Asian take on fried chicken

Sweet, sticky, saucy dish from Far East becoming ‘all the rage’ in States

Chicago TribuneApril 24, 2013 

CHICKEN FRYING 101

To prepare any of the ethnic variations here, marinade the chicken as directed; coat where applicable; then fry following the directions below. Serve with the sauce as described.

Pour 1-2 inches oil in a deep skillet, deep fryer or flat-bottomed wok. Use an oil with a high smoking temperature, such as peanut, safflower or corn.

Heat to 350 degrees. Use a deep-fat thermometer to check temperature. Or drop a small piece of bread or green onion into the oil. If the item bubbles vigorously, the oil is ready.

Don’t crowd the pan; fry the chicken in batches to keep the oil temperature from dropping too low.

Southern fried chicken has long preened in the cultural spotlight, thanks in part to such notables as chef Edna Lewis, Paula Deen and one Kentucky colonel named Harland Sanders. But a new bird is rising out of the East — the Far East — that is capturing some of that shine: fried chicken, Asian-style.

From Myanmar (Burma) in the southeast to Korea in the north, Asia is home to many variations on the fried chicken theme. All are golden and crunchy, but the flavorings can change from country to country.

“Marination gives extra flavor to the chicken,” said Makiko Itoh, a Tokyo-born food writer and blogger living in Vaison-la-Romaine, France, as she explained why Asian-style fried chicken is so popular. Marinating also ensures the chicken stays moist and juicy, she said.

Marja Vongerichten makes a similar point in her cookbook, “The Kimchi Chronicles.”

“Unlike American fried chicken, which tends toward the salty end of the spectrum, Korean fried chicken is sweet and sticky but no less addictive,” writes the New York-based host of “Kimchi Chronicles,” a public television show. “Now, Korean-style chicken (KFC anyone?), full of great flavor and tremendous crunch, has been exported back to the States, where it’s become all the rage.”

Hard numbers are hard to come by, but there appears to be a growing hunger for, at the very least, Asian-style chicken wings, reports Darren Tristano, executive vice president for Technomic Inc., a Chicago-based food industry research and consulting company.

“Wings are becoming a canvas for innovation and flavor,” he said, noting that the range of flavors keys in to the consumer appetite for customization. Such customization is easy to do at home. You can use various marinades, coatings and dipping sauces to create your own flavors and textures.

Proper frying is the same whatever the cuisine. All you need beyond that is a sturdy pot filled with hot oil, some tongs or chopsticks for retrieving the various bits of fried bird, and a rack or paper-lined plate to blot off any extra grease.

Malaysian Chicken

1 pound thighs, breasts, drumsticks, chopped into 2-21/2-inch pieces (leave drumsticks whole)

For the marinade:

1/4 cup sliced shallots or onions

1 teaspoon sliced ginger

1 teaspoon sambal oelek

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground fennel

1 teaspoon ground mustard

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon paprika

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon lime juice

1/2 teaspoon sugar (or 1 tablespoon honey)

1/4 teaspoon sambal oelek

1/4 teaspoon salt

Note: Sambal oelek is a chili sauce found at Asian markets.

For marinade, puree shallots or onions with ginger, sambal oelek and water. Stir into the paste, coriander, cumin, fennel, mustard, black pepper, turmeric, sugar, salt, cinnamon and paprika. Rub chicken with marinade, refrigerate 3-5 hours or overnight.

For sauce, combine Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, sugar (or honey), sambal oelek and salt. Korean Chicken

2 pounds chicken wings

For the marinade:

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon gochujang (chili paste)

3 garlic cloves, minced

11/2 inch piece ginger, minced

Flour for dredging

For the sauce:

3 tablespoons gochujang

3 tablespoons gochugaru (red pepper powder)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon sesame oil

Note: Gochujang is sold as chili bean paste in Asian markets, such as Paldo World or East Asia Market.

For the marinade, whisk together marinade ingredients. Add chicken wings, marinate covered for 20 minutes at room temperature. Dredge wings in flour; tap off excess.

For the sauce, whisk together gochujang, gochugaru, rice vinegar, honey and sesame oil. Add crispy cooked wings to bowl with sauce and toss to coat. Pile wings on platter; season with salt. Burmese Chicken

One 3-pound chicken (or 2-21/2 pounds breasts, legs, wings), chopped into small pieces

For the marinade:

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

3-4 tablespoons fish sauce

For the sauce:

1/4 cup tamarind pulp

1/2 cup hot water

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 green chilies, minced

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Note: Look for tamarind pulp in Asian markets.

To marinade the chicken, rub salt and turmeric into chicken, coat chicken with fish sauce. Cover, marinate, refrigerated, 2-3 hours.

For the sauce, place the tamarind pulp in a small bowl, add hot water; soak, 10 minutes. Mash the tamarind with a fork to separate seeds and fibers from the pulp. Press the tamarind through the sieve over a bowl, using the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible from the pulp. Pound garlic and chilies into a rough paste with a pinch of salt in a mortar (or process to a coarse paste in a food processor). Stir the paste into the tamarind liquid; add 1/2 teaspoon each sugar and salt. Best when served freshly made. See directions for frying. Japanese Chicken

10 ounces boneless thighs

For the marinade:

11/2-inch piece ginger

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sake

For dredging:

1/2 cup potato starch (or substitute cornstarch)

For the sauce:

1 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Finely chopped green onion

1 teaspoon ginger, grated

Pinch of sugar

Sesame oil

Lemon wedges, for serving

For the marinade, mince ginger and mix with soy sauce and sake. Marinate chicken in sauce, 30 minutes.

Coat the chicken by dredging chicken in potato starch (available at Asian grocery stores) or cornstarch.

For the sauce, combine in a small skillet, rice vinegar, soy sauce and finely chopped green onion. Add 1 teaspoon grated ginger, a pinch of sugar and a few drops sesame oil. Heat on medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Serve sauce with lemon wedges on the side. If serving the chicken later at room temperature, make the sauce and then put the cooked chicken pieces in the pan and toss to coat each with the hot sauce. Let chicken and sauce cool completely.

Source: Adapted from “Flavors of Malaysia” by Susheela Raghavan Source: Developed by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten for “The Kimchi Chronicles,” written by his wife, Marja Source: Adapted from “Burma: Rivers of Flavor” by Naomi Duguid Source: Adapted from the “Just Hungry” blog (justhungry.com) of Makiko Itoh

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