My first Korean fried chicken experience was at Bon Chon Chicken in Tribeca over five years ago. It was an epiphany not just because it was delectable, but because it was the first time that it had occurred to me that KFC could stand for something other than Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Since then, I’ve gone to Korea to have Yangnyeom Chikin (양념치킨) at the source and was surprised to find that in most restaurants there, it had a thicker batter and the chicken is covered in a thick sweet sauce. KyoChon, which claims to be the “original” Korean fried chicken has branches all over Korea as well as the US and produces my favorite Korean fried chicken today, with a thin crispy crust and spicy sauce that tickles all the right tastebuds.
Still, there are many places around the world were a request for KFC will be met by “extra crispy or colonel’s original recipe?” Since I happen to live in one of those places, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
For those of you that have never had it, Korean fried chicken is a totally different beast from a buttermilk fried chicken. The wings are not dredged in excessive amounts of flour, so the impossibly crisp exterior appears to be nothing but skin. After being double fried, the wings are lightly tossed in a sweet, spicy, garlicky glaze while still hot. This caramelizes the sauce on the surface of the chicken, preventing it from seeping in too deep, ruining the crispy shell. The resulting wings are fried chicken nirvana; moist savory chicken surrounded by a crackly crisp layer of skin, which incongruously co-exists with a glaze that’s the perfect blend of savory, sweet and spicy.
Together with plenty of lubricant(beer and soju for me), these wings will disappear faster than an unlocked Ferrari in Oakland.
- Sprinkle the salt over the chicken wings, cover with plastic wrap and leave them in the fridge for 24 hours. This not only seasons the chicken, it draws out extra moisture from the surface of the chicken making it easier to crisp.
- To make the sauce, combine brown sugar, soy sauce, gochujang, soju, garlic, ginger and sesame oil in a pan and boil until it starts to get syrupy. Taste the sauce and add gochugaru until it's the spiciness you want it. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove the solids. This is important as the solids will tend to clump on the surface of the chicken causing the skin to lose its crispness.
- Add about 2" of vegetable oil to a heavy bottomed pot and heat to 320 degrees F (160C).
- Take the chicken out of the fridge and use paper towels to remove as much moisture from the surface of the chicken as possible. It's important that you get the chicken very dry as it will spatter in the hot oil making a mess, and the skin won't crisp up as nicely.
- Sprinkle on the potato starch, and toss the chicken to evenly coat each piece with a thin layer of starch.
- Fry the chicken wings for 10 minutes in batches. You can actually cram quite a few wings in, as long as they are fully submerged. Transfer to a plate and continue frying the rest of the wings.
- Increase the heat of the oil to 375 degrees F (190C). Fry the chicken again until the wings are golden brown (about 2-3 minutes).
- Transfer the wings directly to the bowl of glaze and quickly toss to coat lightly with the glaze. Transfer immediately to a serving platter. If they sit in the sauce too long they will soak up too much liquid and loose their crispness.