There's a Pandemic Outside. Stay Home and Make Korean Fried Chicken Instead
After being absent for over a year on my blog, I was about to post something about a fancy matcha cake - until the coronavirus situation came down on us. 😞 It made me think, who on earth wants to see a party cake recipe at a time when most of us are couped up in the house trying to stave off various emotional states that we'd rather not be going through?
So despite my earlier intentions of Panda Bakes being soley about baking, I've decided to share something different with you. It's absolutely unrelated to cakes and sweets, but I'd personally much prefer to share this with you now than a party cake for 6 people that you likely won't be able to share with anyone (that for me is the biggest joy-killer😨): my recipe for Korean Fried Chicken.
Surely fried chicken is not what might normally come to mind during a pandemic (hands up if you are drinking some sort of tumeric-veg-immunity-boosting juice right now) but I am a firm believer that we have to find joy wherever possible. Especially now, when so many things are out of our control, so much uncertainty abounds.
Grief and fear are the obvious emotions many of us are feeling at this moment, along with the mental challenge of isolation, loneliness and boredom. Don't let it eat you up as you literally eat through everything in your Coronavirus stash. It doesn't have to be so bad. Creativity and productivity are great ways to stave off cabin fever - cooking falls under both. Make this Korean Fried Chicken.
But if my Korean Fried Chicken (and beer) fails to lift your mood, remember that there are always cute dogs that can do that in an instant too.
How to Make Korean Fried Chicken
The secret to Korean Fried Chicken is in the sauce. Everyone has their own blend, balancing sweet, spicy, salty, sticky and funky to different effects, but there is one ingredient that is non-negotiable: kochujang.
Can you substitute kochujang for another hot sauce?
Absolutely not! Kochujang is a red chilli paste made with red chilli powder, fermented soybeans and glutinous rice. Its spicy, savoury and sweet flavour is indispensable in Korean cooking; kochujang is one of the many essential pantry items that make up Korean cuisine.
Like miso, it's fermented, which means it's loaded with natural umami. Basically, it's unlike any other chilli paste or sauce. Go get a tub, keep it in the fridge. You won't regret it. You will find that it is incredibly versatile - add a dollop to a rice bowl with vegetables to make bibimbap, use it in stews, soups and as a glaze for roasted chicken wings (!) even.
In addition you will need: kochugaru (Korean red chilli powder), honey (or rice syrup), sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, onion and garlic to varying amounts.
Once you have these, blitz them altogether in a food processor or using a stick blender to create a smooth sauce. There's nothing worse than being stuck with a chunk of garlic or onion in your teeth. You can easily make this sauce ahead and keep it in the fridge for a few days.
Just remember to reheat it before you dress the chicken.
Prepping the chicken
Preparing the chicken is pretty much the same as you would any fried chicken. Let it sit in milk with some salt and pepper, or even better, something more acidic such as buttermilk or kefir. Giving the chicken a bath in salted lactic acid breaks down and flavours the chicken muscle.
Since I tend to buy bone-in thighs, I usually prepare the chicken the night before. Debone the chicken, cut it into pieces then leave it in the milk overnight in the fridge. If you don't have this time, even an hour will still do wonders, so try not to miss it.
When you are ready to cook, mix together the flours, set it in a nice tray next to the fryer, heat up the oil and take your chicken pieces from the milk mixture straight to the flour and into the oil.
Some cooking notes for making the best KFC:
I like to use a mix of dark and light meat - thighs and breast. Thighs and drumsticks have the best flavour but are more work because you will have to debone them. I do this the night before to save time.
Skinless or skin-on? The skin is where the flavour is at! The only reason why I might go for skinless is when I can't find chicken thighs with the skin at my local supermarket.
The Korean fried chicken sauce can be made the night before, or even several days before and kept in the fridge. Just heat it up before using it to coat the chicken so that it's nice and warm.
Baking soda in the batter adds crunch, but this is just my version. If you have another version of frying batter, go for it. I heard that chickpea flour makes for an extra crispy coating for fried chicken.
When frying, use oil with a high smoke point. Peanut oil works well.
Recipe for my favourite Korean Fried Chicken
Korean Fried Chicken is a popular late night snack in Korea and is always enjoyed in good company with beers. Deboned chicken pieces are deep fried until golden and crunchy, then coated in a sweet, savoury, spicy sauce made from korean chilli paste, kochujang. Adjust the chilli powder in the sauce to your liking, but trust me, be brave. Even the most chilli-averse Italian friends have loved this version of my sauce, everyone finds it very hard to stop at a couple of pieces. Some even call my chicken the "Marry me chicken". Try it. Share it. Drink beers.
1.5 kg chicken, mix of bone-in thighs, drumsticks and breast
milk (or kefir, buttermilk)
salt and pepper
For the sauce
100 ml honey
100 ml ketchup
50 ml soy sauce
50 ml kochujang (Korean chilli paste)
3 tablespoons of Korean chilli powder
3 tablespoons sugar
3 cloves of garlic
half an onion, finely chopped
For the batter
1.5 cup flour
1/2 cup cornflour (amido di mais)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 L vegetable or peanut oil for frying
Optional garnish: toasted peanuts, cashew nuts, almonds, or green onion
1. Prepare the chicken: debone the thighs and drumsticks, chop all the meat into easy-to-eat, 3-4 cm pieces. Place in a bowl, add a pinch of salt, pepper, and enough milk to cover the meat. Set aside covered in the fridge for at least an hour, or overnight.
2. Prepare the sauce: add all the ingredients to a food blender, pulse until garlic and onion are finely blitzed. (Or use an immersion blender in a bowl.) Place in a saucepan over medium heat, simmer for about 5 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.
3. Heat the oil: when you are ready to fry the chicken, heat the oil to 180C in a large enough saucepan.
4. Mix the batter: add all the ingredients for the batter to a bowl, mix to combine. Add chicken pieces, in batches, coat with the flour mix.
5. Fry the chicken: when the oil is hot enough, slowly add the chicken, 4-5 pieces at a time. Fry until golden all over. This takes about 5 minutes for small pieces, 7 minutes or more for larger chunks.
6. Let it drain over a wire rack or on paper towels, before coating it with the sauce. Garnish with toasted nuts and chopped green onions.
Serve immediately with beer and pickled daikon. Gon-bae!