“Instant gratification” is how one person described Korean fried chicken and why it's so darn addictive. Once you’ve had the Korean take on the fried classic, it's hard to have chicken any other way. The crunchiness of the skin, mouthwatering, juicy meat, and the FLAVOR are reasons enough to crave this fried delicacy and keep you coming back for more. But what makes the crispy chicken so appealing? Why is it so mouth-watering? The secret to a great Korean fried chicken recipe is the spices, batter, and frying technique.
Where did it come from?
Fried chicken in Korea goes back as early as the 1950’s. Before then, chicken was mainly used in stews, stocks or was served steamed. It wasn’t until the Korean War that Americans stationed in Korea would cook and fry soul food which included fried chicken. This, paired with the introduction of cooking oil in Korea, would start a whole new era for chicken in the Land of Morning Calm. What followed soon was the famous Lim’s Chicken in the seventies on the ground floor of a department store, which further catapulted the crispy chicken. Shortly after, the frizzled fowl was in demand and stalls, restaurants, and chains quickly developed around the country, helping fried chicken become a staple food in Korean culture. It can be eaten as a meal, snack, paired with beer, and can cure any late-night snack attacks.
Why is fried chicken so popular in Korea?
A whole fried chicken culture emerged because of its commercial success. Chimek, which combines the English word "chicken" and the Korean word for beer (mekju), is basically the best thing ever invented and they complement each other so well. The saltiness of the Korean fried chicken mixed with the carbonation of a light beer is a thing of beauty. Chimek is an event in itself, so to speak. Chimek is something you have after a long work week and want to unwind with coworkers, it’s a picnic meal along the Han River, or a nosh after a night of drinking. When paired with pickled radish and beer, Korean fried chicken is a culinary marvel.
But really, what’s the secret?
What really sets Korean fried chicken apart from all other wannabes are the spices, batter, and technique in frying the chicken. Koreans have found the perfect ratio of salt, sugar, garlic, ginger, onion, pepper, and just a hint of gochugaru (korean red chili flakes) to coat and marinate the chicken. Next comes the batter- you can use a premade mix from legendary brands such as Ottogi, Beksul, No Brand or simply make your own. Following the batter is the frying- now here’s the secret- it HAS to be double fried. The double fry is what gives the chicken the crunch, seals in the flavors, and what makes it different from all the clumpy western versions. The double fry actually helps render off the fat from the skin, making it thinner, crunchier, and lighter- not chewy.
Wait, it gets better?
Just when you thought the browned and crispy chicken couldn't get any better, Koreans also smother it in sauces so savory and full of flavor, it can make you cry tears of joy. Sauces like honey butter, spicy garlic, honey soy, sweet & spicy, and curry have taken Korean fried chicken to the next level. Top the chicken off with toasted sesame seeds and you have yourself a dish made for the gods.
Now, there are some folks out there who will claim it is “unhealthy” because of all the oil used. But, never fear, there’s a solution! Save on calories by making a light and crunchy chicken dinner by baking the meat or using an air fryer. You can achieve relatively the same taste, but spices are key in Korean fried chicken. A great seasoning for this is Himall’s Magic Chicken Powder. The seasoning powder comes in garlic, curry, spicy, and mild flavors. The spicy seasoning is the perfect mix for a bit of a Korean kick in every bite of chicken. The different spice flavors can even be used for sauces, as mentioned above. If deciding between flavors is a tough choice, Himall’s chicken powders complement each other, and can be used side by side for a half spicy garlic/half curry fried chicken meal.
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There’s a reason why this fried chicken is loved by all and why it does so well in Korea. The flavors are spot on, its affordable, and can be eaten anytime. Once you’ve had Korean fried chicken, trust me, there’s no turning back.