Korean Fried Chicken FTW!
It's KFC, but the different kind. That's right, the ones that taste even better than Kentucky Fried Chicken! I am talking about Korean Fried Chicken here. Let's just say, Korean Fried Chicken is sooooo 2007 in NYC, but here in Australia I don't think there are many people heard of this phenomenon and sadly this new trend also didn't quite catch on. I had my first taste of Korean Fried Chicken back in 2008 and it is sadly missed since. So tonight, Simon (The Heart of Food) and I are on a mission, we are going on a KFC hunt!
Of course, I can't go KFC hunting without the person who introduced me to this chicken made from heaven almost 2 years ago. Five-Fiddy-Phon, who first discovered the KFC in an alley way in Sydney CBD at a Korean restaurant named Dashi. He took me there one night and it didn't take long to brainwash me with those deep fried golden sexy wings. Helen (GrabYourFork) (Wowo! I wasn't even a food blogger back then and go by the name Figuro, ha!) and I were soon became members of this underground KFC cult.
After a quick search on internet, we landed on the first Korean restaurant that serves fried chicken in Strathfield called Two-Two Fried Chicken, a popular Korean fried chicken fast food chain. The restaurant is adjacent to and a stone throw away from the Strathfield station, hidden behind a dark touch-sensor sliding door.
As we walk in, the restaurant looks nothing like a fast food restaurant that I'd have expected. The restaurant is a lot tiny and cosy inside, with only about 9 tables, lined up 3 x 3 in the small space. Despite there is a cashier counter at the back of the restaurant with backlit menu hanging on top of the wall, the service is actually nothing different than a normal restaurant where the waitress will come to our table and hand us the menu, then comes back later to take down our orders.
I love Korean food where there are never short of complimentary side dishes. A plate of pickled radish, and popcorn are presented to us while we are waiting for our chicken. Soon I can smell the deep fry emanating throughout the whole restaurant but thank god it is only a short wait, the fried chicken finally emerged from the kitchen in its golden glory!
Well, perhaps a little too golden, almost dark brown. We go for a full plate of original fried chicken at $25.00, and pay a little extra to have the hot chilli sauce on the side so that we can adjust the hotness according to one's tolerance level and also not to dampen the crispness of those chicken pieces.
What makes the Korean Fried Chicken so good is because of the double deep-fry technique. The chicken pieces are usually lightly coated in flour and corn starch then double deep-fried until the layer of fat under the skin is totally rendered away, which resulting a very crunchy thin skin.
Unfortunately, we find the chicken at two-two has not much flavour to it and is a tad overcooked with some of the breast pieces are a little dry on the inside. The crispy brown skin is also lacking of the crunchy batter coating we have hoped for. We must be too busy dipping the chicken into the hot chilli sauce as we totally forgot there is also a saucer of sour plum salt powder dip on the table and totally neglected it.
Two-two fried chicken is good but we are not satisfied. Our high expectations had lead us on a wild goose chicken chase and ended up in Eastwood.
"If you can't find it here, then you will not find it elsewhere in Sydney," Simon, a Korean himself confidently believes that we are more likely to find good KFC in the Korean populated suburb like Eastwood. When we arrived at Eastwood, we are a little bit disappointed to find that there are actually not many Korean restaurants on the main street. We are desperate and even go inside each restataurant to ask where we can get KFC in the area and no one seems to understand what we are talking about. We almost given up hope until we saw another strip of restaurants on the other side of the railway station, Simon instantly remembers that's where the Korean side of town in Eastwood and off we go.
Like I said, the not-so-new trend of KFC never really catch on here in Sydney. There are about 10 Korean BBQ restaurants lining up in the Korean street and none of them do fried chicken! We are totally defeated and almost ready to call it a night until Simon spotted a large pictorial banner outside the Eastwood Hotel. It says, "Ginseng Fried Chicken, $29.00". Ginseng? We didn't think twice and walk straight into the pub.
The Eastwood Hotel is the local pub with outdoor seatings, and inside looks just like a normal pub with a bar in the centre of the room, plasma screen TVs with sports channels on, and poker machines eating your wages away in the corner. A small kitchen called Jeans Chilli Chicken runs by a group of Koreans serves up a menu with two options - Korean food or Western Pub Food.
"Are you strong enough for hot food? Veerrrrryyyy Hottttt......" The waiter is in doubt when I assure him that we are looking for Korean food. "Are you sure? Are your bottom strong enough? Very verrryyyy hotttt.....!"
Yes I am sure, and too much detail.
The Korean menu is definitely not something you want to mess with. Each dish has different number of chillies icons next to it to indicate the hotness level. We decided to order three dishes, but unfortunately their famous Jeans Chilli Chicken is sold out, hence settled on two. This time we are served with complimentary pickled daikon cubes, and also a creamy pasta salad consists of seashell pasta, cucumber and apple which surprisingly the best antidote for the hot dishes we are about to consume. But we found it is more amusing that they even provide us a box of plastic gloves! No messy fingers!
First dish to arrive is the chilli rice sticks. Despite it only has two chillies symbols on the menu, the rice sticks and fish cake slices are swimming in a muddle of striking red chilli sauce. It is a dish from hell screaming of hotness! I love the chewiness of rice sticks and the occasional crunch of cabbage. The dish is definitely spicy hot but on a tolerable level, eventually I can feel my body is burning from inside out. It is a dish not to be mess with.
The dish we've been looking for has finally arrived. When I heard the word "ginseng", my initial thought that the chicken is possibly marinated with ginseng or coated in imitation ginseng powder. To my surprise, the ginseng fried chicken wings and drummettes, indeed comes with real ginseng on top!
Instantly, we can see a big step up between the two restaurants this evening. Here they only use chicken wings and drumettes which are the common choice for Korean fried chicken. A nice golden tan layer of crunchy batter, check! Succulent tender meat, check! The ginseng adds another layer of texture to the dish, its bitterness can be a little overwhelming but it works surprisingly well together with the fried chicken. Ginseng is touted as a tonic to build stamina and boost immune function. So, who said a deep-fried chicken dish is not good for you?
The Korean Fried Chicken at JEANS is definitely the clear winner of this evening, but still not quite there yet. Sorry, I have high expectations on KFC. It is still missing one key elemenent, the cinnamon flavour like the one I've had at Dashi which is now closed down. And I don't think I will be able to find one just as good in Sydney anymore.
But I am sure there are a few more Korean restaurants out there that do KFC, Arisun on Liverpool St for instance even though I am skeptical that it be better than the ginseng KFC at JEANS.
The KFC hunt continues...
View Two Two fried chicken in a larger map
Two-Two Fried Chicken 2 The Boulevarde, Strathfield
P: (02) 9701-0827
Jeans Chilli Chicken, Eastwood Hotel
115 Rowe St
Eastwood NSW 2122
P: (02) 9874 1100