Hot Takes: Korean Fried Chicken

Hot Takes: Korean Fried Chicken

The sound of packaging ripping open to sweet and salty deliciousness is music to our ears, but every now and then, we love to indulge in snacks that take a little more heat. While these Korean bites take a bit more effort, it only means the results are that much more delicious!

Everyone has heard of it, the famous crispy deliciousness that is Korean fried chicken. In Korea, fried chicken dishes are usually referred to as chikin (치킨) which is the shortened form of peuraideu chikin (프라이드 치킨; coming from the English fried chicken). But there's a differentiation:

  • Huraideu chikin (흐라이드 치킨) refers to fried chicken that isn't seasoned after being fried.
  • Yangnyeom chikin (양념 치킨) refers to any fried chicken dish that is seasoned after frying.

What makes it so irresistible is the addicting sweet and spicy sauce in combination with the crispy crust. Usually, you'd use a mix of flour and egg whites (or the whole egg) to make the crust; however, in Korea, only cornstarch or potato starch is used to coat the chicken. Cornstarch "batter" makes for a very crispy and crunchy chicken while a flour and egg batter makes the fried chicken crispy but still soft because of how much oil it'll soak up. The chicken pieces are fried twice for a short amount of time as opposed to frying it once for a long time until golden brown. The first time around, it's fried at a lower temperature. In the second round, it's fried at a higher temperature. This frying process makes the crust crunchier and also less greasy.

Whether it's a snack, side dish or main dish - here's how to get the maximum out of this delicious meal!

  • Dakgangjeong (닭강정)

When referring to Korean fried chicken, what people usually mean is the version with the sweet and spicy gochujang-based sauce called dakgangjeong. It's a very popular street food, often enjoyed with tteokbokki (떡볶이). The street food comes with boneless chicken while the traditional version is usually made from a whole chicken that is cut up. The main ingredient for the sweet and spicy sauce is gochujang — adjust the amount of it depending on how spicy you want it. For a non-spicy version, just replace gochujang with ketchup.

  • Kkanpunggi (깐풍기)

For a sweet and sour delight, kkanpunggi is your way to go. Originally, it's a Chinese dish, but has been transformed into a Korean-Chinese one. Kkanpunggi is garlic fried chicken with a garlic and soy sauce-based sauce, usually garnished with peppers and onions. It's perfect for all those that love a good mixture of sweet and sour, and not too spicy!

  • Orange  Chicken

Everyone knows Panda Express' orange chicken — it's famous all around the world! However, it's not accessible everywhere, and you definitely don't need to go out of your way to buy it when you can easily make it at home. The sauce is made with fresh orange juice; but if you're lazy, just substitute it with orange jam! The sweet and tangy sauce can be spiced up with just a little bit of gochujang or gochugaru if you wish.

  • Honey Butter Fried Chicken (허니버터치킨)

Want something simple and low effort? Your wishes have been heard! This dish has been created by Maangchi, who was inspired by Korean honey butter chips and decided to incorporate this yummy and comforting flavor into fried chicken. The sauce is made with butter, garlic, honey, and soy sauce. It's the perfect alternative for anyone that doesn't like eating spicy!

Have these made you hungry? You're impatient and can't wait to make yourself a delicious meal? We've got you! Here are some tips for preparing your fried chicken:

  • Don't put too many pieces into the pan while frying; it will lower the oil temperature. This allows the chicken to soak up a lot more oil as you'll have to fry it longer to get the heat back up again.
  • If you're frying multiple batches, put them on a rack to rest. If possible, in an oven! This keeps the chicken warm while you're preparing everything else and prevents it from getting soggy in the meantime.
  • Made too much and wondering how to store your chicken without it getting soggy? Put it in a paper towel-lined container and store in the fridge! The paper towel will absorb any moisture. Reheat in the oven, and it'll become crispy again!

Often, the fried chicken itself is already the main dish and the star of the show. If you want to incorporate some other side dishes to make a giant, hearty meal, here are some ideas:

  • Fried rice

This one is a no-brainer, fried rice is quick and easy to make! Add whatever you'd like to your rice and fry. Here are some personal favorites: Garlic fried rice and kimchi fried rice.

Garlic fried rice is made by simply frying the rice with garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, and butter. Usually, I don't add anything else to it, however, in this recipe, it's suggested to add a sunny-side-up egg (yummy!).

Kimchi fried rice is a little more complex: Fry up onion and bacon first. Diced carrots and kimchi are added in the second step. Everything is cooked until tender, then add the rice. For the last step, add some bibimbap sauce and the leftover kimchi juice for extra taste and spiciness. If that sounds like too many steps, here's an easy recipe from MyKoreanKitchen!

  • Fried Chicken Burger

If you saw this coming, props to you! I didn't think of this one until I made dakgangjeong and entrusted a friend with frying the chicken. Instead of cutting it into small pieces, she decided to leave it in bigger chunks. This brought me to the idea, why not use these as burger patties? You can top it with kimchi, Korean coleslaw or pickled carrots and daikon radish. The Korean coleslaw is spicy, consisting of cabbage, carrots, and onions that have been marinated with a gochujang based sauce. Pickled carrots and daikon radish are non-spicy but delicious nonetheless! It's made by soaking carrots and radish in a sugar and vinegar mixture for a couple of hours. 

  • Rabokki (라볶이)

Hands down, an absolute favorite dish to have fried chicken with. Rabokki is ramyeon (라면), tteokbokki, and mandu (만두) cooked in the typical tteokbokki sauce (broth and gochujang). The fried chicken adds some crispy and crunchy texture to the chewy ramyeon and tteokbokki. Plus, everything is delightfully spicy (just make sure to have a glass of milk on hand when it gets too much).

If you've gotten hungry while reading this article, now is the perfect time to invite some friends and have a huge feast. Don't forget to let us know what you'll be making!

Curious about other articles in the Hot Takes series? Here are some you should check out:

Written by Tran Trieu

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