Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee
There are several types of “KFC” – the stuff from the fast-food chain (which can be delicious if you’re in the right mood, or have had a little too much to drink); the addictive Korean fried cauliflower served at Yardbird on Bridges Street, Sheung Wan; and Korean fried chicken. The latter is crisp, double-fried chicken coated with a sauce that ranges from sweet and extremely sticky to blazingly spicy. The version below tends towards the spicier, less sweet side of the scale, but the sauce can be adjusted to suit any taste.
The KFC I’ve tasted at Korean restaurants is made of chicken that seems to have been cut on a bandsaw while frozen – the “parts” are not the usual wing, back, breast, leg and thigh; instead, they’re oddly shaped pieces that are awkward to eat. When making this at home, though, you can afford to cut the chicken properly. My favourite parts to use for KFC are the middle and drumette portion of the wing, but you can also make it with thighs and drumsticks. If you must use breast (not advisable), take care not to overcook the pieces.
Korean fried chicken
1kg chicken wings, drumette and middle joint only
60 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
60 grams cornstarch
1 large egg
Fine sea salt
Oil, for frying
For the sauce:
90 grams gochujang (Korean spicy soya bean paste)
150 grams corn syrup
30ml soy sauce
8-12 large garlic cloves, sliced
A piece of ginger that’s about 2cm long and 2cm in diameter, peeled then finely julienned
Sesame seeds, for sprinkling
Make the sauce first. Put the gochujang, corn syrup, soy sauce, garlic and julienned ginger in a small saucepan. Heat the ingredients, stirring occasionally. When the sauce comes to a simmer, turn down the heat and cook at a low simmer for about five minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust the amount of gochujang, corn syrup and soy sauce, if needed. Remove from the heat while frying the chicken.
If the wings are connected, separate them at the joint. Rinse them well, dry them with paper towels then put them in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Mix thoroughly then leave for about 15 minutes. Combine the flour and cornstarch and sprinkle this over the chicken. Crack the egg into the bowl then mix everything with your hands so the chicken pieces are evenly covered with a sticky, thick coating.
Pour oil into a pan to the depth of about 4cm. Heat the oil to 160 degrees Celsius and fry the wings in batches for about five minutes, or until fully cooked, then drain on paper towels. (If using thighs and drumsticks, cook for about 10 minutes; if using breasts, cook for two to five minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.) After all the chicken has been cooked, increase the heat until the oil is 180 degrees then fry the chicken in batches until brown and crisp. Drain briefly on paper towels.
Heat the sauce until simmering. Working in batches, put the fried chicken into a large bowl, drizzle with some of the sauce, then mix to coat the pieces evenly. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and stir again, then transfer to a serving platter. Sauce the remaining chicken in the same way, then serve warm. The chicken also tastes good cold, but the sauce won’t be as sticky.
White radish kimchi
This is the traditional accompaniment to KFC. The mildly flavoured kimchi cools the mouth and refreshes the palate after bites of the sweet-spicy chicken. Make the kimchi at least one day before serving it.
Try to buy a short, fat white radish (called lo bak in Cantonese and moo in Korean) rather than one that’s long and thin. The radish should feel heavy for its size, otherwise it will be dry and won’t give off much liquid when salted.
1kg white radish
70 grams coarse sea salt
30 grams granulated sugar
½ a nashi pear
1 garlic clove, sliced
2-3 spring onions (optional)
Heat the water until boiling then cool to room temperature.
Wash the radish then peel and discard the thin skin. Cut the radish into 2cm cubes then put them in a bowl, sprinkle with the salt and mix thoroughly. Leave for about an hour, until some liquid starts to come out of the radish. Sprinkle the sugar over the radish and mix.
Peel the nashi pear, cut it into thick matchsticks, then mix them with the radish. If using spring onions, cut them into 4cm lengths then add them to the radish and nashi pear. Put the ingredients (including the liquid from the radish) into a jar (preferably one that’s tall and narrow, so there’s less surface area) and add the sliced garlic. Pour the water into the jar, tightly cover the jar with the lid and shake it to combine. Chill in the fridge for a day, then serve with the KFC. If you have leftovers, store them in the fridge.