In the past decade, recipes for Korean fried chicken have become a fixture on American menus. Nearly every Korean chef, from David Chang to Judy Joo, has his or her own fantastic version. Seattle chef Rachel Yang serves hers with a spicy peanut brittle; mŏkbar’s Esther Choi has a special-ordered whole fried chicken that is served stuffed with jujubes and rice. Deuki Hong continues to extend his love of fried chicken beyond his Sunday Bird take-out counter in San Franciso; he has another counter inside an H-Mart in Austin, Texas. Whether presented especially by a chef or taken to-go, it’s abundantly clear the love of this crowdpleaser runs deep and country-wide.
So when it came time for me to approach making my own fried chicken recipe, I immediately thought of chicken nuggets. Most of us probably have sentimental place in our hearts for a hot, processed chicken nugget dipped in a big playground of sauces, right? I figure that’s why, whether I’m teaching a cooking class to children or catering food for an event attended by adults, my chicken nuggets are the first to disappear.
After experimenting with a few ways to make nuggets, I nailed down two tips for success. One: Since chicken breast is lean and can be notoriously dry and flavorless, the key is to bathe the chicken pieces overnight in a mix of mustard, pickle juice, and olive oil. This makes all the difference when it comes to tenderizing the meat. Two: Create a crust that makes the chicken taste just as good cold as it does hot. I took my mother’s light coating of rice flour and salt, but gave it my personal touch by adding rolled oats blitzed with a savory blend of spices. For a spicy coating, I add gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes) and cayenne.
As for the sauce, I wanted for it to stand its own, something even my picky father would try. It ended up unconsciously becoming my ode to a childhood love of sautéed Napa cabbage kimchi, paired with a fresh-made ranch dressing that I want to smother on everything but the kitchen sink. Because this recipe brings Korean and American flavors to the table exactly as I crave them, I’m calling it my own mark on the Korean fried chicken landscape.
Fried Chicken Nuggets (Regular & Spicy)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
¼ cup pickle juice (or substitute: 1/4 c. vinegar, 1 tbsp. honey, 1 tbsp. Kosher salt, and 2 tsp. black pepper)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
5 ounces Napa cabbage kimchi (for Spicy Nuggets)
1 cup rice flour (+ 1/2 cup for first coating)
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 cup rolled oats
¼ cup onion powder
3 tablespoons garlic powder
½ tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon gochugaru, Korean red pepper flakes (for Spicy Nuggets)
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (for Spicy Nuggets)
1 cup vegetable oil
Kimchi Bacon Ranch Dip
5 ounces napa cabbage kimchi (reserved from the Spicy Nuggets recipe, if they were priorly made)
4 strips of bacon, cooked & broken-up
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon runny honey or agave nectar
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon mustard powder
1 pinch fresh dill or parsley, chopped (optional)
See the full recipe on Food52.