There are many ways to make tasty fried chicken, and I like them all, but I’m particularly enamored of the Korean way, which requires some planning ahead but is extremely satisfying. The blanching and freezing technique was lifted from Danny Bowien at Mission Chinese, who does this with his chicken wings. The freezing step makes this dish into a two-day affair, and you’ll need to clear some room in your freezer, but it’s essential for extra-crisp results.
Anthony Bourdain’s Korean Fried Chicken
Serves six to eight.
1 cup roasted chili oil
¼ cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon medium/fine
gochugaru (ground Korean red pepper)
4 pounds chicken legs, separated into thighs and drumsticks
About 4 quarts peanut or soy oil, for frying
1 cup potato starch or tapioca starch
1 cup gochujang (fermented Korean pepper paste)
8 garlic cloves
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
¼ cup cheongju (Korean rice wine)
¼ cup Frank’s RedHot sauce
2 teaspoons MSG (optional but recommended)
Deep-fry or candy thermometer
2 sheet pans lined with newspaper
2 cooling racks, each approximately the same size as the sheet pans
Food processor or immersion blender
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the chili oil, salt, and gochugaru. Add the chicken and toss to coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.
Add frying oil to a large, deep, straight-sided frying pan (or other vessel suited to frying chicken) so that it is no more than half full. Bring to 300˚F over medium heat, monitoring the temperature with a deep-fry thermometer.
Place the potato starch in a shallow bowl. Working in batches, remove the chicken from the marinade, letting the excess drip off, then toss into the potato starch to coat.
Set the cooling racks over each lined sheet pan.
Working in batches, carefully transfer the chicken to the hot oil. Blanch in the oil for six to eight minutes per side, turning the chicken as necessary. The chicken should be opaque looking, and about 75 percent cooked through. (If you’re unsure, cut into a piece of chicken to inspect the doneness from the inside.) Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the chicken to the cooling rack, and continue until all of the chicken has been blanched.
Once it is completely cool, transfer the chicken to a clean sheet pan (or remove the rack and discard the newspaper from one pan), wrap it tightly with plastic wrap, and freeze for eight hours or overnight.
The next day, combine the gochujang, garlic, maple syrup, soy sauce, fish sauce, cheongju, hot sauce, and, if using, the MSG in the food processor and blend well. This is the sauce that you will brush the chicken with as it comes out of its finishing fry.
Pull the chicken from the freezer and unwrap it about 1 hour before cooking.
Add frying oil to your pan or pot so that it is no more than half full. Bring it to 350˚F over medium heat, again monitoring the temperature with the thermometer. Set up your lined sheet pans with the cooling racks. Working in small batches, fry the chicken for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating in the oil as needed, until golden brown. Let drain and cool slightly on the cooling rack, then use a pastry brush to coat each piece with the sauce. Serve with the radish pickles and cold beer.