Fried Chicken Worth Stripping For

My first experience with Korean fried chicken brought out the animal—or was it the baby?—in me.
korean fried chicken

A few weeks ago, I took an evening flight into San Francisco to be on a live-audience radio show. I got into my downtown hotel late, went out to look for something to eat, and came back with a box of KFC. That’s Korean fried chicken. (Sorry, the KFC joke is mandatory.) It was my first experience with the stuff. It was crisp and lavishly sauced with chile and garlic, vinegar and sugar. I only brought one pair of pants with me, so before tackling the messy chicken, I, uh, took them off.

My hands got greasy and sticky and red. The whole operation felt pretty depraved, which is admittedly kind of pathetic from a Purity Test standpoint. In the morning I put my pants on and went on the radio, but I kept thinking about Korean fried chicken and where to find more of it.

When I got back to Seattle, I was told to try Chicky Pub, in the Pal-Do supermarket food court north of Seattle. The restaurant’s motto is “your appetite will be stimulated by the unique flavor of the Chicky Pub,” which is hard to argue with, even before you taste the saucy chicken. This time I came prepared: I brought extra pants. Okay, not really, but I brought baby wipes. Which is good, because the only way to eat Korean fried chicken is in the style of a baby: You use your hands, and it gets all over everything.

The thing that makes Korean fried chicken great, other than an ocean of hot sauce, is that it’s fried twice, just like French fries. The chicken is cooked at a moderate temperature until nearly cooked through, then removed from the oil and fried at a higher temperature for a minute or two until the skin is shatteringly crisp. (There should be a word for food that is fried crispy and then doused with sauce or broth, like tempura udon—or General Tso’s chicken, which the Korean stuff somewhat resembles.)

Chicky Pub endeared itself to me by including chicken parts not generally considered part of the fried chicken lexicon. No giblets, but I found myself eating a chicken back, some ribs, and a piece of crunchy, gamy cartilage whose original position on the chicken I could not guess.

Korean fried chicken always comes with a little dish of pickled daikon cubes, which is the perfect accompaniment, and yes, you have to eat it by sticking your saucy fingers into the bowl.

If there’s no purveyor near you, Andrea Nguyen has a great recipe for making it at home. And please, eat it with close friends, because this stuff is the culinary equivalent of mud wrestling.

Chicky Pub 17424 Hwy 99 (inside Pal-Do World supermarket), Lynnwood, WA

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