There's so much great buzz for Roselle Lim's debut Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune—plus, Ali Wong's Always Be My Maybe has left us hungry for more stories about food and romance with a San Francisco setting. To give you all a taste of what Lim's novel has in store for readers, we're pleased to feature an excerpt from the book, along with Natalie Tan's recipe for Drunken Chicken Wings, which are exactly what's called for to save an ailing marriage—or so Natalie hopes....
From Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune:
I combined five spice, black pepper, Thai chilies, and paprika into a large bowl for the seasoning. I tumbled two pounds of chicken wings out of their brown paper wrapping and into the awaiting bowl where I kneaded the pungent mixture into them, squeezing the spices into the meat like an experienced massage therapist. Another bowl full of shaoxing rice wine combined with red vinegar awaited the wings as the next step after their rigorous massage. They soaked, relaxed, basking in the pool of wine, to become drunken like their namesake. I set them aside to marinate in the fridge...
The side dish for the drunken chicken wings was a pickled slaw. This was my recipe and something I had picked up from my travels in Vietnam. I julienned carrots and daikon radish, dancing my knife across the wooden block, tapping until the vegetables turned into perfect matchsticks. I added ribbons of Napa cabbage and romaine lettuce before drizzling a light dressing of white vinegar and sugar on top. I tossed the medley until the sweet tanginess enveloped all the contents.
Once the slaw was done, I filled the wok with refined peanut oil. When it was heated, I tossed the wings into the liquid depths, sending the oil roaring with their entrance. I scooped them out with my golden net only moments later.
After tasting the first portion and deeming it perfect, I tossed more of the wings into the wok to have them emerge crispy and fried to perfection. Soon, the two-pound batch of drunken chicken wings rested on a rack. I divided the portion with a pair of stainless tongs for each of the couple’s plates, arranging them alongside a generous heap of colourful slaw.
The Chius needed help. I couldn’t bear watching their marriage break down. As much as I didn’t want to care for them, I couldn’t deny that I was starting to see the neighbours as individuals instead of a frothing mob. I wasn’t the misanthrope that I’d thought myself to be; I didn’t have that luxury now that my fate was tied to theirs.
Drunken Chicken Wings Recipe:
Drunken chicken wings are light enough to hold a focused conversation without being distracting. The alcohol-infused dish dulls the stress of a failing family business that looms over a marriage, threatening to extinguish the flame of romance.
five spice powder
Smash the garlic cloves before adding them to a bowl with the rest of the spices. Massage the seasonings into the chicken wings before adding in the wine.
Marinate for three hours to encourage new love and six hours to rekindle a love gone sour. Do not marinate for longer than eight hours.
Finish by deep frying.
Note: Love and inebriation produce the same effects: bouts of joy and impaired decision making. I am approached often by lovers to help solve their problems. I try my best, knowing that meddling in the affairs of the heart can lead to interesting situations.
Love and inebriation produce the same effects: bouts of joy and impaired decision making."
About Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune:
Lush and visual, chock-full of delicious recipes, Roselle Lim’s magical debut novel is about food, heritage, and finding family in the most unexpected places.
At the news of her mother’s death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn’t spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighbourhood of San Francisco’s Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She’s even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant. The neighbourhood seer reads the restaurant’s fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to aid her struggling neighbours before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around—she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbours really have been there for her all along.
About the author:
Roselle Lim is a Filipino-Chinese writer living on the north shore of Lake Erie. She loves to write about food and magic. When she isn't writing, she is sewing, sketching, or pursuing the next craft project.
Excerpted from Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, by Roselle Lim. Reprinted with permission from Berkley Books.