Why Korean Chicken Wings Are Better than the Kind You're Used to
If you were asked to name the five most American foods you can think of, you'd probably rattle off burgers, hot dogs, and apple pie. Wings would probably be up there, too, right? Found in every corner of the country, chicken wings are so common and so beloved that their preparation and recipe variations can spark explosive disagreements. But what if I told you the chicken wing actually isn't a purely American dish? Like fried chicken, it has virtually endless twists put on it around the world. Korean chicken wings are one of the tastiest global varieties out there, and considering their recent rise in popularity—the fast-casual chain Bonchon currently has over 80 locations in the US—one you're more likely to run into when looking for a new go-to wing place in your city. So what makes Korean fried chicken wings different—and maybe even better—than the kind you're used to? There are three key elements.
Walk into just about any sports bar in the States, and you'll likely see words like "jumbo" or "giant" next to the menu's listing for the place's wings. And there's definitely nothing wrong with massive chicken wings, that's just not how Korean fried chicken wings are done. Instead, smaller, younger chickens are typically used since their meat tends to be a bit juicier and more tender. If you're still not convinced on this reliance on quality over quantity, think of it this way: the smaller the wing, the easier it is to eat more of them.
They're fried twice.
Arguably the most well-known hallmark of Korean wings (and Korean fried chicken in general) is their extra-crunchy exterior. And this crispiness isn't the same as you'll find at places where chicken is given to you by a colonel; instead, Korean wings get their trademark crunch from the way they're prepped and cooked. Barely seasoned and dredged in minimal flour, Korean chicken wings are fried not once, but twice. This helps render the fat of the chicken's skin into a thin, crackly exterior that's also less greasy than typical American-style fried chicken. Once the wings are finished with their dual dips in the fryer, they're covered with sauce.
They pack in a ton of flavor.
If the twice-fried cooking method is Korean wings' calling card, then their use of gochujang is their secret weapon. What even is gochujang, you ask? In short, it's a fermented chile paste. Those red chilies are typically mixed with salt, sticky rice, and soybeans to create a sauce that's as complex in its flavors as it is unique. Most familiar with gochujang describe it as equal parts spicy, smoky, and sweet, with a healthy dose of umami. It's definitely a powerful flavor, which is why you're likely to see it blended in some fashion with garlic, soy, or even good old barbecue sauce on Korean chicken wings.