Years ago, I was teaching English in a suburb outside Seoul in South Korea. I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t like it much. I’m a trained early years teacher and that’s where my heart is teaching-wise. Still, I did the best I could do and threw myself into it. So, imagine my frustration when after hours upon hours of speaking tests, which began with rote learned grammar based questions, I got was wide eyed blank stares in response to open ended riddles like, ‘Where are you from?’. Most of the kids couldn’t tell me anything outside of the words and sentences on the pages of their books. (As it later turned out, I was the only teacher who ever taught in English at the school – all the Korean teachers spoke Korean to the kids, hence the reason why they could recite things but couldn’t respond to a simple wh- question.)
On the cusp of losing my mind, I turned to my boss for help. Why wasn’t I seeing any progress? Why couldn’t these kids respond like any 13 year old who was learning French or Spanish in a school in the US? My boss, Shannon, was a kind, patient woman who could see that I was in distress. “Natasha, let’s go downstairs to the Hof (local eateries in Korea primarily serving beer and chicken) and eat fried chicken and beer. Hmm? You’ll feel much better. Come on, it’s ok. We’ll have fun!”. Well, I couldn’t say no to beer and I definitely couldn’t say no to Korean fried chicken so I went along.
I have to admit: Shannon was right. Fried chicken and beer did make everything better. After a couple bites and a drink, I was no longer on verge of a breakdown. I was smiling and even a little hopeful about tomorrow. Now I’m not saying we should all drown our sorrows in poultry and lager whenever we are feeling down. However, I do encourage you to meditate on the healing properties of fried chicken, pickled daikon and cold beer consumed with friends. Especially this fried chicken which hits all the right spots: salty, sweet, spicy, crunchy, juicy. Just looking at it makes me feel a whole lot better.
5-7 cm (2-3 inch) ginger (sliced)
1 head of garlic
2 tsp red chile flakes
100 g (about 1/2 cup) salt
100 g (about 1/2 cup) sugar
1 lemon (grated and juice)
2-3 Liters (8-12.5 cups) of water
A whole chicken cut into legs, thighs, wings, breasts or whatever combination that you prefer
1 1/2 cup (180 g in weight) flour
1 1/2 cup (180 g in weight) cornstarch
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp sea salt
heavy sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper
2 eggs (beaten with 2 tbsp water)
Remove chicken from brine and discard any debris sticking to it. Let it warm up to room temperature (it’s really important that it doesn’t go straight from fridge to frier).
Mix together flour, cornstarch, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. When the chicken is at room temperature dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture, then the egg bath and finally dredge in flour mixture once more*.
Heat a generous amount of oil in deep pot, frying pan or wok. When the oil is hot, add the chicken** and cook for roughly 10-15 minutes (about 5-6 minutes on each side at 350F/175C). Cook until crispy and brown on the outside with an internal temperature of at least 165F/75C***.
*If you are like me and want an easy clean up and/or … (actually, who likes mess), put the flour mixture into either a sturdy paper or ziplock bag then shake it up. This makes for even coverage and some pretty efficient and easy dredging.
**Meat always tastes better on the bone. If you can, fry chicken with the bones in. Sure, it’s a recipe for sticky fingers, but that’s why all Korean fried chicken joints give customers disposable plastic gloves and wet wipes.
*** Don’t crowd the frier! For deep and pan frying it’s really important to make sure that you fry in stages – adding a large amount of food at once causes the oil temperature to drop and the more food that goes in, the longer it takes to get back to normal. For most of us who don’t have industrial gas hobs, this makes it much more difficult to estimate cooking time. So, cook in evenly sized batches for best results.
1/4 cup (60 ml) Sriracha
1/4 cup (60 ml) honey
6 garlic cloves (minced)
1/4 cup (60 ml) soy sauce
1/2 c (120 ml) water
2 tbsp minced ginger
sesame seeds (optional)
Chopped scallions (optional)
Combine Sriracha, honey, garlic, soy sauce, water and ginger together in a large saucepan or wok. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 5 minutes in order to let all the flavors marry together and for the sauce to slightly thicken.
When chicken is finished cooking, gently toss the pieces of fried chicken with the sauce in a the pan or wok. Toss until everything is evenly coated.
Garnish with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and fresh chopped scallions. Serve hot with cold beer.