It was my birthday over the weekend, and instead of some good beef or other food splurge, I made some fried chicken as the anchor dish for my birthday dinner. A weird choice, I know, but I was just in a fried chicken kind of mood. Not a highly battered KFC style chicken (or its wannabe McDonald’s, Jollibee and other fastfood versions), but an Asian style fried chicken with color, flavor and verve. At its simplest, it would be the marinated chicken parts (in soy sauce, of course) simply fried in (usually) used vegetable oil that we used to eat as kids when there weren’t many fast food chains yet. It would be deeply tanned compared to the paler commercial versions. It would be decidedly Asian fried chicken.
A few months ago, while testing recipes for the restaurant, one of our cooks made a wonderful version that I really liked. But I think I was vetoed by the rest of the panel who opted for the heavily battered version, deep-fried in lard. The latter was okay, but it wasn’t a slam dunk, and judging by customer reactions, I think we should have gone with (MY) gut instinct and opted for the more pinoy one, closer to our own roots and vibe. I will fix that in the weeks ahead and revise the fried chicken recipe. So I have been on the hunt for a suitable version, and while this particular one of David Chang takes it a bit North Asian to Japan, I really liked the early test results we did last week (photos here from trial one) at home. It isn’t a complicated method at all, and the flavors of the sauce are everything I really like. But the recipe will be tweaked to take into account local chickens, flavor profiles, etc.
The recipe of Mr. Chang starts of by brining the chicken parts in a sugar and salt water bath for a couple of hours. I have always liked the results of brining poultry and shrimp so I am totally on board on this step. Next the chicken parts are steamed to ensure that they are cooked all the way through and remain rather moist. Timing is a bit tricky here, under steam it and you have uncooked chicken, oversteam it and it gets harder and drier. The chicken is then chilled for several hours before using. Essentially, the last step is to dry the surface areas and to let juices settle back inside the pieces. No rocket science so far — season and juice up the meat, steam to keep it moist. The latter step is whispered as being the same thing that Max’s Fried Chicken does prior to frying as well… :)
Next the chicken pieces are deep-fried in vegetable oil, we would use our wonderful homemade leaf lard, until golden brown and really appetizing looking. The skin gets blistered and crisp in just 5-7 minutes, but the chicken meat is meant to stay rather moist (though on trial one it was a tad dry). The nice color is apparently partially a result of the sugar that was in the brine and has settled on the meat’s surface, only to transform and caramelize once it hits the hot lard.
Drain the fried chicken pieces on paper towels and let them rest for a couple of minutes. Then slice into smaller pieces and douse liberally with what Mr. Change refers to as “octo-vin” or octopus vinaigrette, a mixture of ginger, garlic, chilies, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and seasonings. It’s very Japanese, and similar to what is served with bite-sized pieces of fried chicken in many Japanese restaurants. It’s good. And perfect to dunk crisp pieces of chicken into or to add to one’s steaming hot rice. Yum.
This is definitely a “zhugged-up” version of our childhood fried chicken, which I used to enjoy with ketchup not “octo-vin” but I certainly see the attraction of the Japanese-inspired sauce. Think of chicken kariage or fried chicken in Japapense restaurants…
We made this again on Saturday night, with efforts to get it a bit more moist, and we will continue to tweak the recipe until we have it where we want it…
…but don’t the pieces look good? I personally think these are much more appealing than the batter coated chicken pieces filled with MSG and gosh knows what else.
Here a photo of me trying to figure out my new camera and taking extremely close-up shots. It’s a Canon EOS600D with a macro lens. The photo of me taking the photo was taken with a CanonG12, which I can bring with me almost everywhere without much hassle.
Another photo of the dish, here with the messy splatters of “octo-vin” on the dish. It’s not really obvious that I have added nearly 1/4th cup of the dressing to the plate, but it’s under all that chicken…
And finally, a tiny dice of ginger from the dressing resting on the caramelized chicken skin. :)
P.S. If you are looking for a post on battered fried chicken, try this old one that I wrote nearly four years ago.