Monday, January 11, 2021

Rant: Duck Wings > Chicken Wings

As a general rule: Duck Wings are much better than Chicken Wings.

Unfortunately, chicken wings get all the attention and they're available in numerous restaurants, most often as an appetizer. There are even restaurants that specialize in chicken wings, offering them with a variety of sauces, as well as with or without bones. Chicken wings are a popular snack for watching sporting events, especially as they are easily made at home. 

However, how many restaurants do you know that serve duck wings? It's likely that you don't know any, or maybe just one or two.  I'm only aware of a handful in the local area that serve them. And when was the last time you prepared duck wings at home? Again, most people have probably never done so. Duck wings just don't get the proper respect they deserve. 

Part of the reason for the ubiquity of chicken wings is likely that they are usually inexpensive. I've seen some restaurants and bars offer wings for as little as 25 cents each. In addition, about 9 billion chickens are killed annually for food, so there's plenty of available wings. Only about 31 million ducks are killed each year, roughly equivalent to 0.3% of the amount of chickens. 

Chicken is generally a mild meat, and the sauce used on the wings is vitally important. Some might say that chicken wings are essentially a rather bland vehicle for the sauce. The most compelling, and tastiest part of the chicken wing might be its skin. 

Duck wings on the other hand are abundant with flavor. The taste of the duck, with its crispy skin, rich flavors and bit of gaminess, are compelling. It is definitely not a mild or bland meat, and that is why they are better than chicken wings. Any sauce and seasonings on the duck wings is intended to complement the taste of the duck, and is not as important as it is with chicken wings. 

Duck wings may have less meat than chicken wings, and might be a little tougher if not cooked properly, but neither of those is reason enough to choose chicken wings over duck wings. I would much rather have less meat, if it has more flavor, than an abundance of much less flavorful meat. I've eaten plenty of chicken wings over the years, but they rarely are especially memorable. I've eaten far less duck wings, only due to their lack of availability, but they are usually memorable.
For example, A Tavola, in Winchester, occasionally has Crispy Duck Confit Wings as a special appetizer. One of the last times they offered them, they were made with kale, pickled tumeric watermelon rind, and agrodolce syrup. These Duck Wings, pictured above, were killer, with delicious crispy skin atop moist, tender and flavorful meat. Each bite brought such gustatory pleasure, and they were one of my top ten dishes of 2020. Chef Carli will likely be offering Duck Wings again very soon, maybe even this week, and I highly recommend you check them out.

As another example, Spicy World, in Malden, offers Soy/Flavored Duck Wings,  which are topped with crushed peanuts and onions. The wings were meaty and tasty, with that richness you find in duck that you generally don't find in chicken. The texture and flavor of the peanut added an intriguing element to the duck.

It bears repeating: Duck Wings are much better than Chicken Wings.

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