Korean Sweet Crispy Chicken (Dak Kang Jung)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Fried chicken coated with sugar, chilli flakes, candied ginger, toasted peanuts and sesame seeds – how does it sound? Dak Kang Jung (Sweet & Crispy Chicken) hails from Korea and, like most Korean food, subtlety ain't its middle name. I don't usually like meat that's sweet but it's a different story when it's also spicy and nutty.

Dak Kang Jung has so many layers of flavour that it's hard deciding what I like most about it. I love the ginger 'cause it's sweet and chewy. No wait, I love the peanuts that are so fragrant, and sweet and spicy at the same time. Yup, the spiciness from the chilli flakes is really good. But so is the spiciness from the candied ginger. Oops, I almost forgot the chicken. Yes, there's juicy, succulent fried chicken, but it's redundant 'cause the stuff sticking to it is so good. Oh hang on, it's better with chicken. Nah, it's just as good without chicken . . . . See what I mean?

Seriously though, whilst each component is good "solo", Dak Kang Jung is best when it's a "symphony". Sweet and spicy fried chicken combined with a peanut or two, a small piece of ginger and a good spattering of sesame seeds – all in one bite. Now that's what I call a culinary orchestra!

I love fried chicken, and have a list of how I like it done. Dak Kang Jung has a very prominent position on the list: right at the top. (Sorry, Mom, your fried chicken wings have been bumped down to the second spot!)

SWEET CRISPY CHICKEN (DAK KANG JUNG)
Source: adapted from maangi.com
(Recipe for 10 chicken wings)

10 chicken wings, without tips and chopped at the joint; or 20 chunky pieces of chicken
2 tsp salt
½ tsp ground white pepper
1 egg
½ cup plain flour
½ cup potato flour
vegetable oil for deep-frying

½ cup water
65 g soft brown sugar ( ⅓ cup packed)
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp light soya sauce
½ cup thinly sliced ginger
½ cup corn syrup

½ cup peanuts, toast till brown and fragrant, rub off skin and chop roughly
¼ cup white sesame seeds, toast till brown and fragrant
2 tbsp dried chilli flakes, or to taste

Image I've adapted the recipe to suit my taste by adding more salt and chilli flakes but less sugar. And I've doubled the amount of flour for the batter.

In a pan or wok, bring water, sugar, vinegar, light soya sauce and ginger to a boil. Simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add corn syrup. Simmer gently for another 30 minutes.

Whilst sauce is simmering, wash and drain chicken, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add egg and mix thoroughly by hand. Sprinkle with plain and potato flour and, still mixing by hand, make sure chicken is evenly coated. Deep-fry in almost smoking vegetable oil over medium-high heat till just cooked and slightly brown. Reheat oil to just smoking. Refry chicken till golden brown. Turn off heat. Drain.

When sauce is sticky and just thickened (not too thick or it will stick to your teeth), add chicken, peanuts, sesame seeds and dried chilli flakes. Turn off heat. Toss till chicken is evenly coated. Taste and adjust seasoning. But be very careful because melted sugar in the sauce is extremely hot!

Serve as finger food with drinks, or eat with rice.

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