Korean Fried Chicken is an outstanding combination of crispy chicken with an amazing, sweet and tangy sauce with just a bit of heat.
I was asked this past week to answer some questions about food styling for a local magazine article. You know the how/when/what type of thing…in 400 words or less! One question asked me where my inspiration comes from. I’m not as inspired by photos of dishes as much as I am a curiosity about ingredients or from hearing someone rave about something they’ve had. This Korean Fried Chicken is the perfect example.
It was as simple as this; Deverick is a guy I know only from Facebook who is local and he and his friends were waxing poetic about KFC. Not that KFC, no, it was all about Korean Fried Chicken. I was curious so did a quick search and found several local restaurants but none near me.
I could see they were all in one general area so clearly there is a population concentration in a part of Denver, but my curiosity wasn’t enough to travel there.
I did the next best thing and did a search for a recipe! I found several and knowing nothing of the dish I let someone else take my hand and lead the way. I found this recipe at My Korean Kitchen and decided that a food blog specializing in Korean food would be my best bet.
I revised it a bit but mostly to take into account the ingredients I know most American cooks have on hand (cornstarch vs potato starch, etc) but followed it pretty closely. As much as I like to experiment, I know enough not to experiment with something I’ve never tasted before; I wanted the real deal!
I loved it so much that I did not share with my neighbors. I often love for them to experience something I’ve made but nope, this I secured away just for me, like a bear getting ready to hibernate…all MINE!
I have to admit though, that the second time I made it, I was in a bit of a hurry and I did change it up. The original recipe calls for the chicken to be double fried; I had no time for that and honestly the method I used was just as good but easier; it’s similar to the way I’ve been making my dad’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken for years.
It has always had a nice, crispy crust and I decided to try something similar. That meant a dip in the dry ingredients (I combined flour with cornstarch), then buttermilk (for me that means milk that is mixed with fresh lemon juice and allowed to sit for a couple of minutes), then more of the seasoned dry ingredients.
This was not the KFC way, this was my dad’s way and I could not tell any difference between the twice fried method and mine to only fry it once so fry it once it is in the recipe that follows.
So I’ve got the best of both world’s…a time honored favorite method (mine) combined with the delicious sauce recipe from someone else and the end result is a great example of Korean-American food…both win!
Once drained on paper towels it’s slathered with the sauce, oh my that sauce! While the crispy skin sure matters, it was clear from the ingredient list that the most important part of this recipe is Gochujang (Korean chili paste). It’s a fermented red pepper paste that results in a deep red sauce.
The spiciness of your dish can be increased by using more of the paste but I loved the heat in this recipe; it was just right, not REALLY hot. It’s a nice combination with the honey and brown sugar in the sauce resulting in something I call sweet heat and simply love. Sweet, tangy, a little bit of heat…truly OMG good!
One important note about frying chicken or actually about any chicken? I know that the ‘experts’ tell you to make sure the internal temp is at 165 degrees to insure it’s done. But I like to give dark meat a bit longer and go to 180 degrees, whether fried or grilled outside. It’s moist enough to manage a bit longer cooking time and I’ve found it makes all the difference, especially with bone in chicken. At 165 degrees it’s cooked but not quite as tender as I like it. When I fried these long enough to get an internal temperature of 180 degrees, the meat almost falls off the bone; just how I like it.
The same is not true for chicken breast meat…get those pieces off at the 165 degree mark; they are less moist and increased cooking will simply dry them out. I find that an Instant Read Thermometer is invaluable, indoors or out.
It can be difficult to share with readers sometimes just how amazing a dish is. The adjectives are all so worn out. Amazing! Fantastic! Incredible! So I’ll simply share my experience. I stole one bite of a finished piece before I took photos as a requirement of the effort…and I stood over the kitchen sink and DEVOURED the entire piece of chicken and had to hold myself back from taking more.
Plus, when I make a lot of food, I usually ask a neighbor to join me for dinner or send a couple of pieces elsewhere. Don’t tell but I didn’t share. Not one teensy bite. I also had this for dinner four nights in a row and was still sad when it was gone. Yes, THAT’s how much I love Korean Fried Chicken; the only KFC I love!
I think you must try it too; it’s that good. I know this will probably fly in the face of KFC aficionados but if frying chicken is not your deal; then make a baked or grilled chicken dish that includes the ginger and rice wine in the basting sauce. Top it with the Korean Sweet Chili Sauce and you’ll be close…sure, you’ll lose that crunch but seriously, it’s really all about that sauce!
PIN IT! ‘Korean Fried Chicken’
Korean Fried Chicken
For the Fried Chicken
- 1 cup buttermilk or one cup milk with the juice of one fresh lemon, stir well
- 3 lbs chicken legs with bone-in or a 3 lb chicken, cut up
- 2 Tbsp rice wine I didn't have any so used Mirin
- 2 tsp minced fresh ginger
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 cup corn starch
- 1 cup flour
- Cooking oil for deep frying I use a combination of vegetable oil and peanut oil
For the Sauce
- 3 Tbsp ketchup
- 2 Tbsp gochujang Korean chilli paste, add 1/2 Tbsp more to make it spicier
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
For Garnish (optional)
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Green onion chopped
- Combine the rice wine or mirin, ginger, salt and black pepper in a bowl; mix well. Add the chicken and coat.
- Put the flour and cornstarch into a bag, shake to mix, and add the chicken pieces one at a time; shake the bag to cover all the pieces. Dip the chicken into the buttermilk, let drain and then coat again with the dry mixture.
- In a large skillet or dutch oven, add about 1/2" of oil and heat it until the oil temperature reaches 350 F and sizzling. Add the battered chicken carefully, skin side down. Do not crowd. It will not be completely covered with the oil.
- Keep heat at medium to medium high just enough that the oil is always bubbling and cook for 10 minutes, making sure not to burn the coating.
- Turn the chicken over, skin side up, cover the pan but allow the steam to vent and cook for another 10 minutes.
- Check for doneness; fried dark meat can cook as high as 175-180 for fall off the bone meat, white meat needs to come out at 165 degrees.
- Turn up the heat a bit and continue to fry for just a minute per side to make sure the skin is crispy. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.
- In a medium saucepan, combine all of the Korean fried chicken sauce ingredients. Heat the sauce over medium low heat and stir well. Once it starts bubbling, remove the pan from the heat.
- Place the fried chicken into a large mixing bowl then pour the fried chicken sauce over the chicken to coat. Mix them lightly and thoroughly. Alternatively, serve the fried chicken and the sauce separately and use the sauce as a dipping sauce. Serve immediately; it's best when hot.
- Garnish if desired with toasted sesame seeds and green onion.