Crispy fried chicken “popcorn” sized chunks smothered in a sweet and spicy Gochujang sauce. Have your attention yet?
This recipe is pure indulgence. It has everything from sweet to spicy to Umami – it really is a fantastic sauce. Plus, homemade fried chicken is just so good, and surprisingly easy – you don’t need a deep fat fryer to cook this dish (or any other fried chicken dish), just a decent heavy bottom deep walled pan. If you’ve never had Korean Fried Chicken, it’s time that changed – it’s one of our all time favourite Asian dishes.
HOW TO MAKE POPCORN CHICKEN
KFC certainly made “popcorn chicken” world famous. Small popcorn like chicken balls, coated in a batter and herbs and spices. It’s easier than you think to make at home, and arguably better.
So how do you make them? Simple, take your chicken and cut them up into chunks the size of popcorn. Coat them in the following order – flour, egg and seasoned flour. Then deep fry at 170-180C for about 10-12 minutes, or until golden crispy and most importantly at around 70C internal temp for chicken breast or at least 80C internal temp for chicken thighs.
It is not essential to have a deep fat fryer to fry chicken – all that is needed is a large, heavy bottom, deep walled pan. Fill this pan half way with oil and heat to the correct temp. It’s almost essential to have a probe (meat thermometer) to check and maintain the temperature.
Another way to enhance the popcorn chicken is to mix a 3:1 ration of cornflour to custard powder – yes custard powder. It’s a typical ingredient in asian fried chicken, and it works so so well, which is why for this recipe that’s the route we’re going down.
It really is as easy as that – once you’ve done it once you’ll see what we mean. It’ll be a regular weekend activity we’re sure!
How To Make a Korean sauce
There are many different recipes for a Korean Style sauce, some a super spicy, some a salty and heavy on umami and others are very sweet. We’ve never been to Korea per se, but during our stint living in central London we were able to try lots of variations. The absolute favourite, for many Londoners, is On-The-Bab Korean Fried Chicken – They also have locations in Seoul, so it’s safe to say they know what they’re talking about. We have taken inspiration form the sauce, being the bench mark. It’s slightly spicy, and balances between sweet and umami flavours, which we have tried to emulate as close as possible.
The main ingredients to make a Korean Style spicy sauce are: Gochujang Paste and Sugar/Honey. Everything else varies a lot between different recipes. We’ve found that the addition of garlic, Ketchup and Shoaxing (Chinese cooking) wine creates a near perfect balance of sweet, umami and spicy.
The trick is to cook the garlic first in butter on low, add the Gochujang paste, ketchup, sugar and wine and then add water. Mixing them together well and start receding it down until you end up with a thick glossy sauce ready to coat the fried chicken.
Video Tutorial for Korean Fried Popcorn Chicken
To help you even further, we have put together a quick tutorial video to ensure you are able to make THE BEST korean fired popcorn chicken wherever you may be. Use this in conjunction with our recipe card below and we can comfortably say you’ll absolutely love this one.
Korean Fried Popcorn Chicken
- Heavy bottom deep walled pan
- Metal Tongs
- Metal slotted spoon
- Mixing bowl x3
- Medium sized saucepan
- Glass jug
- 4 Boneless and skinless chicken thighs
- 8 tbsp Cornflour
- 4 tbsp Birds Custard Powder
- 1 Large Egg
- 2 tbsp Gochujang paste
- 1 tbsp Tomato Ketchup
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 1 tsp Honey
- 1 tbsp Shoaxing Cooking Wine rice Wine and White Wine also acceptable
- 1 Large Garlic Clove
- 15 g Butter
- 500-750 ml Vegetable/Sunflower Oil
Preparing the chicken
- Using a sharp knife trim the chicken thighs of any remaining cartilage, bone or excess fat.
- Cut the trimmed thighs into thumb sized chunks, big enough for one mouthful.
- OPTIONAL - brine the chicken thgih chunks overnight in air tight tupperware submerged in a 6% salt brine. This will perfectly season the chicken, better than you've ever tasted. To make a 6 % salt brine mix together 60g of salt with 1kg of water or, a smaller solution with 30g of salt in 500g of water. No need to heat it up, just whisk until fully dissolved.
- If you're not brining the chicken add a little salt now.
- Mix together the custard powder and the flour. Add 1/4 of this mixture to one mixing bowl, and the remaining 3/4 to another mixing bowl. Add the egg into the third mixing bowl and beat until the yolk is combined.
- If you brined the chicken, wash the brine off now by running under cold water in a sieve or colander. Drain and dry well with Kitchen Roll.
- Take half the chicken thigh chunks and add to the first 1/4 filled bowl of custardy flour and ensure each chunk is nicely coated. NOTE - at this stage start bringing the oil to temperature so the chicken is ready to fry as soon as possible.
- Next throw them into the beaten egg and coat each chunk thoroughly.
- Let the ecess egg drip off and then throw into the 3/4 custsardy flour filled bowl and make sure each piece is well coated in the flour. Place on a large clean plate and repeat the flouring process until all chunks sre well coated.
Cooking the Chicken
- In a large, heavy bottomed, deep walled pan add enough oil to bring the level up to about half way. Place on a high heat until the oil reaches 175C (345F) then bring the heat down to medium to maintain a constant heat at this temp. NOTE - if you don't have a meat thermometer (make sure you invest in one) then you can try dipping a piece of the chicken in, and if it sizzles nicely it's ready. Very difficult to regulate the heat without a thermometer though.
- When the heat reaches 175C (or 345F) add the chicken in batches - do not overcorwd the pan. For a 30cm pan, two batches should do it.
- Cook the chicken until each side is a yellowy, golden brown and the internal temp is 80C or above. NOTE - chicken thigh is at its best when 80C, as opposed to breast which is better at around 65-70C.
- Remove from the pan once the temp is reached and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat the frying process for the remaining batch(es).
Cooking the sauce
- In a medium saucepan, add some butter and put on a medium-low heat.
- When the butter begins to sizzle add the garlic and cook for 1 minute - do not brown it.
- Add the Shaoxing wine and cook for a further 30 seconds to cook out the alcohol - feel free to flame it off - but be careful when you do.
- The add the Gochujang, ketchup, sugar and honey. Stir well to combine.
- Now add around 100ml of water and stir into the red paste.
- Bring this to a simmer and reduce down until a desired sauce thickness is reached - We suggest a nice thick syrupy consistency, like that of Maple Syrup.
- Add the cooked chicken to the Korean sauce in the saucepan. Stir well witha spoon beign carefull not to damage the chicken coating.
- Serve in bowls and top with sesame seeds. Can be eaten with rice, but just as amazing eaten with a pair of chopsticks on their own with an ice cold beer!
- Brining the chicken takes this to the next level. If you don't have the time or don't want to wait that's ok. Just add a little salt to the chicken before flouring. No need to season extra if the chicken has been brined.
- When flouring, set up a little work station. One bowl for the first dip, one bowl for the egg dip and one bowl for the final dip. Use one hand to get wet and messy, and the other to help add extra flour at stage 1 and 3.
- When flouring, get the oil heating up as it take time. Keep and eye on it and make sure you don't leave the hob unattended or on too high a heat.
- When cooking the chicken make sure it's fully submerged in the oil. If not, help them along by turning them over halfway.
- A meat thermometer is your friend. Invest in one if you don't have one. It will allow you to modulate the cooking temperature accurately and tell you when the chicken is perfectly cooked.
- You can cook the sauce when the chicken is resting - it will still be hot when the sauce is ready.