In the past decade or so, Korean fried chicken has grown from a niche food, available only in the Koreatowns of coastal cities, to a national phenomenon – cloned, copied, and repurposed, found in fast food and fine dining, and even showing up as a potato-chip flavor. There is a reason for this. The long-lasting crunch and deep spiciness of this traditional bar food is almost addictive. Also, don’t be dissuaded by bad actors … fast food chicken strips coated with dark sweet red sauce are not the same thing.
When I lived in DC, I was lucky to live in a highly walkable area – and one of the places I could walk to was an outlet of a Korean fried chicken joint that’s close to taking over the world. There were two of them in the Columbus area when I moved here, but at least one has closed, and the other is out of reach of this non-car owning non-driver. So now I make my own. And honestly, I make it a lot.
While a little time consuming, the dish is fairly easy to reproduce in your own kitchen, and these days you are likely to find all of the ingredients that you will need in your neighborhood grocery store. This version of the dish utilizes cornstarch breading and a double fry to give the chicken an exceptionally crispy crust, as well as a simple sauce based on Gochujang, a deep-red, fermented, pepper paste that’s now available in most grocery stores.
Korean Style Fried ChickenCourse: MainDifficulty: Difficult
- Fried Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup AP flour, divided
1 cup cornstarch, divided
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp Gochujang
½ tsp cayenne (optional)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup rice vinegar
- Quick Daikon Pickles
½ lb daikon radish
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
½ cup white vinegar
¼ cup granulated sugar
- For the chicken
- Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces.
- In a non-reactive bowl, sprinkle the chicken with soy sauce and mix well to coat.
- Allow to sit for 10 minutes for the seasoning to penetrate the meat.
- Mix ½ cup of the corn starch and ½ cup of the AP flour in dry container with a tight-fitting lid.
- Working in batches, drop pieces of chicken into the flour and starch mixture, shaking to coat well.
- Place the chicken on a rack set on a sheet pan, and allow to rest uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Mix the remaining ½ cup corn starch, ½ cup AP flour, and the baking powder in a deep bowl.
- Add ¾ cup very cold water and ¼ cup vodka.
- Mix just until these ingredients form a smooth batter.
- Prepare a fryer or a thick-bottomed pot with oil heated to 375°.
- Working in batches, dip chicken pieces into the batter, shake off excess batter, and gently drop into the fryer, agitating to keep pieces from sticking to each other.
- Fry until the crust begins to brown, 3-5 minutes, and remove to a rack that is set on a sheet pan to cool completely.
- For the sauce
- Add 1 cup of chicken stock, ½ cup of sugar, ¼ cup of rice vinegar, 2 tbsp of Gochujang, 1 tsp of toasted sesame oil, and cayenne (if using) to a pan.
- Bring to a simmer, stirring to mix the Gochujang into the stock.
- Reduce until approximately ⅔ of a cup of sauce remains.
- Remove from the flame and keep warm.
- To finish
- Fry chicken pieces for a second time at 375° until the crust is firm and evenly light brown.
- Drain, and toss with sauce to coat completely.
- Garnish with chopped green onion and sesame seeds.
- Serve with daikon pickles and ice-cold beer, or with steamed white rice.
- Quick Daikon Pickles
- Peel and dice the daikon into ½-inch cubes.
- Add radish cubes to a non-reactive bowl.
- Salt the daikon with 1 tsp salt and allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Add water, sugar, and vinegar to a saucepan.
- Bring to a vigorous boil, stirring to ensure that the sugar is dissolved.
- Pour hot pickling mixture over the salted daikon.
- Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours for the brine to penetrate the radish. The pickles will keep for 2 weeks refrigerated.