…from the Perspectives’ Kitchen
How you doin’? I believe all good food tell a story and Korean fried chicken is no different. Dishes can change as people adjust to the available ingredients, fine-tune to cultural preferences and deal with hardships. What seems like a humble chicken dish at first can reveal quite a lot about an interesting past.
In the 1950s, South Korea, supported by the United States, was embroiled in a brutal proxy war with China in North Korea, which the former Soviet Union supported. The story goes that during Thanksgiving one year, American soldiers stationed in South Korea wanted to prepare a meal that reminded them of home, but they had no access to turkey. Instead, they used chicken and decided to fry it. They shared this meal with their fellow Korean soldiers. Most commonly, chicken was eaten stewed, steamed or boiled in Korea, like in Samgyetang where a small, whole, rice-stuffed chicken is cooked in a ginseng broth. At this time fried chicken was a novel concept.
Korean fried chicken is extra crunchy and is tossed in a spicy sauce. Bone-in chicken thighs or chicken wings are most popular. The chicken is dipped in a thin cornstarch battered and double-fried, resulting in a shatteringly crispy exterior. It can be served plain, called huraideu for maximum crunch, but yangnyeom tongdak is probably the most popular preparation. The chicken is covered in a bright red sweet and spicy sauce that combines Korean fermented red pepper paste called gochujang, plus garlic, rice syrup and ketchup. Korean fried chicken is a hugely popular delivery item in densely populated Korean cities, and everyone has their favorite neighborhood joint to grab some takeout. That may be the reason why KFC is so popular in South Korea.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
For the chicken
3 cups peanut oil for frying
4 pounds chicken drumsticks or boneless thighs
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup corn starch, or as needed
For the sauce
1/2 cup gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
1/4 cup oyster sauce (Chinese style)
3 tablespoons mirin (Japanese sweet wine)
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
2 teaspoons grated garlic
2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
2 teaspoons green onion tops
ChefSecret: If using a larger skillet, add enough oil to fill it halfway. You can use chicken wings with tips removed and wings cut at joints or drumsticks instead of chicken thighs.
Quip of the Day: Q. What do spicy fried chicken and sexy women have in common? A. Both can potentially give you heartache.
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To you and everyone dear to you, be strong, be positive, stay well, stay safe and be kind. Take a breath and count your blessings, and if you have a little extra to share with others, please consider donating to Feeding America and/or American Red Cross.
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©PERSPECTIVES/The Consulting Group, LLC, 2023
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