“Okoreans,” in accordance with Vice journal, “are the undisputed Asian masters of hen.” I believe there could also be some dispute over this, however even just a few Filipinos, themselves no slouches in the case of hen, concede South Korea’s mastery of the deep-fat frier. Regardless of its ubiquity – in 2016, there have been greater than twice as many fried hen eating places within the nation than all of the hamburger, pizza and sandwich joints put collectively – KFC is a comparatively current phenomenon, launched, it’s mentioned, by US troopers through the Korean Conflict, and made extra accessible by falling meals costs and an increase in disposable revenue within the many years that adopted. What was as soon as an occasional deal with has change into the takeaway of selection, good for sharing with children or to accomplice a chilly beer.
One of many issues that units Korean fried hen other than different varieties is that it typically comes bathed in sauce – South Korean YouTube star turned creator Emily Kim, AKA Maangchi, has seven totally different recipes on her web site. For those who lived in South Korea, you could possibly most likely get all of them delivered to you in much less time that it takes to complete this piece. However when you don’t, effectively, carry on studying.
Wings are the factor right here: portioned entire chickens are apparently conventional, however, as Andrea Geary explains in Cook dinner’s Illustrated, Korean birds are typically smaller than US ones, and thus lend themselves higher to deep frying. Bigger hen breasts or thighs tend to burn on the surface earlier than they’re cooked via, so when you’d favor to make use of these cuts, divide them into smaller items earlier than use, and observe that, as J Kenji López-Alt explains, darkish meat, comparable to thigh, is best suited to the excessive temperatures concerned.
You’ll be in good firm with wings, although: Michelin-starred chef Hooni Kim describes them as “my favorite a part of the hen [with] sufficient fats and bone to maintain the meat very moist through the cooking course of”. I’d counsel separating them into the fairly tweely named drumettes and wingettes, as Judy Joo and Geary explicitly suggest (photographs of different recipes trace that some, comparable to Maangchi, assume that is apparent), as a result of it makes them a lot simpler each to cook dinner and to eat. That mentioned, López-Alt favours “meaty, whole-wing parts with the guidelines nonetheless connected, fairly than drumettes and flats”, so when you’re not helpful with a cleaver, and don’t know a butcher who’s, maintain them intact with Kenji’s blessing.
Chickens, inconveniently, come encased in pores and skin that’s designed (let’s not get into that right here) to repel water, a high quality that’s helpful for the hen, however lower than best if you’re hoping to coat it in batter. López-Alt likens his answer, during which the wings are dipped in a mix of cornflour, salt and baking powder and left to air dry for an hour, to “a painter rolling on a layer of primer to verify the paint sticks to the partitions”. The baking powder raises the pH of the pores and skin, which apparently helps it crisp, whereas the cornflour absorbs moisture, creating a greater floor for the batter to cling to, a science even I can perceive.
Joo’s recipe, from her e-book Korean Soul Meals, brines her wings with pepper, lemon zest, ginger, garlic, onion, leek and soy bean paste for twenty-four hours earlier than they’re dunked in seasoned cornflour, whereas Hooni Kim goes for a shorter, two-hour bathtub in soy, sake, garlic and ginger, earlier than administering a coating of potato starch and leaving them to dry for half-hour. He explains that the marinade “offers the flavours an extended end and accentuates the sauce”, however all of us really feel this step is gilding the lily right here – hen wings have sufficient flavour of their very own.
Neglect the hen; it’s the batter that issues. Quite than the craggy, crunchy crust of the American model, Korean fried hen tends to favour a thinner, crisper coating that shatters below the enamel, and likewise must be sturdy sufficient to face as much as being tossed in sauce with out changing into sadly soggy.
The only “batter” is Hooni Kim’s second layer of potato starch, which proves astonishingly crunchy, if a bit of powdery compared with the opposite recipes, which all use some wheat flour as effectively. Geary explains higher than I can why the mixture works: “The proteins in wheat flour assist the batter bond to the meat and likewise brown deeply; cornstarch (a pure starch) doesn’t cling or brown in addition to flour, nevertheless it crisps up properly … as a result of pure starch releases extra amylose, a starch molecule that fries up super-crispy. Cornstarch can also’t type gluten, so it doesn’t flip powerful.” (The extra available cornflour can be marginally preferable to the potato selection, due to its larger amylose content material.)
After making an attempt Geary’s extra flour-heavy recipe and Maangchi’s starchy one, I determine on López-Alt’s 50:50 ratio as the perfect of each worlds: it’s delicately crisp, however has sufficient integrity to resist the onslaught of sauce. I’m professional elevating agent, which, due to the bubbles it produces when it hits the new oil, yields lighter, airier outcomes, however I don’t see sufficient distinction from changing a few of the water within the batter with vodka to make the funding worthwhile. (As meals scientist Harold McGee has written, alcohol dissolves a few of the gluten in wheat flour, making the batter much less powerful, and evaporates sooner than water, so it crisps shortly earlier than the contents have an opportunity to dry out, however hen cooks fairly extra slowly than the white fish for which Heston Blumenthal got here up with the thought, so that is much less of an issue.)
Maangchi is the one one to make use of eggs in her batter, creating a considerable crust that I’d describe as extra American in model (although, seeing as she taught herself to make it by watching the proprietor of her native Korean hen store, it’s clearly not), whereas Joo credit her “extra-crispy” batter to the addition of matzo meal. Each are absurdly crunchy and scrumptious, however lack the delicacy of the thinner variations, which, because the factor that apparently units a lot Korean fried hen aside, feels just like the objective right here.
I received’t be flavouring my batter with chilli flakes, garlic or onion powder, as Joo recommends, or certainly with as a lot salt as López-Alt makes use of, as a result of I don’t need it to compete with the sauce; when you’re serving this by itself, nonetheless, you could want to alter the seasoning.
One of many causes typically cited for Korean fried hen’s extraordinary crispness is the double frying approach, the place it’s first fried at a comparatively low temperature till the hen is cooked via, then once more at the next temperature to set the crust. Joo and López-Alt don’t hassle doing this, with the latter explaining that he doesn’t really feel it makes a lot distinction with such a skinny batter, “aside from permitting you to quickly re-heat and serve massive parts of par-cooked hen”, which might be why it’s widespread in eating places. Geary, nonetheless, argues that the decrease temperature is significant for driving all of the moisture out of the meat with out overcooking it, thus making for a extra crisp end result. López-Alt’s hen is deliciously juicy and crunchy straight out of the fryer, however the double-fried varieties do appear to face up higher to the sauce, so I’d suggest going the additional mile.
Candy soy, honey butter, spicy garlic – Korean fried hen is available in many flavours, however my favorite is what’s variously described as “candy, bitter and spicy”, “candy and spicy chilli” and “spicy Asian”, a sticky-sweet but intensely savoury sauce during which the warmth could be adjusted to style.
The bottom to nearly all of the examples I attempt, except Hooni Kim’s, is gochujang, a wealthy, candy Korean pink pepper paste. Kim makes use of a mix of sriracha and Indonesian sambal oelek for spice as an alternative, which makes his sauce thinner and tangier than the others – and likewise fairly addictive, as a result of he finishes it off with a liberal quantity of butter (effectively, he did prepare at Daniel, the New York Michelin-starred French restaurant, earlier than opening his personal locations). Gochujang feels the basic selection, nonetheless.
Some recipes include a hefty hit of soy sauce and sesame oil, however my favorite, Maangchi’s model, retains issues easy with just a bit garlic and a few rice vinegar to steadiness the sugar, although I’ll be including ginger as effectively, as a result of its candy warmth works so effectively with the opposite flavours right here. Just like the hen, you can also make this prematurely. Then all it’s important to do is ending frying the hen, mix the 2 and put out the napkins.
Excellent Korean fried hen
Prep 10 min
Chill 30 min+
Cook dinner 20 min
Makes 12 items (simply multiplied)
6 hen wings, separated (see step 1)
2 tbsp cornflour
½ tsp baking powder
Impartial oil, for frying
2 spring onions, trimmed and sliced skinny, to serve (elective)
1 tbsp sesame seeds, to serve (elective)
For the batter
75g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
About 200ml glowing water
For the sauce
1 tbsp oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tsp grated contemporary ginger
75ml tomato ketchup
45ml honey or golden syrup
1 tbsp rice or white vinegar
Begin by separating the hen wings into two items, in the event that they’re not already. Stretch the wing out and use your fingers to seek out the joint the place the flat drumstick half meats the wing correct. Place the blade of a heavy knife on this and press down with the palm of your different hand to chop via. Do the identical the place the wing tip meets the wing (look on-line if this isn’t apparent). (The wing ideas could be saved and used to make inventory.)
Whisk two tablespoons of cornflour and a half-teaspoon of baking powder in a bowl, then toss every hen wing within the combine to coat. Unfold out on a rack set over a roasting tin and refrigerate, uncovered, for at the very least half-hour.
In the meantime, make the sauce. Warmth the oil in a small frying pan and cook dinner the garlic and ginger till aromatic. Stir within the remaining substances, deliver to a effervescent simmer, then put aside.
While you’re prepared to begin cooking, take the hen out of the fridge and warmth a deep-fat fryer (or a large pan not more than a 3rd stuffed with impartial oil) to 160C/325F. Whereas it’s heating up, put the 2 flours in a large bowl, whisk with the baking powder and salt, then add sufficient water to make a free batter the consistency of single cream.
Add the hen items to the batter, stir to coat, then, working separately, shake off any extra batter and drop into the new oil – watch out to not overcrowd it or the temperature will drop too far. Cook dinner for eight to 10 minutes, till evenly golden, then raise out on to a clear rack and repeat with the remaining hen.
Go away the final batch of hen items to relaxation for at the very least 5 minutes. In the meantime, skim any free items of batter from the oil, then warmth it as much as 180C. Once more working in batches, return the hen items to the new oil and cook dinner for one more 4 or 5 minutes, till deeply golden.
Scoop the hen again on to the rack, or put in a heat oven. Reheat the sauce and paint it everywhere in the fired hen, or toss the 2 collectively in a bowl. Switch to a serving bowl, scatter with the spring onions and sesame seeds, if utilizing, and eat instantly.