There’s something about fried chicken; it’s an almost perfect comfort food, and embraced by cultures around the world. Portland has some amazing fried chicken spots, and while we tend to focus on the American variety, there are many other places in the city for Thai, Korean, Chinese, and other varieties of battered bird. [related]
Here are our picks for the best types of Asian fried chicken in Portland.
Just to get it out of the way ― one of Portland’s most famous dishes from one of its most famous restaurants ― the Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Chicken Wings from Pok Pok. This signature dish is lovingly crafted from cook Ike’s Vietnamese hometown recipe, and along with the charcoal roasted bird, helped put Pok Pok on the national restaurant map. It’s no doubt part of the reason why Pok Pok’s New York branch carries a Michelin star.
Brand new on the scene, Hat Yai is already drawing overwhelmingly positive reviews for its casual Southern Thai street food. Most prominent is the Hat Yai style Fried Chicken. The chicken is tender, with lightly crispy, perfectly seasoned skin, and crispy onions on top. It’s best in the Curry & Roti set: the #1 includes a sizeable portion of fried chicken, along with a bowl of rich, delicious curry and a handmade roti. We strongly suggest getting an extra roti: you’ll need it to soak up some of that amazing sauce.
Check out America’s 75 best fried chicken spots.
It’s not out yet, but this food cart coming out of Kim Jong Grillin’ has previewed its fantastic Korean Fried Chicken already, and we cannot wait for the day when we can get it all the time. So far there are two kinds of fried chicken: the sweet garlic and the classic spicy Korean fried chicken.
Both are excellent; the garlic one is perfectly balanced with sweet and garlic, and the spicy one packs decent heat, but nothing too intimidating. Hopefully when the cart fully opens it will offer a variety of temperature levels for people who prefer a bit more of a kick, but if not, the flavors are delicious enough that it’s hard to care.
We think the Drunken Wings at Bang Bang, the casual Thai drinking spot, vie with Pok Pok for Thai Wing dominance of the city. They’re less authentic, but no less tasty, especially with the sweet soy and fried garlic. Plus, with a rice flour batter, they’re gluten free, just like everything else on the menu. Get them at happy hour, both early and late, for only $5; they pair surprisingly well with Fernet Branca.
For being served at an Indian restaurant, the Gobi Manchurian tastes a lot like a Chinese dish. On the menu it’s classified as “Indo-Chinese”, so there’s that. Whatever the case, the dish is deliciously addicting, somewhere between curry and Sweet & Sour Chicken, a crispy, slightly spicy, slightly sweet fried treat. It’s so good you might not even notice that it’s cauliflower, not chicken; we’re cheating on this one.
Chinese food isn’t really Portland’s forte, as we tend to focus more on Thai and Vietnamese. Luckily, there’s Shandong and its sister restaurant Kung Pow. Here you can find excellent Chinese dishes, including both the spicy dry fried chicken wings, with sweet garlic pepper sauce, and spicy dried fried chicken, featuring the same, as well as the ubiquitous Sweet & Sour Chicken. It might not be an authentically Chinese dish, or remotely healthy, but it sure is delicious, especially at Shandong.
While normally it’s a Japanese ramen spot, Boke Bowl on the east side reserves its Thursday nights for a Korean fried chicken special, Boke Bird. It’s only offered once a week due to the labor involved: whole chickens are brined for two days, then par smoked, chilled, and finally fried and tossed with garlic ginger soy. It’s served as a half or whole, alongside sides including kim chi, pickles, bao, ginger rice, and more. It’s the perfect excuse to share a meal with some friends.
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