Where Do Chicken Wings Come From? Here’s a short story about our favorite part of the chicken!
Have you ever wondered where the famous chicken wings started? We are pretty sure that you are just enjoying the taste without knowing the tale behind it. That’s why we are giving you this article to know more about the chicken wings we love.
THE IMPERIAL CONSORT CHICKEN WING
The oldest chicken wing recipe we know is the Imperial Consort Chicken Wing, dating back to 750 AD. The epic story tells of the romance between Emperor Xuanzong and his mistress Yang Guifei, one of the four beauties of China.
The Chinese were the first to domesticate the chicken and it only makes sense that the first wings were of Chinese descent. Curious to check out the recipe, we set out to try our hand at the ancient wing. We invited Chef Kae from Tiny Thai to give a cooking demo for a short video. They were delicious!
SWISS CHICKEN WINGS
Another early wing origin story is Swiss Chicken Wings, dating back to the 1850s. Contrary to the name, Swiss Chicken Wings are not from Switzerland nor are they related to Swiss cuisine. These darkly glazed, succulently sweet and savory wings are also Chinese in origin.
The name comes from a translation gone awry. Many years ago a tourist found his way to a Chinese diner, Tai Ping Koon, famous for its east-west fusion dishes. The tourists ordered their house special, sweet chicken wings.
Finding the chicken wings delicious, the tourist attempted to discover the name. When the waiter replied “Sweet Chicken”, it was mistaken for “Swiss Chicken”. And thus the name and fame of the Swiss Chicken Wings was born.
JOHN YOUNG’S WINGS N’ THINGS
The first full-time chicken wing restaurant in Buffalo dates to 1961 and John Young’s Wings N’ Things. Young, who grew up on an Alabama truck farm, came to Buffalo during the Great Migration. He brought with him his soul food recipes passed down through generations.
After working menial jobs, Young opened a grocery store that began selling chicken wings. Located at Jefferson and Utica, Wings N’ Things was a cornerstone of Buffalo’s black community during the 1960s. The shop was regularly visited by celebrities such as Joe Tex, Cookie Gilchirst, and Buffalo singer Rick James.
Young’s wings were uncut, breaded, deep-fried, and served with his secret mumbo sauce. The sauce was liberally applied to wings, french fries, bread, and just about anything he could find. When Wings N’ Things opened, Young said, “people fell out of the sky”. Customers lined up around the block to get his chicken wings, reasonably priced at 10 whole wings for $1.
The shop closed shortly after race riots in 1967 and Young lost his place in our collective memory. This is excellently summarized in Rachel Wharton’s essay in “American Food: A Not-So-Serious-History,” where she connects soul food, the Great Migration, and chicken wings.
THE ANCHOR BAR
“Home of the Original!”, proclaims a large mural on the exterior of the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY. Most Buffalonians accept the story that Anchor owner Teressa Bellissimo invented chicken wings in 1964.
Teressa’s spin was no small feat. Splitting the wing in half and adding in the hot sauce was her own twist. And the Anchor took things to another level.
Rumor has it that the restaurant first offered their wings free of charge. It was the perfect snack to keep patrons ordering drinks. But, over time, they began charging and it became a staple that began attracting people from across the region.
Most primary sources have long since passed and we may never know the entire truth. Whatever the exact origin may be, the Anchor Bar weathered Buffalo’s economic depression long enough to maintain its bragging rights. While it’s debatable whether their wings are the original or the best in town, it’s worth a visit to cross off your bucket list.
More recently, we received a tip of yet another origin story: Pavillion Wings. Pavillion wings come from Pavillion, NY, a small town about an hour east of Buffalo and date to the 1950s.
Snyder went on to verify the recipe: chicken wings, Frank’s hot sauce, and lard. He says they sold them from a roadside stand, located in front of his grandfather’s shop, the Red & White.
In reality, it’s most likely that chicken wings were born more out of necessity than anything else. Poor people who couldn’t afford the whole animal often found creative uses for lesser grades of meat. Chicken wings became a staple in Black American kitchens shortly after the Civil War. There’s also the Black and Asian connection: the two communities were often located next to one another. This was due to racist redlining policies, such was the case in Buffalo’s Michigan Street Corridor, which forced proximity and perhaps collaboration in culinary practices.
Now, we have the answer to our question of Where Do Chicken Wings Come From. It is unfortunate to hear that the snack was born out of necessity. However, it became people’s SOLUTION to survive while having a tasteful snack. The food is not only delicious, but also has a colorful history.
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