When you think about crispy fried chicken, buttermilk and other Southern recipes come to mind. But as much as the South (US) would love to claim what I believe is the greatest invention in the world, fried chicken, it’s actually loved all over the world – especially in South Korea.
The Korean “wave” has not only brought to Western audiences emotional Korean dramas, well choreographed singers and rappers of K-Pop, Korean Barbecue, and Kimchi (Korea’s spicy answer to Germany’s sauerkraut); but also the other “KFC” – Korean Fried Chicken.
It seems almost poetic that Nairobi’s first specialized chicken restaurant to serve Korean-inspired recipes is located right next to Kentucky Fried Chicken at Garden City Mall.
Koreana Chicken serves some of the best non-greasy fried chicken you’ll ever have: juicy pieces of chicken, encapsulated in a much lighter coating than traditional American recipes that’s almost transparent, deep-fried, twice, and finally tossed in a sticky Gochujang-based savoury, sweet and spicy sauce that doesn’t render the crispy chunks soggy.
Koreans Love Chicken
Where did this chicken craze come from? According to Korea Times, South Koreans consume 12 chickens per person, annually. That’s almost 600 million chickens all over South Korea. Restaurants in South Korea that specialize in chicken represent about $4.4 billion in revenue every year. That’s how serious South Koreans take their chicken, often with a jug of beer.
What is Korean-style Fried Chicken?
Korean Fried Chicken uses Asian deep-frying techniques that render out the fat from the skin by dunking it in hot oil twice. Not only is the fried chicken less greasy, but the chicken skin becomes almost transparent and incredibly crispy, almost crackly.
Korean Fried Chicken is fundamentally different. Basically, instead of eating clumps of flour and seasoning that’s been deep-fried until crispy and golden brown, the crispiness comes mostly from the flavourful skin.
There are different recipes, but my personal favourite is the sweet and spicy one called Dakgangjeong. The spicy kick comes from the fermented Korean red chili paste known as Gochujang. The condiment already has a subtle sweetness thanks to glutinous rice and soy beans, adding another depth to the paste after fermentation. Fermented in large earthen jars, Gochujang is used as a base for many Korean recipes.
Sampling in Nairobi
So if you’re looking to sample some authentic Korean Fried Chicken, head to Koreana Chicken. Unfortunately they don’t deliver, so make the drive out to Garden City Mall – it’ll be worth it.