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The best fried chicken recipes all in one place
Actually, they’re all in one good book: Susan Jung's Kung Pao & Beyond
If you were made to choose one dish to eat every day for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Mine would probably be fried chicken. It’s tasty, juicy, filling, brings back memories and helps to create new ones. Plus, it’s reliable – you basically know what to expect, with lots of room for surprises.
I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks and feels this way.
Susan Jung, Hong Kong-based food editor, author and ultimate fried chicken lover, is also game to answer this question. I must say she’s the perfect person to ask, too.
Her new book, Kung Pao & Beyond, contains 60 of her favourite fried chicken recipes from East and Southeast Asia. If you love fried chicken (who doesn’t?), you’d be amazed at the wealth of information it offers – and excited to try all of them in your own kitchen.
But back to our question. Susan says her one forever dish would have to be her “mum’s fried chicken”.
“I’ve loved it since I was a child, and it’s the first fried chicken I learnt to make.”
There’s something about Asian-style fried chicken…
… that just hits the spot. There’s just so many ways to cook it, and so many cool things that go into it, that make this fried chicken even more appealing and addictive.
“I love the variety,” Susan agrees. “They might start with the same basic seasonings – soy sauce or fish sauce, for instance – but there are so many other ingredients that can be added to change the flavours.”
Which brings us to…
Susan’s no-fail methods and tips for fried chicken
So we can start perfecting and revising our strategies, stat.
• Cooking fried chicken
“Don’t overcook! Overcooking makes the chicken dry.”
• Preparing and seasoning fried chicken
“For almost all the recipes in Kung Pao & Beyond, I salt the chicken in advance,” she says. “Salting changes the flavour and texture, so it’s an important step.”
• Eating fried chicken
“If it’s chicken served on the bone, I think it should be eaten out of hand – not with a knife and fork! It tastes better when you pick it up with your fingers to eat it,” she observes.
“I know a lot of Brits who would find this difficult, though – including my husband.”
• Serving fried chicken
“Serve it in abundance! Don’t ever serve what you think is ‘just enough’. Fried chicken should be served and eaten with abandon. Don’t worry if it’s good for you, or if it’s fattening. Besides, leftover fried chicken is delicious.”
What does she think people get wrong about fried chicken?
“They think of it as something that is very limited,” she answers.
“When I told people that the book has 60 fried chicken recipes from East and Southeast Asia, they asked, ‘Are there that many fried chicken dishes?’ Actually, there are even more!”
“People think of fried chicken as something that is very limited.”
Yes, the quest for more fried chicken recipes is never-ending, and that’s a good thing
Susan is still discovering the possibilities. It happened while she was writing Kung Pao & Beyond.
“I had fun experimenting with the coatings,” she recalls.
“Different types of flour give different types of crunch or crispness. I hope the readers experiment, too – they don’t have to stick with the coatings I recommend.”
She was also able to bust some myths and preconceived notions in the process.
“So many food writers say that with frying, the oil temperature shouldn’t be ‘too low’ or the food will absorb the oil. But what is ‘too low’?
“Most of my recipes have you do an initial frying – to cook the chicken – at 160 degrees Celsius, and then fry it again at a higher temperature, to crisp up the skin. Some people would say that 160 degrees is too low, but really, it’s not.
“I have a friend in Hong Kong with an izakaya called Uza, who fries his chicken karaage at 120 degrees for the initial frying, and his chicken isn’t oily at all.”
So don’t knock any technique or tip till you’ve tried it. The same goes for overlooking some fried chicken dishes because you think they’re relatively simple or common.
They could just be underrated – like Susan’s fried chicken poppers.
“My fried chicken poppers with instant noodle coating is so easy and so good – you can change the flavour of the finished dish by changing the instant noodles!
“Although that’s not really a fair answer,” she muses, “because nobody’s ever heard of the dish until I wrote the book, because I invented it.”
That’s okay – she can still give us more fried chicken recommendations so we can judge for ourselves. If people were to ask for her suggestions right this very moment, what would she say?
“If I didn’t know them, and was therefore unsure if they had a pantry or fridge stocked with East and Southeast Asian ingredients, I’d recommend dishes where they’d probably have the ingredients on hand – basics like soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, ginger and garlic,” she states.
“Not everyone has easy access to lemongrass or curry leaves or sambal belacan, so I’d recommend mum’s chicken wings, chicken karaage, or Chinese-American deli fried chicken.”
The ideal fried chicken meal for a fried chicken lover
If Susan could paint a picture, it would look like this. Or it would likely include the following:
“When I was recipe-testing for the book, I would often cook four to six fried chicken dishes and have people over to eat,” she admits.
“That was a lot of fun – because everyone loves fried chicken, although they don’t necessarily make it at home.
“I’ll admit that frying chicken can be a bit messy, so if you’re frying four to six dishes, you’re creating about the same amount of mess, but you only have to clean up once.
“So my ideal fried chicken meal would be with me cooking several dishes for a great group of friends. They can provide the drinks.”
That’s good advice
This one is, too.
Which fried chicken dish did Susan turn to the most during the pandemic, or even during tough times? Because good food can provide us comfort, even if it’s fleeting sometimes. And fried chicken is comforting.
“Because I couldn’t travel at all during that time – Hong Kong dropped the mandatory quarantine requirements very late in the game – I had to recreate some of my favourite dishes from my favourite countries,” she says.
“So I would cook shrimp paste wings, chicken karaage, Vietnamese butter wings, Taiwanese night market chicken, wings with ponzu and yuzu dressing, Korean fried chicken with yuja tea, and southern Thai street food fried chicken.”
What are you waiting for? Start cooking and experiencing and eating. With Susan and Kung Pao & Beyond, fried chicken fans like me (and you) won’t run out of fried chicken ideas every day – and anytime – soon.
Tip roundup: How to have Asian-style fried chicken at home
With the help of Susan and Kung Pao & Beyond, of course.
#1 Gather East and Southeast Asian ingredients for your pantry
Start with soy sauce, fish sauce, rice wine, sugar, ginger and garlic. If you can, add lemongrass, curry leaves or sambal belacan.
#2 Try different types of flour
See what kind of crunch each type produces and you’ll come to realize your new favourites.
Connected to this tip: Since you’ll come back to these and your other favourites again and again, you know what ingredients to buy often, and what should always be in your pantry or fridge.
#3 Experiment with popular or more well-known fried chicken dishes, then go from there
For example, one of Susan’s suggestions is chicken karaage, which for me is familiar and relatively easy to make. (I say “relatively” because I don’t consider myself a good cook.) Chicken poppers, too.
#4 If you feel like you’ve got the basic fried chicken formula down pat…
Challenge yourself with Susan’s recipes:
• Chicken with Black Bean Sauce
• Chinese-American Deli Fried Chicken
• Thai-Flavoured Chicken with Lemongrass & Mint
• Korean Fried Chicken with Yuja Tea
• Malaysian Ayam Goreng Mamak, and
• Taiwanese Night Market Chicken
#5 Fried chicken is meant to be eaten with your hands
And shared with loved ones.
#6 Salt your chicken
And do it in advance, says Susan.
#7 Finally, if you make a mess…
These tips on how to clean grease off your kitchen walls may come in handy. Hehehe.
Find Kung Pao & Beyond here.