I love Korean fried chicken. I love it so much I eat it on average about four times per week. On top of that, I oftentimes have dreams (no joke) about frying up my ideal fried chicken with different kinds of sauces to go with them. I’m not sure what’s happening with my psyche these days, but this trip to Seoul has reaffirmed my belief that there’s real crack cocaine in KFC (and no, I’m not referring to Kentucky Fried Chicken).
Why the obsession with Korean fried chicken? First, I love the thin, crispy, crackly texture that can’t be compared to anything else. Instead of being heavily battered with flour like their Western counterparts (resulting in a thick, sometimes leathery crust), Koreans use a super-thin batter consisting of water and starch to achieve this unique texture (starch powder alone works too). Next, Koreans use younger chickens, which are more tender and soft but considerably smaller in size. Personally, I don’t taste that much of a difference in this area, but “expert” chicken enthusiasts say otherwise. And last we have the sauce. At most fried chicken joints, you have a choice of two, sometimes three, main varieties: regular (straight up fried), yangnyum (sweet, slightly spicy, and super sticky), and ganjang (soy sauce). To stand out among the crowd, the better fried chicken joints have their own unique in-house sauces that take KFC dining to another level.
For those who cook, more specifically cook fried chicken, you know there are many factors that go into perfecting this popular Korean fusion dish (i.e. type of oil used, flour vs. starch vs. both, double frying). For my recipe, I did a few things differently to experiment a little. First, using a combination of soy sauce, a lot of garlic, cider vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar, I found the right ratio that ultimately, when boiled down, tasted sweet, garlicky, tangy, and pretty darn tasty. If you’re trying this at home, it’s important that you sample the sauce continuously by mixing and matching the aforementioned ingredients until it suits your palate. If there’s any reason to hate making fried chicken at home, it’s gotta be the leftover oil. I hate throwing away that much oil after finishing up a batch of chicken. For this reason, I like to boil the chicken first to get them “pre-cooked” and then give them a quick fry in a small amount of oil, not fully submerged. This step saves a lot of oil and clean up time without sacrificing any taste or texture. The final result you ask? My taste taster loved it and highly recommended that I open my own KFC joint with an American twist. Oh, the possibilities…..
For those interested in creating the perfect fried chicken at home, you have to check out this article. The people at Serious Eats literally tried and tested every possible way to get the fried chicken of your dreams!
- 2 lb whole chicken, cut into parts
- 2 cups canola or peanut oil
- 1 cup cornstarch (1/2 cup for coating, ½ cup for batter)
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cold water
- dash of salt and pepper
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 5 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp honey (or mulyeot, corn syrup)
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp gochugaru (red pepper flakes)
- In a large pot, boil the chicken pieces for about 15~20 minutes. Adding herbs, ground pepper, and garlic cloves is optional but recommended.
- After boiling the chicken, remove excess water by letting dry for at least 20 minutes. Using a wire rack is ideal.
- When the chicken is dry, thoroughly coat the chicken pieces in the cornstarch.
- Meanwhile, combine remaining ½ cup cornstarch, flour, water, and salt & pepper in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. The batter should be fairly thin and run off like paint.
- When ready to fry, preheat oil to 350°F in a large wok, Dutch oven, or even a regular pot. If you are using a stovetop, a medium-high setting will do the trick. To test if the oil is hot, throw in a breadcrumb and it should bubble immediately.
- Working one at a time, lift one wing and allow excess batter to drip off, using your finger to get rid of any large pockets or slicks of batter. Carefully lower wing into hot oil. Repeat with remaining wings. Cook until evenly golden brown and crisp all over, about 4, 5 minutes on each side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Mix the sauce ingredients (last 7 ingredients on the list) in a mixing bowl. Sample and adjust accordingly to your taste preference. In a large wok or frying pan, boil down the sauce until it thickens slightly into a syrup.
- Last, add the chicken pieces to the sauce and stir-fry to coat.
- Eat hot and enjoy!!