A few years back my friend Rebecca told me about a style of Korean fried chicken that she claimed was better than anything she had eaten before. Made by a chain called "Bonchon", this fried chicken's secret lay not necessarily in its sauce but in the method for making it: it is fried twice, which cooks it thoroughly and gives it great color without burning it. Sauce is tossed with the chicken once it is fried, allowing the chicken to be customized to the eater's tastes. And it stays crunchy!
I started thinking about fried chicken when I received some New Belgium Brewing's Fat Tire Amber Ale as part as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program. We were asked to pair food with New Belgium's beer or make something with it. I didn't want to create a 'beer battered' anything, though I happened to have nearly a gallon of duck fat in my freezer...and Bonchon-style, which relies on a sauce at the end of cooking to provide that kick of flavor, would be the perfect vehicle for a spicy beer-based sauce. What makes the Fat Tire perfect for a Bonchon-type sauce is that it isn't too hoppy, and its floral and citrus notes round out the sauce.
I tried the chicken two ways: the straight-ahead Bonchon style, which requires a 10 minute frying, a 2 minute rest, and another 10 minute frying to cook drumsticks perfectly, and the blanch-and-fry method favored by many who regularly make wings at home. To zest up the blanch-and-fry chicken, I simmered the chicken in Fat Tire, which really gave it some depth. Either method works, but the latter method really made a delicious chicken that fried up and turned golden a little faster than the twice-fried method.
Even if you've never tasted Bonchon chicken before, I think you'll really love this style of fried chicken. It is crispy, crunchy, and chewy. The tapioca starch leaves a thin crust that really retains its crunch even after the chicken has been tossed with sauce.
And for those of us who are gluten-free? Don't worry, I've also included the gluten-free conversions, including the use of a really delicious millet, buckwheat and rice-based Belgian brew from Green's.
If you're planning on frying, you should have a thermometer, or, if you're fortunate, a deep-fryer. You don't need duck fat, but in my opinion everything tastes better in animal fat. And its a really stable fat, so if you drain it and cool it immediately after use, you'll be able to use it again without worrying about it having an off-flavor the next time you use it. I wouldn't use fryer fat for making duck confit, but I wouldn't even think twice about using it as a frying medium - just double check it and make sure it tastes good before you go to the trouble of warming it up. I've included the above picture to demonstrate that you really should use a larger sauce pan than I did. There was a ton of clean up once I was finished frying.
- 1 650 ml Bottle New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale (for gluten-free: Green's Trippel Blonde Ale)
- 6 pieces Organic, Free Range chicken drumsticks, raw
- 2 Q Fat (I prefer duck fat for its flavor)
Flour Dredge - combine ingredients in plastic zip-lock style bag:
- 2 T Tapioca Starch
- 2 T Flour (For gluten-free: 1 T Quinoa Flour, 1 T Brown Rice Flour)
- 1 T Salt
- 1/2 t Red Pepper Flakes of your choosing (more makes it spicier)
- NOTE: you can add more spices to the mix if you like. Green herbs will burn; fresh garlic will burn.
Bonchon-style Sauce - combine ingredients, simmer for 10 minutes, remove from heat:
- 2 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 inch ginger, minced
- 1/3 C Fat Tire Amber Ale (or gluten-free Blonde Ale. If you want to go authentic, replace with water and 1/2 t rice vinegar.)
- 1 T Honey (or Agave, if desired)
- 1 T Granulated Sugar
- 2 T Gluten-Free Soy
- 1/2 t Red Pepper Flakes
Lazy Sauce - a really tasty sweet and sour and spicy sauce that takes 1 minute to make:
- 1 T grape jelly (sweet)
- 1 T Sriracha Chili Garic Sauce (hot)
- 1 t Rice Wine Vinegar (sour)
- 1 T Soy Sauce (savory/salty)
- 1 T Agave Syrup (more sweet)
To prepare the chicken that is blanched in beer:
- Heat oil to 350F
- While oil is heating, pour all but 1/3 C of the beer into a saucepan. Add chicken pieces and bring to a simmer. Once it has begun to simmer, cook for 11 minutes. Once the chicken has simmered for 11 minutes, remove from beer, pat dry.
- Add dry chicken pieces to seasoned flour in plastic bag and shake vigorously, making sure each piece is coated. Shake off excess flour.
- Drop into 350F oil - the temperature will drop, so watch the thermometer and try to keep at 350F. Also make sure you have plenty of space between the oil and the top of the pan. It will bubble!
- Fry for exactly 10 minutes and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 2 minutes. Add back to oil and fry for 4 more minutes. Remove chicken from oil.
- Toss chicken with sauce - I combine in a large bowl, but if you prefer a plastic bag, you can use that too.
- Serve immediately.
For Twice-Fried Bonchon-style Chicken:
- Do not blanch chicken first. Dry with a towel and then toss into bag with seasoned flour. Shake until completely covered. Shake off excess.
- Drop into 350F Oil. Fry 10 minutes, remove for 2 minutes, fry for another 10 minutes. Make sure to time these exactly.
- Remove from heat, toss with sauce.
- Serve immediately.
- Drink the leftover Fat Tire or Green's.
You can also liven things up by marinating the chicken before you fry it. This is your option. I made a marinade with ginger, garlic, salt and citrus. If you have a vacuum sealer, you can accelerate the speed by which the raw chicken takes on flavor - it can marinated vacuum-sealed for an hour or two. If you are just placing the chicken in a bag with the marinade, you'll need to leave it a little longer, say, overnight, to really have a flavor impact.
If you prefer smaller chicken wings over drumsticks, reduce frying time by 2 minutes on each end. The below picture shows wings coated in my Lazy Sauce. They were tasty!