When it comes to frying chicken, nobody — and we mean nobody — does it quite like the Koreans. (Apologies to all the Southern fried-chicken fans out there and those buttermilk-based, generation-spanning recipes.)
If you've had the opportunity to try it, you'll know that Korean-style fried chicken differs greatly from American-style fried chicken. Rather than a thick battered and breaded coating, you'll find an ultra-crisp crust surrounding succulent, juicy meat.
For that unmistakeable crunch, American-style fried chicken falls back on a well-seasoned crust made after a long soak in buttermilk. From there, each piece develops a thick rind after a deep fry — but to keep the chicken moist and tender, it also results in a thick, chewy skin that never fully cooks, leaving a flabby layer of skin between the crust and meat.
Korean-style fried chicken is different, both less crunchy and less greasy but much more flavorful. Usually fried twice, the skin is a thin, crackly, almost transparent crust, a veil that lends a bit of texture and a ton of flavor.
In South Korea, platters of fried chicken have become popular bar food, downed with beer or with the popular national rice liquor known as soju.
At Max's Social House in downtown Delray Beach, executive chef Eric Baker has created the ultimate Korean fried chicken dish. Baker — who also serves as executive chef for nearby sister establishment Max's Harvest in Delray Beach — begins with the best free-range chicken available, a half-chicken deboned and bathed in a special seasoning of spices, sugar, and salt. From there, it's cooked sous-vide for one hour before being dusted with potato starch and fried into a light, almost airy presentation.
After frying, the chicken is doused in a tangy Asian barbecue glaze that lends a delicate flavor, a combination of Korean chili paste, sherry red-wine vinegar, red miso, and sugar. The dish arrives with your choice of plump bone-in breast and wing (or leg and thigh) dusted with toasted sesame seeds and served with a few sprigs of fresh parsley, crispy Brussels sprouts, and pickled baby carrots.
With its lively bar scene and sociable atmosphere, the Korean fried chicken makes for the perfect sharing plate at Max's Social House, where small plates and tapas-style dining is its focal point.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the New Times Food & Drink Instagram.