I have had the most incredible hankering for Korean food recently. I can’t explain it, except that this current weather makes me want to cuddle up with a bowl of soondubu and freshly cooked rice, made in a stone pot of course. I also just recently discovered Maangchi, who is just about the cutest woman alive other than my mom. They remind me an awful lot of each other actually.
Maangchi doesn’t do anything in half measures, meaning everything she cooks is in huge quantities. She whips out 10 pounds of kimchi at a time, fries huge basins of japchae. I can’t imagine the number of people she cooks for, but in the case of the recipe I’m sharing today, she deep-fried three pounds of chicken wings. For Chris and me, two to three wings/drumettes each, so maybe half a pound of chicken total, is sufficient. Although maybe we’re just light eaters. It’s hard to say.
But hold it! I’m misleading you, aren’t I? I actually didn’t end up following Maangchi’s recipe. It was pretty good, but I found that I preferred Saveur’s version better. The two taste totally different; I just found her version to be a bit cloying. (Also, I don’t understand why corn syrup seems to end up in a lot of Korean dishes—is it a common ingredient? And why?)
What the two versions have in common—and what makes Korean fried chicken so dang addictive—is that the chicken is fried twice. This results in a Seriously Crispy Crust. It’s the difference between a weak handshake and a firm one, sallow and sturdy. A robust crust, if you will. I think it’s dead simple and pretty genius. (The only downside is that you have to withstand being barraged by oil twice as long. Actually, come to think of it, that’s a pretty big downside. Deep-frying is freaky. Make sure you wear long sleeves. And gloves. And clear everything away around the perimeter of the pot because it’s going to get dirty.) And then you smother it in a hot-garlicky-mouth-puckering sauce and away you go!
(On an unrelated note, if you follow me on Instagram, you might know that I was in California last week, where I got to meet the newest generation of the Anderson clan, aka Chris’s brother’s four-and-a-half month old son and our nephew! I get a little giddy calling him this, because it didn’t really occur to me that he WAS related to me until Chris’s sister-in-law [which makes her my sister-in-law?] called me Aunt Linda. Aunt Linda! That’s so exciting! And now that I’ve seen him and fallen in love, I want to buy him things like this onesie. What do you think? Isn’t it adorable?? [Now my mom thinks I want to start popping them out. Ha. Ha ha ha. Sorry Mom. You’ll have to give me time.])
KOREAN FRIED CHICKEN (aka KFC)
Makes 16 pieces
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (1.5″) piece peeled ginger, chopped
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp gochujang
1.5 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp Asian sesame oil
1 Tbsp honey
2/3 cup flour
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2/3 cup water
16 chicken wingettes/drumettes (from 8 chicken wings)
Canola oil, for frying
Sesame seeds and chopped green onions for topping
Make the sauce: process the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, gochujang, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and honey with a food processor/immesion blender until blended (or mince the garlic and ginger and whisk the ingredients together by hand).
For the chicken: in a bowl, whisk the flour, corn starch, and water. Add the chicken and toss. In a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pot, pour about 2 inches of oil. Clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pot and heat the oil until it reaches a temperature of 350 degrees F. Add the chicken pieces gently, but don’t crowd the pot; you’ll have to work in two or three batches. Fry chicken until golden, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Reheat the oil to 350 degrees and fry chicken again until crisp and medium brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain.
In a large bowl, toss the chicken pieces with the sauce, top with sesame seeds and green onions if using, and serve. With lots of napkins.