Brow Beat

Korean Fried Chicken—But Even More Addictive

Two plates--one rectangle, one round--of nicely brown chicken nuggets. A small bowl of dip sits on the circular plate, a spoon in it.
Rocky Luten

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.

Chicken Nuggets with Warm Kimchi-Bacon Ranch Dip

Serves 6-8

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)
3 eggs
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
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1 pinch fresh dill or parsley, chopped (optional)

See the full recipe on Food52.

More from Food52

Before Kimchi Was Cool, My Parents Could Hardly Find a Jar in New York City

Beyond Kimchi: 15 Essential Tools and Ingredients for Korean Cooking

The Beefy Korean Barbecue Classic That’s Surprisingly Easy to Make at Home

The Best Korean Recipe My Grandma Taught Me

The Funky, Flavorful Sides a Korean Meal Wouldn’t Be Complete Without

How to Make Korean Fried Chicken Wings at Home