In Korea, fried chicken is a national obsession. Delivered fresh in takeout boxes or served alongside frosty beer at bustling restaurants, fried chicken is a way of life in Korea. Historically, chicken consumption was rare in South Korea and it wasn’t until the 1980s that Korean fried chicken became popular. While Korean fried chicken has similarities to Southern fried chicken, the Korean version is way more diverse in both flavor and variety.
Interested in cooking Korean fried chicken in the comfort of your own home? While making this dish might seem intimidating, the finished product is well worth the adventure. You can reward yourself with the cold beer to pair it with.
This recipe was adapted from My Korean Kitchen, an excellent blog website for Korean cooking. This fried chicken is classified as yangnyeom style and will be slightly spicy.
- 3 pounds of chicken wings/drumsticks/boneless chicken thighs
- 2 tbsp rice wine
- 2 tsp minced ginger
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 cup potato starch or corn starch
- Neutral cooking oil for deep frying
- 3 tbsp ketchup
- 2 tbsp gochujang
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- In a bowl, place chicken, rice wine, ginger, salt, and black pepper. Combine well. Then evenly coat the chicken with starch and set aside.
- In a deep saucepan (or fryer) add a generous amount of oil and heat until the temperature reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Add chicken and fry for 3 to 5 minutes (depending on size). Do not overcrowd the pan. Place cooked chicken aside when done.
- Once the frying is complete, scoop out any floating debris from the oil using a skimmer. Check oil temperature until it reaches 350 F. Fry chicken for a second time, 2 to 3 mins, until golden.
- In a separate saucepan, add all sauce ingredients. Heat over low to medium heat and stir. Once sauce starts bubbling, remove pan from the heat.
- Place the chicken into a large mixing bowl. Pour sauce over chicken to coat. Mix thoroughly. Serve immediately.
To appreciate Korean fried chicken, it’s important to understand the unique culture of its country of origin. Unlike American fried chicken which is generally enjoyed at home or as fast food, Korean fried chicken revolves around a combination of drinking and dining out.
This culture is known as chimaek, which is a combination of the English word “chicken” and “maekju,” the Korean word for beer. Called “hofs” (pubs), chimaek restaurants have become a quintessential part of Korean dining culture.
Choosing the Chicken
In America, white meat is the most popular part of the chicken. But in Korea, dark meat is the choice cut. Almost all Korean fried chicken recipes calls for either thighs or drumsticks (although wings are also popular). If using white meat, adjust your cooking time as chicken breast cooks faster than dark meat.
Frying the Chicken
In Korean fried chicken, flour is often replaced with potato starch or corn starch. The use of starches, especially potato, gives the finished crust a less greasy, and pleasing white color. A pinch of baking powder added to the starch will also help increase crispiness. But do not substitute baking soda. The chicken will have an unpleasant alkaline aftertaste.
Korean chicken is also usually twice-fried. There are two methods: frying both times at the same temperature or frying the second time at a higher temperature.
- To fry twice at the same temperature — try 350 F.
- For different temperatures, first fry at 275 F. Rest, then fry the second time at 375 F.
Twice-frying produces a crispier crust, according to Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats, as excess moisture under the coating will continue to rise upon the surface during the first frying process. A second fry will eliminate that moisture. Like all fried foods, you can make Korean fried chicken in a cast iron skillet or a deep fryer.
Sauces and Sides
While Korean fried chicken can be served without sauce, the most popular version is yangnyeom, a sweet and spicy sauce made from rich Korean gochujang chili paste. Korean rice syrup, a thick, caramel-colored syrup is also used to create a barbecue sauce consistency. You can substitute with honey if rice syrup is unavailable.
Beside sauces, you can also top Korean fried chicken with scallions, chili peppers, peanuts, garlic and even cheese (preferably a mild white cheese like mozzarella).
Due to chimaek culture, beer is an essential accompaniment to Korean fried chicken. A lighter lager, such as a pilsner, is the best type of beer pairing. If available, try Korean beers such as Hite or Cass for an authentic touch.
The Korean palate prefers to accompany rich foods with sour pickles. Korean fried chicken is often served with small cubes of pickled daikon radish. These are available at most Korean or Asian supermarkets. If unavailable, any pickled vegetable is a good substitute.
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