It’s hard to beat a basket of good fried chicken. There’s the crunch of the deep fried coating, the juicy succulence of well-brined meat, and the spices and herbs that bring the whole dish together. That holy trinity of tastes and textures makes fried chicken a staple worldwide. Nearly every corner of the world has a local take on the dish. And it’s all fantastic.
We don’t all get to travel the world eating and drinking, though. Sometimes we need the world to come to us so we can sample the wonders outside our borders. So we decided to make a very small list of great fried chicken dishes from around the world that we love. This is not a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination — no list of only ten dishes could ever be. It’s a gateway, if you will, into the wide and wonderful world of fried chicken.
A few rules first. We’re talking fried chicken. To us, that means chicken that’s on the bone, fried, and possibly dressed in some way. So no chicken strips or Cordon Bleu or Chicken Kiev. No Szechuan crispy chicken or fried curry chicken morsels. Those are all wonderful dishes, but, come on, that’s not fried chicken. Fried chicken needs to be on the bone. You can come @ me in the comments if you disagree.
AYAM GORENG (BE)REMPAH — MALAYSIA & INDONESIA
Ayam Goreng Berempah or Rempah — depending if you’re in Malaysia or Indonesia — is a spicy fried chicken that puts the spice straight into the coating. Ayam Goreng Berempah literally means Chicken Fried Spicy.
A paste/rub is made that’s comprised of ginger, cumin, shallots, garlic, lemon grass, Bird’s eye chilis, chili paste, coriander, and dark brown sugar. An egg is added to make it tacky so it coats the chicken and then it’s rested in a fridge for a few hours. Lastly, the well-spiced chicken is deep fried it in peanut (or palm) oil to crispy and spicy perfection. Maybe toss in some fresh lime leaves at the end and you’re in flavortown.
CHICKEN LOLLIPOP — INDIA
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Chicken Lollipops are spicy and slightly tart chicken drummettes. They have a distinctly South Asian vibe in the spice matrix and serve as a perfect alternative to America’s fried wings (which are also awesome).
Chicken Lollipops are made by first Frenching the drummette to create a small bone handle and round morsel of meat. Then a yogurt-based marinade with spicy paprika, garam masala, and ginger garlic paste is mixed with some salt, corn flour, and water (sometimes the drummettes are soaked in plain yogurt first and then spice-marinated second). The lollipops rest in the marinade for at least an hour so the bacteria of the yogurt can loosen the muscles and the spice can really get in there. Then the lollipops are fried (usually in palm oil). Serve them up with some Szechuan sauce and you’re good to go.
PEPPERED CHICKEN — NIGERIA
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Over Nigeria way you’ll find another spicy and delicious fried chicken that takes the best of all worlds and puts it into a single dish. This is a classic example of a dressed or wetted fried chicken — a distant cousin of Nashville’s famed ‘hot chicken.’
The sauce is the real key here. Stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, shallots, red bell peppers, onion, curry paste, scotch bonnets, and dried thyme are sautéed down into a glorious blend. Then fried chicken is tossed in and well-coated for serving. There are sweet and bitter edges thanks to the bell peppers that are accentuated by the spiciness of the scotch bonnet chilis and the umami of the tomato. It’s a complex dish that’s insanely satisfying.
HAR CHEONG GAI — SINGAPORE
Har Cheong Gai — or Prawn Paste Chicken — is a staple of Singaporean cuisine. Prawn paste is pretty off-putting to the uninitiated. It’s an umami bomb that smells like, well, fermented rotted prawns. But, bear with us. It’s worth it. We promise.
Har Cheong Gai starts off with a funky marinade. This consists of the aforementioned prawn paste, sugar, sesame oil, plum wine, white pepper, and MSG. What’s interesting here is the marinade is turned into the batter after a good rest — a rarity outside of Chinese cuisine. Flour, potato starch, water, baking powder, and an egg is added to the marinade to create a viscous-y batter — sometimes this is called velveting. Next, the wings are fried in peanut oil at a very high temp for about one minute and then the temp is lowered to cook the meat through and help maintain the vital crunch of the batter. Serve with a little sweet chili sauce and you’re in for a delicious, slightly funky treat.
FRANGO À PASSARINHO — BRAZIL
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Um prato simples e clássico! Na nova receita do canal ensinamos a fazer o frango à passarinho. Crocante e delicioso. Vai lá no canal prender. #tobemnacozinha #frangoapassarinho #receita Ingredientes – 10 coxinhas e/ou asinhas de frango – 4 dentes de alho picados, bem fino – 1 colher de sobremesa de sal – 3 pitadas de pimenta do reino – 3 pitadas de pimenta caiena – Óleo para fritar
This Brazilian version of fried chicken is a garlic lover’s dream come true. This is a light — and quite easy to replicate –recipe that lets the chicken shine with a triad of flavors.
Frango a Passarinho — or The Chicken Bird — gets covered in a freshly made garlic paste (just garlic and salt), fresh bay leaves, and lime juice as a marinade/coating. Once the chicken is well-rested, it’s fried and served with some cilantro and fresh lime for garnish. In some cases, the chicken is poached first in a bay leaf infused stock, cooled, coated, and then flash fried — which can add extra depth to the whole experience. Either way, it’s simple and delicious.
CHICKEN KARAAGE — JAPAN
Karaage is a style of Japanese cooking where a piece of meat or seafood is marinated in soy sauce and lightly deep fried, or ‘tangy fried.’ While it’s often boneless pieces of thigh meat, you will find plenty of bone-in chicken karaage. So, as much as we love a good Katsu fillet or a Toriten tempura basket, Karaage has to be the way to go in Japan for classic fried chicken experience.
What’s clutch here is the marinade for the thigh meat. A mix of Sake, soy sauce, and fresh ginger and garlic are mixed together to create a delectable marinade for the chicken to rest in. Sometimes sugar or Mirin sauce are added to counterpoint the umami of the fermented soy, but not always. Next, the marinade is drained away and potato starch is added to coat. Then it’s thrown in a fryer to crispy brown perfection. The kicker… Chicken Karaage is served with a nice dollop of kewpie (Japanese mayonnaise) and a spritz of lemon. It’s a tangy and crunchy delight.
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CHICKEN 65 — SOUTHERN INDIA
Around Tamil Nadu and Chennai you’ll find this vibrant fried chicken. It’s a spicy assault on your senses and leaves you longing for more.
Chicken 65 uses yogurt and ketchup to amp up its deliciousness. Yes, you read that right. Ketchup. First, you have to rest the chicken in a spice mix of hot chili powder, corainder powder, turmeric, salt, and yogurt for at least four hours. Next, some palm or peanut oil is heated and the marinated chicken is slowly fried until golden brown. The next step is what makes this dish so damn tasty. The fried chicken is added to a skillet to crisp up more and then hot green chilis, curry leaves, and ketchup are added to coat the fowl. That sauce is reduced for 5-10 minutes and then the chicken is served with a healthy garnish of spring onions, red onions, and cilantro. It’s a little tart, sweet, and very spicy.
YANGNYEOM-TONGDAK — KOREA
Korean Fried Chicken is a wonderland of flavors. The twice fried chicken is coated in a rainbow of sauces from sweet mango to super spicy chilis to umami soy bombs. There’s a lot of variety here, but let’s focus on a more classic variety with a sweet, sour, and spicy version.
The chicken is usually coated in a loose batter made from potato starch, all-purpose flour, sweet rice flour, baking soda, an egg, and salt and pepper. That’s rested well to form the coating before it’s fried on a lower heat and then fried again on a higher heat to really crisp up the coating. Next, a sauce is made with plenty of crushed garlic, tomato ketchup, rice syrup, chili paste, and vinegar. Once that sauce is nicely reduced the crispy chicken is tossed in with some sesame seeds and served. Even with the sauce, the chicken should have a distinct crunch that’s accentuated with sweet, sour, and plenty of spice. Wash it down with some Soju and you’ll be in a good place.
GAI TOD — THAILAND
Thai fried chicken is all about the marinade. It’s flavor bomb with an umami edge under a sweet and funky bite. There’s a lot of love that goes into Thai food and this fried chicken is no different.
The chicken is marinated for at least two hours in a mix of crushed garlic and coriander root, fish sauce, sugar, and spicy chili powder. Next, the chicken is drenched in rice flour and deep fried on a very high heat and then fried one more time on a lower heat. At the very end, the chicken goes into a wok with Nahm Prik Pao (a spicy fermented chili paste in soybean oil) and sugar reduction. This adds that delicious funk and an extra layer of spice. Sometimes the Nahm Prik Pao is part of the marinade and the reduction coating is skipped — it really depends on where in Thailand you are. Either way, this is some of the best street food in the world.
BUTTERMILK AND HOT SAUCE FRIED CHICKEN — USA
American knows how to make a great fried chicken. There are a lot of options for the buttermilk and flour coated fried chicken out there, too — from KFC to local joints to the artisanal craft kitchen restos that have been popping up like wildflowers. But Popeyes standard recipe is pretty on point.
The key with this recipe is resting the chicken in buttermilk for a few hours to ensure the moisture of the chicken. Next, a spice mix is made with Louisiana hot sauce, a little salt and pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, and flour. The buttermilk-soaked chicken is then dusted with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and then dredged in the flour mix. Next, it’s dropped into a lightly scrambled egg mixture and then back into the flour mix. The next step is crucial. The coated chicken needs to rest so that coating can congeal — that’s how you get it extra crispy. Lastly, it’s fried in hot peanut oil for around eight minutes. Served with a hot, buttery biscuit and you’ve got some of the best fried chicken in the world.