chili padi then cover again and boil for 20 minutes.
Serve with rice.