05/23/2024

Indulging in KFC, the renowned fast food chicken chain, was a special delight during my childhood. However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve developed a fondness for another “KFC” – Korean Fried Chicken, specifically dakgangjeong. Who could resist the allure of crispy, bite-sized fried chicken coated in an irresistible sweet, spicy, and tangy glaze, garnished with a delightful crunch of chopped nuts?

Dakgangjeong serves as an excellent appetizer for game day, perfectly paired with a refreshing, ice-cold beer. While the recipe is not overly challenging, it does involve a few distinct steps, so I suggest reserving it for moments when you have a bit more time to spare. Once you become familiar with the process, you’ll find yourself yearning for it and preparing it even for a casual weeknight dinner. Its delectable taste is simply unparalleled!

The Easy Steps to Make Dakgangjeong

Dakgangjeong, a popular Korean dish, is typically made with whole wings and drumsticks. However, this recipe simplifies the process by using chicken tenders. The tender pieces of chicken are marinated in a mixture of mirin, a sweet rice wine, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

After marinating, the chicken is coated in a combination of sweet rice flour and cornstarch, creating a thin and crispy gluten-free coating. I recommend using Mochiko, a brand of sweet rice flour.

The coated chicken pieces are then fried twice to achieve maximum crispiness. To finish, they are tossed in a tangy glaze made with gochujang, a Korean red chili paste, ketchup, and soy sauce. The glaze also includes a Korean cooking syrup known as oligodang or oligosaccharine, which adds balanced sweetness and gives dakgangjeong its signature glossy appearance.

Preparing for Flawless Fried Chicken

Here’s how I like to get everything ready: Start by pouring enough vegetable oil into a large Dutch oven or pot to reach a depth of at least 1 inch. Heat the oil to 350°F, which is the optimal temperature for frying. You can use a deep-fry thermometer to monitor the temperature or an instant-read thermometer as an alternative.

While the oil is heating up, prepare a designated spot for your fried chicken. Place a large heat-proof mesh strainer over a heat-proof bowl, ensuring that the strainer doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. This setup allows the fried chicken to drain in the strainer right after frying.

Keep a pair of tongs, a spider, or a metal slotted spoon nearby to safely remove the chicken from the hot oil. Also, have your cornstarch-flour mixture within easy reach, as the marinated chicken will be dredged in it before frying.

Crispy Fried Chicken: Handy Tips and Tricks

  • Coat the marinated chicken thoroughly with the dry mixture, ensuring to remove any excess before immersing it in the oil. Using too much dry mixture can result in uneven frying and oil splatters, as the excess mixture may fall into the oil and cause burning.
  • Fry the chicken in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot, as this can cause the oil temperature to drop and result in uneven cooking. Ensure that the chicken is spread out in a single layer in the oil without overlapping. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain the oil temperature at 350°F.
  • Drain the fried chicken in a mesh strainer to prevent the coating from becoming soggy.
  • Consider double-frying the chicken for a perfectly golden and crispy texture. This extra step takes only about a minute but significantly enhances the final result.

Ingredient Substitutions

Instead of chicken tenders, you can use whole wings, drumsticks, or a combination of both. Keep in mind that you’ll need to adjust the frying time accordingly to ensure they are fully cooked.

For the dry mix, I personally prefer a combination of cornstarch and sweet rice flour, but you can substitute potato starch for cornstarch and all-purpose flour for sweet rice flour.

If you don’t have walnuts, you can use chopped peanuts instead or omit the nuts entirely.

For the best results, I highly recommend using Korean cooking syrup. It adds a balanced sweetness and a glossy finish to the dish. If you can’t find it, you can try using agave syrup instead. Taste the glaze as you go and adjust the flavors to achieve the perfect blend of sweetness, spiciness, and tanginess. The heat should be noticeable but not overpowering.

Serving Dakgangjeong:

Dakgangjeong is traditionally enjoyed with Korean pickled radishes, which offer a refreshing and crunchy complement to the sweet and sticky fried chicken. It pairs wonderfully with freshly steamed rice, as the chicken’s bold flavors are absorbed by the fluffy grains. And of course, there’s nothing quite like the timeless pairing of crispy fried chicken with a refreshing beverage like beer or soju, creating a truly satisfying dining experience.

How to Plan Ahead

Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before frying.

For optimal enjoyment, freshly fried chicken is recommended. However, you can fry the chicken a few hours in advance. Keep in mind not to coat them in the glaze just yet.When it’s time to serve, preheat the oven and place the fried chicken on a wire rack set over a sheet pan. Warm them in the oven until heated through.Once heated, proceed to toss the chicken in the flavorful glaze before serving. This will ensure the perfect combination of crispy texture and delectable sauce.

How to Make Authentic Korean Dakgangjeong

Ingredients

For the chicken:

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

For the coating:

  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup sweet rice flour, such as Mochiko
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

For the glaze:

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Korean cooking syrup
  • 1/4 cup gochujang
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Method

  1. Marinate the chicken: 

Cut the chicken tenders into 1-inch pieces and place them in a large bowl. Add the mirin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and mix well using gloved hands or a large spoon. Ensure that the chicken is evenly coated with the marinade. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours, to allow the flavors to infuse.

  1. Prepare the coating and glaze:

 In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch and sweet rice flour, and whisk them together. In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the cooking syrup, gochujang, ketchup, soy sauce, minced garlic, and freshly grated ginger until a smooth glaze forms. Set both the coating mixture and the glaze aside for later use.

  1. Set up your frying station:

 In a large Dutch oven or pot, pour enough oil to reach a depth of at least 1 inch. Attach a deep-fryer thermometer to the Dutch oven and heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F (175°C).

While the oil is heating up, place a large heat-proof mesh strainer over a heat-proof bowl, ensuring that the strainer does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Keep a pair of tongs, a spider, or a metal slotted spoon nearby for removing the chicken from the hot oil. Place the cornstarch-flour mixture on the counter next to the pot for easy access.

  1. Fry the chicken: 

Take the marinated chicken out of the refrigerator. Take a few pieces at a time and coat them thoroughly in the cornstarch-flour mixture, ensuring they are evenly coated. Shake off any excess dry mixture.

Using tongs or a spider, carefully lower the coated chicken into the hot oil. Avoid overcrowding the pot; add enough chicken to form a single layer without overlapping. Monitor the temperature and adjust the heat to maintain the oil at 350°F (175°C).

Fry the chicken for 4 to 5 minutes, flipping the pieces occasionally with the tongs to ensure even cooking, until they turn a light golden brown. Use the spider to transfer the fried chicken to the heat-proof mesh strainer to drain off any excess oil.

Continue the process in batches, coating another batch of chicken while the first batch is frying.

  1. Double-fry the chicken:
    After the initial frying, proceed to double-fry the chicken. In batches, carefully lower the partially fried chicken back into the hot oil. Gently flip the chicken in the oil to ensure even browning. This second fry will only take about 1 minute per batch. The chicken will become a deeper golden brown color. Once fried to perfection, use the spider to transfer the double-fried chicken back to the heat-proof mesh strainer to drain off any excess oil.
  1. Toss the fried chicken in the glaze: 

In a large saucepan or wok set over medium-high heat, add the prepared glaze along with the chopped walnuts. Stir the mixture occasionally until it starts to bubble. Add the fried chicken to the pan and quickly toss it in the glaze to ensure even coating. Remove the pan from the heat immediately—remember, we want to heat the glaze, not cook the chicken. Serve the dakgangjeong right away to enjoy its crispy texture!

If you happen to have any leftovers (though it’s unlikely!), you can wrap them in foil and refrigerate them for up to 1 day. To reheat, simply heat the foil-wrapped chicken in the oven or an air fryer until it is warmed through.

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