Anna Schuessler/Daily Journal
Ray Tom, owner of Redwood City’s Green Leaf Asian Bistro & Cafe, tosses chicken wings he marinated with his signature ‘chili chop’ sauce with hoisin and fresh chili peppers after deep frying them. Tom is a contestant in Saturday’s Redwing City chicken wing competition, part of Redwood City’s 150th Festival and Flower Extravaganza.
Bringing unique combinations of flavors together is what drives Ray Tom, owner of Redwood City’s Green Leaf Asian Bistro & Cafe.
For three years, Tom has been experimenting with versatile flavors and ingredients that showcase different cultures at his restaurant at 865 Middlefield Road in downtown Redwood City. Though many of the spring roll, sandwich, bowl or salad dishes available at his restaurant showcase Asian ingredients, Tom said he is always looking outside the boundaries of a specific cuisine.
“I like when things can break or bend the rules to make something new and exciting,” he said.
On Saturday, Tom will merge the Southern and Asian flavors he remembers from his childhood in South Carolina as he showcases his chili-based chicken wing recipe at the first-ever Redwing City chicken wing competition. Part of the city’s 150th Festival and Flower Extravaganza in downtown Redwood City, the contest will pit experienced chefs and amateurs against one another to find the sauce, rub and preparation that captures the favor of those who come to the festival as well as area judges.
Tom is eager to see what festival participants have to say about his “chili chop” sauce on a beloved snack. Green Leaf’s signature sauce will apply the bright taste of red Thai chili peppers, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, lemon juice and a splash of Jack Daniel’s whiskey to a dish Tom associates with Southern flavors such as buttermilk batter. From his years growing up in South Carolina, Tom fell in love with chicken wings at an early age, and said he’s found the dish can be paired with a variety of flavors to a similarly satisfying effect.
“It’s a really fun, great medium to work with,” he said. “You can be very creative and you can add a lot of your inspiration to it.”
For the 43-year-old chef, merging Asian and Southern flavors is nothing new. The son of restaurant owners who featured Chinese, Hawaiian and American fare in their restaurants, Tom said he never really knew the distinction between the different cuisines as a kid.
“I just knew what tasted good,” he said.
Though Tom said his “chili chop” sauce has reliably brought bold flavors to other Green Leaf dishes, he is hoping to update his chicken wing recipe and hopefully add it to his restaurant’s menu based on feedback from this weekend’s contest. Tom and the other contestants will be required to prepare 30 to 50 pounds of chicken wings the day of the event to be able to serve members of the public who wish to cast their vote in the People’s Choice Award, as well as judges who will select the best sauce and rub for the wings.
Tom said he plans on marinating the wings in the chili sauce for a short period of time before coating them in an egg and flour mixture and dunking them in a deep fryer for some 10 minutes. To finish the recipe, Tom will toss them with slices of fresh chili peppers and hoisin sauce and serve them with extra chili chop sauce. He is hoping to prepare his wings in small, 3-pound batches, as he normally does, which means he’ll be making several trips to and from the stove to meet demand.
“It’s a matter of cranking them out,” he said.
Though Tom may have his eye on the prize, he said he is also looking forward to meeting other chicken wing enthusiasts and sharing recipes and styles of preparation.
“It’s in the spirit of sharing,” he said. “I just want to hang out and have fun.”
Public tasting for Redwood City’s first Redwing City chicken wing competition will begin at noon Saturday, May 20, and is expected to run until 5 p.m. at the intersection of Broadway and Jefferson Avenue in downtown Redwood City.
Redwood City’s 150th Festival and Flower Extravaganza is planned for Saturday, May 20, from noon to 9 p.m. in downtown Redwood City. Activities will be centered around the San Mateo County History Museum at 2200 Broadway and include an art and flower exhibition, crafts and other children’s activities, a re-enactment of an 1850s pioneer camp, historic fashion show and performances by local music and dance groups. More than 150 hydrangeas will cover the museum’s steps to honor the city’s flower growing history and a preview of the “150 Faces of our Community Photo Project” will be available in the museum from noon to 4 p.m. The festival will close with a digital light show showing scenes from Redwood City’s 150-year-old history on the museum’s facade at 8:30 p.m.
Visit rwc150.org for more information on all activities included in the city’s 150th Festival and Flower Extravaganza.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102