Korean Extra Crispy Fried Chicken 양념 치킨

If you’re accustomed to eating the heavily battered and crusty fried chicken that most American chains offer, you might want to try another version that is lighter, crispier, and more flavorful—Korean style fried chicken. Korean fried chicken is unique for its use of a lighter batter (cornstarch) and a double-frying technique, giving the chicken pieces an extra thin n crispy texture and a crackle that’s unforgettable when eating them for the first time. Luckily for us, our first batch came out so crispy there was no need to fry them again a second time. And by using cornstarch (which is pure starch) instead of flour, it leaves the fat rendered and the outer skin extra-light and “clean” tasting. Just as a side note, the “regular” way of frying usually incorporates flour (which contains proteins) in the batter, ultimately leaving behind a much thicker and sometimes leathery covering if not fried correctly. For the sauce, we didn’t ramp up the spiciness too much like we usual do, but instead went for something sweet and tangy so we added some ketchup, sugar, and honey. The end result was a marvelous combination of flavors and textures: sticky, juicy, crispy, sweet and sour. We can’t wait to try this recipe using larger pieces like thighs and drumsticks!

For a more in-depth article on Korea’s “secret” method to deep frying chicken, check out the following links:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/07/dining/07fried.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all
http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/10/the-food-lab-korean-fried-chicken.html 

Servings: 4 people
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes (10 min for each batch)

Ingredients:
24 chicken wings
canola oil, for frying (peanut oil if available)
4 cloves garlic (or garlic powder)
2-inch piece peeled ginger (or ginger powder)
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar (or Mirin)
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp red chili garlic sauce (or red chili peppers)
1 cup cornstarch (1/2 cup for coating, 1/2 cup for batter)

1/2 cup flour

1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt and pepper
sesame seeds & scallions (garnish)

Directions:

1. Remove the tip of each chicken wing and cut in half at the joint to create 2 pieces. Rinse pieces under cold water and set to dry for at least 10-15 minutes. In a heavy pot such as a dutch oven, pour in canola or peanut oil to a depth of 2 inches. Heat over medium-high for about 7, 8 minutes or check for a deep-fry thermometer reading of 350°F.

2. In the meantime, combine sauce ingredients of soy, vinegar, sugar, honey, ketchup, sesame oil, red chili garlic sauce, and the powder seasonings (or adding the pulsed fresh ginger and garlic) in a small sauce pan. Boil until sauce slightly thickens and set at low heat. Adjust the spiciness of the sauce by slowly adding the red chili garlic sauce/red chili peppers and tasting until desired flavors are achieved.

3. In a large mixing bowl, mix 1 cup cornstarch and salt and pepper. Individually coat each chicken wing pieces with the cornstarch and set aside.

4. In another bowl, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1/2 cup flour, and 3/4 cup water together to make a runny, liquidy batter. Add each chicken wing one at a time and coat well. Shake off excess batter and fry the chicken in batches for about 10~13 minutes, until golden brown, then drain on paper towels. Do not overcrowd the pan when frying each batch.

5. Fry half of the chicken wings without the sauce and plate. For the flavored wings, simply coat chicken pieces with a brush or by tossing together in a mixing bowl. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with sesame seeds and thinly chopped green onions. Enjoy and eat while hot!

*Here are some helpful & healthy tips when deep frying any foods, not just chicken wings. First, choose your cooking oil carefully. Oils with a high smoke point, those which do not break down at deep frying temperatures, are best. Peanut oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil are some good choices. Olive oils should be avoided. Next, make sure that the food you’re going to fry is dry. Letting it sit on paper towels, or coating it in flour or bread crumbs is a good way to ensure this. Let the coated food sit on a wire rack for minimum 15 minutes so the coating dries and sets. Lastly, heat the oil over medium high heat and wait until fully heated. The best temperature is 350 to 375 degrees F if using a thermometer. Or you can throw in a small piece of white bread crumb and it should brown pretty quickly. In any case, always be careful of oil spills and splashes, which is one of the inevitables of frying at home. ^^

**Korean fried chicken establishments usually serve pickled radishes or daikon (called “chicken mu”) to avoid any “neukki han” (excessively oily or greasy) taste. Making them is really easy but need to be made in advance (hence the pickling). In a large, air-tight jar or container, add 1/2 cup of vinegar, water, and sugar (ratio of 1:1:1) until the cubed radish pieces are covered/submerged. Adjust the taste according to personal preference, but it should be somewhat sweet, salty, and sour.

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