Korean fried chicken, also traditionally referred to as yangnyeom chikin, is a Korean dish in which chicken pieces are lightly coated and fried until the outside is crispy and the inside meat is cooked through. Although other cuisines have their own versions of fried chicken, the Korean style tends to have a thinner, crispier outer coating because it is fried in a method that cooks off the fat from the chicken skin. It may be eaten plain or tossed in a sweet soy-based sauce or spicy chile-based sauce. The dish tends to be served as an appetizer or snack, rather than as a main dish, and is often accompanied with pickled radishes and Korean style beer, which is brewed from rice, or soju, a Korean liquor similar to vodka that is made from rice.
Cooks tend to prefer using small pieces of chicken when preparing Korean fried chicken. The frying method is generally not designed for use with larger pieces of chicken because the meat may not be fully cooked by the time the outer coating reaches the preferred color and texture. Separate small pieces, such as wings and drumsticks, are often used to make the recipe outside of Korea, while in Korea, entire small chickens may be fried and then cut into separate pieces afterward. This is due to chickens in Korea often being smaller than in other areas throughout the world, particularly the United States.
Korean fried chicken typically has a thin batter consisting primarily of roughly equal parts water and flour, with a small amount of cornstarch. Unlike other cuisines’ fried chicken recipes, neither the chicken itself nor the batter tends to be seasoned prior to cooking. The chicken pieces may be lightly coated in flour to allow the batter to adhere, and then are dipped lightly into the batter to form a thin layer.
The oil temperature recommended by many Korean fried chicken recipes tends to be approximately 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176.6 degrees Celsius). To achieve its signature thin, crispy, and nearly transparent skin, the chicken usually goes through two cycles of frying, which is thought to give the inside meat more time to cook without making the outside overly crunchy. It is first fried for approximately 10 minutes, then removed and allowed to drain and cool slightly for approximately three minutes. The chicken is usually fried once again for approximately another 10 minutes or until the outside is lightly golden with a smooth, thin texture and the chicken is cooked through. The chicken is generally lightly seasoned with salt and pepper once it’s done frying, and may be tossed in a soy or chile-based sauce before serving.