Korean Fried Chicken

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There is a debate right now about Korean fried chicken. One group thinks it can be considered Korean food. The other group thinks that it is just western food. What do think about this? I believe that Korean fried chicken should be promoted as a Korean food because it is Korea's unique food culture, which led to the development of its unique taste and texture. The sauce, dips, style of eating, and side dishes also make this uniquely Korean.

Chicken in the past was considered a boyang (endurance) food that was often eaten during the three hottest days of summer. Korea was mainly a farming country and when you work all day in the fields, you need protein to stay healthy. The problem is that in summer cattle needed to work the fields and the meat would quickly spoil.

Smaller animals would be eaten instead such as eel, duck or chicken. But for the Korean palate, eel and duck are too greasy so many preferred the taste of chicken. The problem is that the lean chicken doesn't have enough fat so they would usually stuff it with rice, veggies, oriental herbs, and then boil it with potatoes and other veggies to fortify the chicken.

Chicken in Andong was stir fried and then braised in a seasoned a black-sesame-soy sauce and served with potatoes and noodles. In other regions such as Chuncheon it was marinated and braised in a chili sauce.

As more and more Koreans traveled overseas and saw the concept of fried chicken many tried to develop one for the Korean people. When Western fried chicken franchises came to Korea it started a fried-chicken phenomenon. Although Koreans liked the crags, flavor and crumbly texture, it tended to be a bit greasy, messy and it wasn't food that could easily be shared. Also, the chicken’s one time frying method meant it had to be cooked to order, which would take a long time.

To make Korean fried chicken, you first chop the chicken with a knife to make smaller peoples that are easier to eat with chopsticks. The chicken would be marinated and then dredged in a flour and cornstarch mixture. It would then be fried. After a few minutes, the chicken would be taken out of the oil using a wire basket and shaken and metal tongs would be used to beat on the metal basket. This is what makes the crackling texture. Taking it out of the oil gives the chicken time to cook inside while staying moist. It is then fried again a few minutes later making it hot and delicious. It is also often topped with a spicy chicken sauce, which is usually made from gochujang, rice syrup, vinegar, garlic and sesame seeds. It is delicious.

This was written for KBS World Radio. You can listen to my Korean Food Story Every Wednesday at 10am.


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