1) Fried food is delicious. 2) Fried food is at its most delicious when it has just come out of the fryer.
These are two difficult truths, when one is eating fried food at home instead of a restaurant. It means the smell of hot oil and whatever has been fried can’t dissipate before the dinner guests arrive. It means that the cook will not be a gracious host when the dinner guests do arrive, because she will still be frying and frantic. The best way to deal with this problem is to only fry for those you love and who love you. These people will not care that you are still in an apron splattered with batter, they will not care that they will also smell like fried potatoes or chicken or codfish potato balls. Best of all, they will be willing to just stand around the stove and eat the hot little goodies with their fingers.
I know this is the best way because the best fried chicken I’ve had at home was last week with my mom, when we fried chicken wings on our portable stove and ate them right in the kitchen.
My father was out to dinner with his friends, and I wanted to learn how to make the dish I have loved my entire life. Our camp stove has never seen a campsite, but it is very useful at home when you want to avoid grease splatter all over your real stove. My mom laid out a bunch of newspapers on the kitchen table and placed her wok and the camp stove on top. She quickly made a crisp, raw salad for me, but we didn't bother to set the table or make anything else. Instead, we focused on the chicken. She showed me every step and we sat together in the kitchen, alternating frying, eating, and laughing.
I don’t know if this is a particularly Korean way to fry chicken, as it’s different from the “Korean fried chicken” I had with my cousin. My mom couldn’t remember how or why she had started frying it this way, only that we all loved it. I think the key is that the chicken is seasoned with garlic, green onion, salt and pepper, before the potato starch batter is applied. Or it might be that my mom has always used wing meat and eating such small pieces makes it as addictive as popcorn. Maybe it’s just something I love because it’s from my childhood, as it’s quite simple and sometimes a bit greasy if we wait too long to eat. But when I bite into it fresh from the fryer, and my mouth is burning from the heat and the juices squirting from the meat, I can’t stop because it tastes so good.
I'm sorry the amounts and directions are so approximate; that's the way my mom cooks.
2 lbs. chicken wings
2-3 T. chopped garlic
2-3 T. chopped green onion
1.5 T salt
pepper to taste
a little less than 1 T. sesame seed oil
1.5 cups of potato or sweet potato starch
1. Prepare the chicken by removing excess fat and making small cuts in the chicken meat to help it cook faster.
2. Add garlic, green onion, salt, pepper, and sesame seed oil to the chicken. Let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour.
3. Prepare batter by adding water to potato starch. The batter should be slightly thick, like pancake batter. Add more starch or water as necessary.
4. Add the chicken to the batter and mix well. The batter will not completely cover the chicken and obscure its meat, though it will when cooked.
5. Heat oil for frying. The oil should be sufficient for the chicken to float in it. (My mom doesn't bother with a thermometer, but it is important to wait until the oil is hot enough and not to use an oil like olive oil that will start to smoke before it gets hot enough. When I try this back in NY, I will definitely reread the oil section in Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking" and make sure my oil is at the right temperature.)
6. Once the oil is ready, add the chicken to the pan. Don’t crowd the pan and fry the chicken in batches, taking all the chicken out before putting more in as that will cause greater fluctuations in the temperature of the oil. After 10-15 minutes, the chicken should be done. It won’t be completely golden brown, more brown in spots, as the potato starch makes a mainly white batter.
7. Eat while hot!