Korean Fried Chicken Is the Only Kind of KFC Worth Making. Here’s How.
Chef Bobby Yoon shares the recipe for his tasty take on a crispy South Korean classic
In South Korea, pairing fried chicken and beer is so popular it has a nickname: chimaek.
“Chi” for chicken and “maek” for maekju (Korean for beer), chimaek has created enough demand in its homeland that the country now has more than 20,000 fried chicken eateries, hosts an annual chicken-and-beer festival and even officially certifies experts in tasting fried chicken with another poultry-related portmanteau: chimmelier, as in chicken sommelier.
Though he isn’t officially recognized with that title, Bobby Yoon, the owner of Yoon Haeundae Galbi in NYC, knows a good deal about the culinary creation and craze that has swept the nation where his grandfather grew up.
“Chimaek is so famous right now in Korea,” he tells InsideHook. “Most people who get off from the work at night gather their friends or co-workers and go to a chicken joint. They drink beer and eat chicken. It’s like, ‘Hey, you guys want to go for chimaek?’ Most people know the term because it’s kind of famous now. There are more fried chicken joints in Korea than Korean barbecue restaurants.”
Doused in a sauce made from gochujang, a fermented red pepper paste, the chicken Yoon serves at his restaurant has a little bit of kick and is also double-fried for extra crispiness.
“In Korea, there’s a saying: outside crispy, inside more soft,” Yoon says. “If it is really crispy outside, it adds texture. Even if the chicken has been on the table for more than 10 minutes, it still gives you that crispiness. Once you bite into the chicken, it gives you crunchiness, but the inside of the chicken is still soft because it’s been marinated. It’s kind of like you’re having two different foods in one bite.”
Always a popular menu item, the hot chicken at Yoon Haeundae Galbi began selling like hotcakes following the onset of the pandemic last year.
“I’m not a scientist or anything, but I think people who are under a lot of pressure deal with stress by eating oily or spicy food,” Yoon says. “That’s why people order pizzas, burgers, French fries or even Chinese food at home after tiring days of work. So, I think fried chicken goes into the same category. You can drink wine or beer with chicken at home watching Netflix.”
If you want to judge for yourself, Yoon’s Korean fried chicken recipe is below.
Yoon Haeundae Galbi‘s Korean Fried Chicken
Ingredients for the chicken
- 1 ½ pounds of boneless chicken thighs
- 1 tablespoon ginger, minced or grated
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons of mirin
- 2 cups of water
- 2 ½ cups AP flour
- Canola oil for frying
- 1 chive or scallion, chopped
- Sesame seeds for garnish
Ingredients for the sauce
- 2.5 cups corn syrup
- 1 cup Ketchup
- 1 cup minced garlic
- ½ cup Pepper flakes
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup gochujang
- Combine ginger, garlic, mirin and 1 cup of water in a bowl. Add chicken thighs, mix and marinate overnight (at least 6 hours).
- Preheat a deep sauté pan, large heavy bottom pot or fryer with canola oil to 350 degrees (about 1 ½ inches in depth for the pan/pot).
- Prepare your batters. In a medium mixing bowl, place 1 cup of AP flour. In a separate medium mixing bowl, place 1 ½ cup AP flour mixed with 1 cup of water and combine to a smooth batter. To fry the chicken, take a piece out of the marinade and coat with flour from the dry batter, then coat with the wet batter. Carefully place the chicken into the oil. Work in batches, depending on the size of your frying vessel.
- Fry the chicken in the oil until crispy and golden, about 5-8 minutes. (Check that the temperature is 165 degrees with a thermometer or take a small metal chopstick or pick and stick in the chicken. If the metal is warm/hot it should be done, if still cool/cold then cook a bit more.)
- Make the sauce by mixing the sauce ingredients into a mixing bowl. When chicken is done, place on a paper-towel-lined plate to absorb the excess oil. Next, you can either serve OR let the chicken rest until they reach room temperature and then fry again for about three minutes in the 350-degree oil. We like to double fry them.
- While the chicken is still hot, place it into the mixing bowl with the sauce and shake it until the sauce evenly coats the chicken. Remove and serve on a platter and garnish with the chopped chives or scallion and sesame seeds. Serve with any pickled item (cucumber pickles, pickled jalapeño, etc.). The recipe should serve five to six people.
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