When it comes to the art of frying chicken, Koreans could give Southerners a run for their money. There, said it. Korean fried chicken (KFC) chains have set up shop in the Koreatowns of New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles. KFC combines savory, spicy glazes and skin that shatters like glass. And guess what? We have the secret. Booyah!
Many have said that frying the chicken twice achieves a next-level crunch, which we aren’t going to deny. But the real key is the batter. Ours uses soju, which inhibits gluten formation and keeps the batter light. If you have a little extra time, we highly recommend partially frying the chicken, then freezing it for at least two hours before a second fry.
We offer recipes for two classic sauces you will find at Koreatown chicken joints: spicy and soy garlic. You can also simply season with salt and pepper and dot with Frank’s Red Hot, which elevates any fried chicken experience, Korean or otherwise.
Reprinted from Koreatown: A Cookbook. Copyright © 2016 by Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Sam Horine. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.
Heat the vegetable oil over low heat in a heavy pot or Dutch oven with high sides until the oil registers 350 degrees F on a frying thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer, test the heat by spooning a bit of batter into the oil. If it sizzles immediately and floats to the top, chances are you’re ready. (If you’re using chicken wings, while the oil heats, use a sharp knife to feel for the joints between the wings and drumettes, and cut through to separate them.)
2 In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, all-purpose flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, soju and cold water. Dip chicken parts in batter until evenly coated, shaking off excess batter, and place on a platter or tray.
3 Set up a tray or platter lined with paper towels. Raise the heat to medium-high and maintain the oil at 350 degrees F. Carefully lower the chicken into the oil, as many pieces as will fit comfortably, and fry for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. With a heatproof slotted spoon, remove the chicken pieces and drain them on the paper-towel-lined tray. Immediately season with salt. While still hot, toss the chicken in a large bowl with just enough glaze to coat. Garnish with scallions and serve immediately.
A RECOMMENDATION: Instead of frying for the full 8 to 10 minutes, fry just until the skin reaches a light blonde, 4 to 5 minutes. Cool on a paper towel-lined tray until room temperature and freeze for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. When you are ready to serve, heat the frying oil to 375 degrees F and drop the cold, partially fried chicken in for 4 to 5 minutes, until deep golden brown and cooked through. Immediately season with salt, toss with glaze, and garnish with scallions. Adding the frozen, partially cooked chicken to hot oil is the key to achieving the ideal crust. In nerdier terms, the water particles in the crust freeze, and as a result the ice shards break open the starch cells, creating more surface area to crisp. Shouts to Francis Lam for that info.
Combine syrup, soy sauce, garlic and mirin in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 1 minute. Allow to cool to room temperature and stir in sesame oil. Hold until ready to use.
Combine gochujang and hot sauce in a small bowl and whisk together until smooth. Hold until ready to use.