If there’s any truth to the saying that we eat with our eyes before we put the food in our mouth, then, the color and texture of Korean popcorn chicken should be irresistible.
Is all that redness derived from chilies? Oh, no. There’s ketchup in the sauce. Korean food is often too spicy for people who didn’t grow up with spicy food. The chili paste in the sauce here is only a tablespoon. If your tolerance for hot food is higher than ours, use more chili paste.
But it isn’t just the sauce that gives the chicken its flavor. That’s just surface flavor. The chicken fillets are marinated in ginger powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper for at least half an hour prior to frying.
The marinated chicken fillets are tossed in a mixture of flour and starch, and deep fried twice. Over medium heat to cook the chicken, then over high heat to make the surface super crisp.
The double fried chicken fillets rest on a rack while the sauce is boiled and reduced. The chicken is dumped into the sauce and tossed thoroughly to coat every inch of the surface.
The Korean popcorn chicken is already delicious at this point but we like to add toasted sesame seeds for added texture and for a lovely nutty fragrance.
Korean popcorn chicken (dakgangjeong)
For the sauce
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons rice wine
- 1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean chili paste) available in Asian groceries
- ¼ cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
Marinate the chicken
- Wipe the chicken fillets with paper towels then cut into bite-size pieces.
- Place the cut chicken fillets in a bowl, add the ginger powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and mix well.
- Cover the bowl and let the chicken marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Toast the sesame seeds
- In an oil free pan, spread the sesame seeds and cook, tossing often, until browned and glistening with their natural oil.
- Move the sesame seeds to a plate and set aside.
Double fry the chicken
- In the same pan, heat enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least three inches.
- Toss the marinated chicken in the flour-starch mixture and shake off excess.
- Working in batches, deep fry the chicken over medium heat (about 300F) for three to four minutes. Scoop out and spread on a rack (they will appear pale at this point but that's fine).
- Turn the heat up to high until the temperature of the oil reaches 350F.
- Dump all the chicken in the hot oil and fry for two to three minutes until nicely browned and crisp.
- Scoop out the chicken and spread on the rack once more.
Glaze the chicken
- Pour off the oil from the pan and pour in all the ingredients for the sauce.
- Boil the sauce, uncovered, until thick and sticky, and the sugar has fully dissolved.
- Dump the chicken into the sauce and toss to coat each piece evenly.
- Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the chicken and toss a few more times to distribute.
- Serve the Korean popcorn chicken as a snack or with rice as a main course.