Since I offhandedly mentioned making my own Korean Fried Chicken in a recent QRIMOLE episode, caonimas have inundated me with requests for the Kpopalypse Korean Fried Chicken recipe! Here it is, by popular demand!
Like Velvet Tube, Kpopalypse takes cooking seriously, so who better than Kpopalypse to show you how to make Korean Fried Chicken? I first got hooked on fried chicken when I tasted it at a local k-pop DJ event in my town, and since my girlfriend is a big fan of fried chicken in general I decided to teach myself how to make my own. Now I share this knowledge with you the Kpopalypse reader, purely to enhance your life!
Note that my Korean Fried Chicken recipe varies from the traditional method in one key way – I don’t use chicken skin. This is probably heretical to traditional fried chicken fans, as the flavour of the sauce being cooked into the skin of the chicken is the very concept of much fried chicken cooking, but I personally hate eating skin regardless of context. You can still get a crispy fried chicken coating without using skin from chicken legs or wings, so this recipe is going to use chicken breast fillets instead and show you how to do this.
The first thing you’re going to need to do is boil some oil. You can use a deep fryer for this if you have one, but it’s not necessary, a large (and heavy) cooking pot will do, just be super careful and safe with it because burns from oil in pots that fall off stoves will seriously fuck you up, possibly for life, I can’t stress this enough, it’s literally the worst cooking injury you can ever imagine. Read this guide for some tips for safe oil deep frying with pots, make sure your stove can hold the pot safely without any tipping danger and generally don’t clown around like a dumb bitch when using hot oil. Assuming you have confirmed that your situation is OH&S compliant like only the best k-pop videos, put the pot of oil on the biggest and safest hotplate you have, and turn it up high. You want to use oil with a high smoke point, personally I like rice bran oil for this, but sunflower oil, canola oil and vegetable oil all will work. You will need a lot of oil, about 3 litres of oil (0.8 gallons approx) for every 1 kilo (2.2 pounds) of chicken.
While you’re waiting for the oil to get to the right heat, dice your chicken breasts.
You want medium sized chunks, maybe about 3cm cubed, doesn’t have to be precise. You’re aiming for chunks big enough so it’s not going to be all coating when you pull it out of the pot later, but small enough so that the center is cooked quickly. I don’t recommend buying pre-diced chicken as everywhere I go they always dice it way too small for this. You need something to do while the oil heats up anyway.
The next step is to shove your diced chicken into a large mixing bowl and coat each piece in potato starch:
Any good Asian supermarket will have bags and bags of this shit lying around. For each kilo of chicken, you’ll be using about a third of one of these 500 gram bags worth of starch. Be sure to use potato starch only and not any other kind of starch that you’ll probably see next to it like sweet potato starch, tapioca starch or whatever, these kinds don’t work anywhere near as well. Potato starch only, trust.
The quickest and easiest way to coat each piece is to just shove both your hands in there and start mixing. Your aim is to get each surface of each and every piece of chicken coated with starch. Make sure your hands are not wet as this will interfere with the coating. Once you’re done, your chicken (and your hands) should look something like this:
By now, the oil should be at the right temperature, but it can be hard to tell just by looking at the oil, as clean oil generally doesn’t look much different when it’s heated. Too low a temperature and the chicken coating will come out soggy rather than crisp. The most hassle-free way to check the temperature, is to dip a wooden spoon into the boiling oil. If you’re at a good temperature, bubbles should appear around the spoon. Here’s what that actually looks like:
Once your oil reaches this point, you’re good. Now put the chicken in the oil. If you have a deep fryer you can just lower the chicken in gently, but if using a pot, I recommend putting each piece of chicken in the oil individually and gently using plastic tongs, getting the tongs very close to the oil before releasing each piece to reduce the oil splatter, but also making sure to not let the tongs touch the oil. You’ll be tempted to throw all the chicken in at once quickly, but don’t do this – not only is it dangerous (I can’t overstate the need for OH&S compliance when cooking with hot oil in pots, and I will mention this again and again until you are sick of it so tough shit if you are) but also the chicken will lose its coating if it hits the oil too hard and fast.
Once all your chicken is in the pot, give it a minute for the coating to fry on, then poke the chicken pieces around a bit with the wooden spoon just to make sure no bits of chicken are glued to each other and to make sure they’re all under the oil so they cook properly, and then start a timer for 15 minutes. While your timer is ticking you’re going to want to grab a wok and mix together your ingredients for the sauce.
There’s two key ingredients for the chilli sauce. One is gochujang – Korean red chilli paste. If you’re super hardcore you can make gochujang yourself from scratch, but I don’t recommend it unless you have an insanely zealous commitment to Korean cuisine because it’s not the easiest thing to make if you want to do it well. If you’re too busy fapping to your k-pop faves to spend incredible amounts of time and dedication on mastering this one simple ingredient, you can buy good quality ready-made gochujang from your Asian grocer in tubs like this:
This is the brand I like to use and it’s the easiest one to get where I live, it’s also pretty fucking good, but I’ve never run across a bad version honestly. The other key ingredient you need is soy sauce:
Yamasa is a Japanese soy sauce which I use because my girlfriend prefers the Japanese sauces common in sushi bars over the Chinese soy sauces that are more common where I live generally. I’m sure there are also Korean soy sauces but I haven’t found any good brands yet, the country of origin doesn’t matter anyway (sorry M.O.N.T) as the main factor in a good soy sauce is the ingredients. The best soy sauces are naturally brewed (many artificial or “hydrolysis” brewed soy sauces are actually banned in Australia) and will contain only four ingredients – water, soybeans, wheat and salt.
How much of gochujang vs soy sauce to use is subjective, but the result will determine the amount of savoury vs spice in your sauce, so adjust according to your personal heat tolerance/preference. Below on the wok spoon is the amount of gochujang I would use to coat one kilo of chicken:
I’d combine this with about 1/4 cup of soy sauce. This would make for a fairly spicy sauce. Add both of these ingredients to a wok, and then add the following extras, all of which are optional but all of which are also highly recommended for the best result.
Corn syrup (left) or brown rice syrup (right) as a sweetener. Both won’t be too hard to find at an Asian grocer, although corn syrup seems easier to get, I struggle with availability of the brown rice syrup a bit where I live for some reason. You want a few good dollops of either of these, or you can combine them. Brown rice syrup is less sugary and less sweet than corn syrup, so it’s probably healthier, but also a bit more of a pain in the ass to actually cook with because it takes about five years for the syrup to actually flow out of the bottle once you’ve used about half of it up. Although the sweetness levels vary, either one adds a nice gluey texture to the sauce which will ensure it clings well to the chicken. You can also combine these with a sprinkling of caster sugar, or if you’re living in an area where these ingredients are impossible to acquire you can just use a few tablespoons of caster sugar on its own and it’s not ideal because you won’t get the same texture but it will do the job in a pinch.
Sesame oil is good to throw in the mix. Just a few drops will do, it’s mainly just for the smell, which is great if you buy really good quality sesame oil. I recommend the brand shown here, if you can get it accept no substitute, a small bottle like this will last a very long time.
Mirim (cooking wine, called “mirin” if getting the Japanese version but they’re the same thing, use either) is also recommended just to take some of the sickly sweetness out. I recommend using about one “load” of mirim and combining it with about two “loads” of regular white vinegar, both ingredients have a similar effect but the mix changes the taste a bit so try the above quantities and then experiment, erring on the side of less of each rather than more.
Definitely add some garlic into the mix. You can chop your own fresh garlic, or if you’re lazy you can use dried garlic in packets which your Asian grocer will definitely have. However avoid the gross pickled minced garlic that you get in regular supermarkets because that shit is feral and it has the entirely wrong texture for what you’re about to do, it will dull the crispness of your chicken plus smell rank which is not what you want.
Throw all of this shit into a wok together and preferably make sure it’s a proper wok like the one depicted which as you can see has cooked about ten years’ worth of stir fry. Once it’s all in there, mix together. You don’t need any heat for this really, although just a very low heat can make mixing slightly easier. Don’t heat it up much however, with so much sweetener in the sauce it will burn and go smoky very easily, which ruins the flavour – as soon as you see any bubbles, turn the heat off immediately. Once mixed, your sauce will look like this:
You can set this aside for now.
By the time you’ve done all this crap, your 15 minutes on the chicken frying will probably be up. Take the chicken out of the oil, and place it somewhere. With a deep fryer this is easy, if you’re using a pot I recommend one of these net things to get your chicken out, which you can buy guess where:
Your chicken after 15 minutes of frying should look kind of fluffy but it won’t really be crispy or brown yet, it’s still be kind of pale and squishy.
As you can see, each piece is nicely coated in the potato starch. Let the chicken sit for about a minute, and then put it all straight back in the oil again for a second round of frying. Leave it in there until it starts to get very crisp and golden brown, making sure that the oil is as hot as possible for this second round of frying.
Once you’re getting some nice brownness with the chicken, lift a piece out and test it, by cutting through it and having a taste. You should have a nice crisp coating that’s consistent, but also nicely cooked inside. Then throw it all into the wok, right on top of the sauce you made earlier:
And then grab the wok spoon and mix the sauce into it. Don’t stop until each piece of the chicken is completely coated in the sauce.
Now it’s ready to serve! It’s very filling and pretty much a meal in itself, below I’ve just served it with some red rice which is enough to just take the sting out of the heat while eating if you need something to calm down the flavour, but you can use white rice, noodles or anything you like really.
It took me a bit of practice to get this right. Common mistakes I’ve made:
- coating falls off the chicken – too rough with the chicken when first putting it in the oil, this can also happen if you have wet hands or wet tongs. Also don’t be tempted to combine the potato starch with egg, breadcrumbs, garlic or anything else you would use for other coating-based frying, you don’t need those as they will weigh down the starch and it won’t stay on the chicken.
- chicken too gluey and soft even when golden brown – your oil probably wasn’t hot enough. Also can be another problem created by adding extra ingredients to the potato starch before frying, or by using other types of starches
- chicken too crisp on the outside but not cooked through in the middle – you’ve fried it at too high a heat.
- chicken hard like a bullet – you’ve fried it for too long, reduce your frying time
Here’s a look inside a chicken piece just so you can see the correct texture.
As you can see, the coating is firm but the breast meat is still tender and juicy with lots of texture.
The final step happens a few hours after you’ve eaten the meal – preserve the oil. Oil used for frying chicken stays good for ages and can be used for many more deep fries, or for any other use, so once you’ve turned the stove off and the oil has cooled down completely (which takes a good couple of hours) use a funnel to pour it back in the bottle it came from and keep it for next time. Just remember that it’s the oil you cooked the chicken with in case you have any vegans over.
That’s all! Hopefully you found this post educational and remember to be safe with hot oil and not burn yourself! Kpopalypse will return!