As part of my monthly ritual of cooking up Korean Fried Chicken (aka KFC) at home, it’s fair to say that I like experimenting with new sauces (Sweet Soy Garlic Chicken, anyone?). Don’t get me wrong, even the most basic variety (“fried” 후라이드) with its paper-thin, crispy crust works just fine for me. And if I didn’t have a girlfriend who cared for my health (and overall well-being), I’d eat it every day as opposed to my current three-or-four-times-a-week meal plan. When I found my two favorite bottles of Sriracha and Tabasco staring me down from the cupboard, I knew it was time for another test kitchen. I have been wanting to do a recipe with these guys for quite a while, but it was hard finding them on the island. That is until recently. By default, I went with the Thai-inspired hot sauce since I only had a little remaining Tabasco left (guess I’m doing TKFC next time). The final result was a very nice combination of sweet n spice, crisp n tender, and KFC home-cooked goodness. Not to brag or anything, but this is another restaurant-ready dish that would be a hit with KFC lovers. Hmmm.
KFC 101: Korean fried chicken is very, very popular in Korea. I am very fortunate (and full of gratitude) to live in a country where there’s a fried chicken joint (maybe two, three?) on practically every block of every street corner. To my surprise, my new home on Jeju also has its fair share of awesome KFC joints leaving me no regrets about parting Seoul, the mecca of fried chicken. Similar to chicken wings in the States, it makes for great anju 안주 (food paired with alcohol) and has its own craziness going on with something called “chimek” 치맥, which is the combination of chicken + mekju 맥주 (beer). The reason for all the craziness is pretty simple. When you have something that tastes crunchy, tender, sweet, spicy, and tangy all in one, you really have something special. If you don’t have access to the original KFC, here’s your chance to make a seasoned/saucy version at home. Enjoy!
“I love chicken. I love chicken products: fried chicken, roasted chicken, chicken nuggets – whatever. And going to Japan, I would see these chicken were smoked and then grilled and then have this amazing crispy skin.” ~ David Chang
For those who are serious about cooking Korean Fried Chicken at home, the great people at Serious Eat’s Food Lab does all the experimenting to create the perfect KFC. Check out this comprehensive article and you’ll see why: http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/10/the-food-lab-korean-fried-chicken.html
- 1 whole chicken, cut into parts
- 1 cup cornstarch (for coating)
- 1/2 tsp salt and ground black pepper
- 5 tbsp Sriracha sauce (or hot sauce of choice)
- 2 tbsp gochujang (red pepper paste)
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 4 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp water
- canola oil for frying (peanut oil if available)
- toasted sesame seeds
- (Optional) Sprinkle about 2 tbsp of salt over the chicken and let sit a minimum of a few hours. This draws out extra moisture from the surface of the chicken making it easier to crisp the outer layer. Pat dry with paper towel before coating.
- Thoroughly hand coat individual chicken pieces with cornstarch/salt/pepper combination, set aside.
- Add sauce ingredients together in a heatable pan. Boil the mixture until it starts to get thick and syrupy, no more than a few minutes. Taste the sauce as you go and feel free to adjust accordingly.
- In a heavy bottom pot or pan suitable for frying, add enough oil for chicken pieces to be fully submerged. Heat oil on medium-high (or approx. 350 degrees) and test by adding a breadcrumb or starch. If it bubbles, then it’s ready. Add the chicken pieces and fry about 8~10 minutes or until nicely browned. Do not overcrowd as this will lower the oil temperature drastically.
- Move the chicken to a wire rack and let cool/dry for a few minutes. Just in case you have a fan nearby, use it to dry up the excess oil and crisp the outer covering. Repeat until all chicken is fried.
- Transfer the wings directly to the sauce and coat pieces thoroughly.
- Transfer to a serving plate and serve immediately for tastier and crispier chicken!
*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 (called “chicken mu”) to avoid and balance out any “neukki han” (excessively oily or greasy) taste. Making them is really easy but needs 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. Let sit for a minimum of a few days at room temperature. Refrigerate and then serve with KFC. The final result should be something sweet, salty, and sour.