Tag Archives: fried chicken

The Chois Eat Their Way Through Jeonju (Part 1)

My mum hates my food blog. Well, she hates that I write a food blog because she blames it for making me fat. I’m pretty sure she’s never read it because scrolling down through photo after photo after photo of all the fatty foombah carb-a-liciousness would just make her sick at all the food her daughter is ingesting and converting into fat cells. I would get an angry phone call after every post I publish.

We’ve had a lot of conversations that go along these lines:

“Heather, I’m worried because your cousin told me that all the photos on your Instagram are of really high-calorie and high-fat foods.”

“Mum, it’s because those kinds of photos get the most likes.”

“But why can’t you just eat more salads?”

“WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LET ME LIVE MY LIFE?!”

But since we live in a different countries and only communicate via messaging and phone, the frequency of her nagging had really died down, leading me to think, oh-so-naively, that maybe she had accepted that I had grown up into my own person and could make my own adult decisions about my body and the food I put in it.

When my parents told me they were visiting in the Spring, I thought it would be nice if we went on a short trip together. Conveniently, I planned a trip down to Jeonju which also happens to be one of the top foodie hot spot in Korea. I’d been wanting to go since I first heard about it. This trip seemed like an amazing idea: I could spend some quality time with my parents, pig out on amazing food, and get some great material for the blog. Little did I know that I was actually signing up for three-day fat camp.

As soon as my mum saw me, she unleashed a tirade of fat-shaming that did not end until I waved goodbye to her as she rode away on the Airport Limousine to catch her flight back to Sydney. Padded with affectionate squeezes of my butt and belly, and assurances of “I’m only saying this because I love you!” her incredible ability to never run out of things to say about my weight gain gave my self-esteem a good ol’ fashioned beat down.

“What happened to you? What did you eat to gain so much weight? Heather . . . are you depressed? If you’re not depressed then why are you eating so much?! Stop ordering delivery! Why are you so lazy? Just make yourself something healthy for dinner! I thought you would actually lose weight because of how skinny girls are here in Korea… don’t you feel bad when you see how thing and pretty all these girls are? How much do you exercise? I thought so. You need to exercise!! Just go for a walk after dinner. Matt’s lost so much weight, so why can’t you? You disgust me.

(Okay, she didn’t say the last thing, but it was strongly implied.)

Suddenly, a trip where eating would be the main activity didn’t seem like such a good idea. But with accommodation and bus tickets booked, and my will not yet broken by my mum’s incessant harassment, I just went ahead with it. What followed was one of the greatest tests of my emotional and mental fortitude of my life thus far.

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Me and my mum.

Jokes, that bear is way skinnier than me.

So mistake #1 was planning a foodie road trip with my fatphobic mum. Mistake #2 was planning a trip to Jeonju on a long weekend.

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This is meant to be a quaint “hanok” village made up of traditional Korean houses and cute little shops but because of it’s increasing popularity as a local tourist destination, on weekends and public holidays it is literally swarming with people. Hungry people. Standing in lines. Lots and lots of really really really long lines.

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Mandoo lines. Kalguksu lines. Bibimbap lines. Sandwich lines. Gukbap lines.

I’m not one to be afraid of a long line if I know that the food pay-off at the end will be worth it, but I did not want to spend the entire weekend waiting in line with my 60-ish parents who would probably spend the whole time lecturing me about how only fat people wait in line for food. Fortunately, thanks to the fierce competition here and Korean people’s willingness to shamelessly rip of a popular shop’s food and concept, there are plenty of copycat shops that offer pretty much the same food as the more famous places, but without the long wait.

Our first stop was flame-grilled octopus on a stick (문어꼬치)

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Big fat chunks of octopus, skewered and grilled, then served with worcestershire-ish sauce and bonito flakes.

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Kind of like a naked takoyaki. I’ve never really been a fan of octopus, so this is not something I would usually be attracted to, but Koreans LOVE it. It’s delicious – chewy on the inside and charred on the outside.

We shared one of these between the three of us because, you know … calories.

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Then we went right next door for some jumbo cheese chicken skewers (치즈 점보 닭꼬지).

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About double the size of a regular chicken gochi, this sexy beast is covered in sauce (you choose how spicy you want it) and a helluva lot of melted cheese.

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Here is mum taking a huge bite out of this high-fat high-calorie treat.

“Give it to me, you shouldn’t eat too much of things like this.”

“Yes, mum.” *cries on the inside*

Although the hanok village mainly consists of little permanent shopfronts, everything here is very street-food. Most things are served on long wooden skewers (gochi) – they have their own special rubbish bin.

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Because we wouldn’t want these things poking holes in the rubbish bags… or in people. Given the volume of people squished into this place when its busy, there’s gotta be a few gochi related injuries per day here.

There’s a shop here that’s really famous for its hand made mandoo (dumplings) but it had the longest line of ALL the restaurants. Actually it had two lines, and both looked at least 40 minutes long. I love my mandoo, but even I have my limits.

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So we went to the place next door that we hoped did a pretty good imitation of the original.

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Whole-prawn steamed dumplings. There was five between the three of us, but I only ate one. I didn’t want to get my hand slapped in front of all these people.

These tasted just okay – made me feel a bit sad about missing out on the real thing. But I plan to come back for them someday soon – when it’s less crazy busy and without my fat camp coaches.

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Mum got these water cakes (물방울떡) for dessert – there’s a bit of a craze happening around these lately, but I’m not a fan. They taste like nothing. They’re just big blobs of colorless, flavorless jelly.

And that was our lunch. I didn’t get to try as much as I wanted, half because of the lines, half because my mum’s hawk-eyes were watching me, with her claws ready to pounce if I dared get near “over-eating” territory.

We took a short nap in our tiny hanok stay and then headed out to dinner. Before the hanok village food street took over, Jeonju was mainly known for its bibimbap. We asked for a recommendation from the ahjusshi was ran our accommodation and headed over to restaurant called “Hangook jib” (literally: Korean house).

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Outside the boundary of the main touristy area, this place was pretty quiet but our guy assured us it was authentic and delicious and kind of famous because a former president had dined there once.

Bibimbap is normally a humble dish, but in Jeonju it gets quite fancy. The Jeonju version is based on a dish that was served in the royal court of the Joseon dynasty. It is presented in a gold metal bowl and includes some very special ingredients that you won’t find in your standard bibimbap: raw beef, yellow mung bean jelly, pine nuts and gingko nuts.

Here is how it looks pre-bibim:

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And post-bibim:

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My mum used to tell me off all the time for the “unladylike” way I would mix my bibimbap. Rice and gochujang would go everywhere and I’d end up with more outside the bowl than inside. But I’ve discovered a new technique to elegant bibim – use your chopsticks instead of your fork. It mixes things more evenly more quickly and is much less messy. See – only a few stray rice grains on the side of the bowl!

Unlike the usual bibimbap, all the ingredients of Jeonju bibimbap are cold to preserve the special flavor of the raw beef. The rice is still warm, but not steaming hot. So the resulting taste and mouthfeel is quite different – it’s fresh and the unique flavour and texture of each component is kept distinct. It’s interesting and tastes great, but given the choice, I think I would still choose the standard dolsot (hot stone) bibimbap over fancy Jeonju bibimbap. Dolsot bibimbap is my death row dish.

I’ve clearly inherited my tastes buds from my mum because despite being in Jeonju, she couldn’t resist the hot sizzling call of the dolsot. It came with the exact same ingredients except that the beef on top is already cooked.

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The ONE thing I was a bit disappointed with was the absence of a glossy raw egg yolk, which is the golden crown that sits atop the dish in all the photos I’ve seen. According to my dad, historically accurate Jeonju bibimbap doesn’t include the raw egg, which is a more modern addition. I still felt gypped. If I had to choose between authenticity and egg, I choose egg.

Even without the egg, its about as high-class as bibimbap gets. I loved it – but I made sure to leave at least a spoonful of rice in my bowl to create the illusion of self-controlled eating. But it didn’t really matter anyway – my parents were too busy lecturing me about my foolish reluctance to resume my legal career to even notice how much I was eating.

After dinner, we walked back to the Hanok village to grab some slushie beer which we had been coveting all day. Everyone we walked by seemed to have one in hand, but we had to wait until after dinner to get ourselves one to avoid being red-faced and drowsy in the daylight (all Chois have a very severe case of Asian Flush.)

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The concept of a beer slushie is pure genius. It combines the most loved beverage of our childhood (slushies) with the most loved beverage of our adulthood (beer) into the perfect summer refreshment. I don’t understand why it isn’t EVERYWHERE. It’s amazing!

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They mix cold beer on tap with the syrup of your choice (we got grapefruit) then top it off the cloudy white beer slush.

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Mrs Choi approves.

A few sips of slushie beer got my mum in a good mood, so I convinced her that we also needed to try some deep-fried whole squid on a stick (통오징어튀김).

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Mrs Kang smiles tipsily and has no idea how many grams of fat she will soon be consuming.

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Of all the [blank]-on-a-stick things I’ve eaten in Korea, this one WINS. It’s a whole squid lightly battered and deep-fried, and then seasoned with whatever flavor your heart desires. It comes to you hot, fresh, salty, crispy and chewy and is even better when washed down with a sip of slushie beer. It was so good that mum completely forgot to give me her favorite smackdown about the perils of eating fried foods late in the evening.

It was an emotionally taxing day, but I managed to get through it without bursting into tears, causing a scene, or stabbing someone with a wooden skewer. And I still got to eat some yummy food… just conditioned on the promise that I would exercise regularly and eat more salads back in Seoul. A promise I had no intention of keeping, but in wartime, you just gotta do whatever it takes to survive.

To be continued . . .

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Everything Else I Ate in Taiwan (Yong Kang Street and Din Tai Fung)

My husband and I had conflicting agendas for our trip to Taiwan. His was “Sleep” and mine was “Eat.” In our five day trip, I had breakfast by myself three times. Who chooses sleep over complimentary, luxury hotel, buffet breakfast?! Makes no sense to me, but it did show how much my poor hubby needed some good rest. So in the battle between “Sleep” and “Eat”, I let Sleep win… most of the time.

We arrived at our hotel in Taipei in the early afternoon and after dropping off our luggage I was ready to GO! GO! GO! LET OUR EATING ADVENTURES BEGIN! But Matt crawled into the bed and curled up in a “I have no intention of leaving here any time soon” kind of way.

“FINE. But I’m setting the alarm for 8pm and then you and I are going OUT!” I said, in a “If you don’t wake up, I’m leaving you here alone and I may never come back” kind of way.

Thankfully (for our marriage) Matt managed to wake up and we headed out to Yong Kang Street, a vibrant little area full of restaurants, cafes, little shops and young people.

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It is home of the original Din Tai Fung and also the famous Yong Kang Beef Noodle.

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The 50-year-old restaurant had a nice line outside it – long enough for you to feel confident that “Yes! This is where it’s at!” and short enough for you to happily wait without getting hangry.

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The line moved incredibly fast, because this is the kind of place where you slurp your noodles, pay your bill and leave – no loitering. While famous for its beef noodle soup, the Chinese menu had a lot of items and the people sitting around us looked like they were enjoying a variety of side dishes alongside their noodles.

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The English menu, however, was just a one-pager with nine items. We wanted to try something a bit different so we ordered the steamed pork spareribs (not quite adventurous enough for the steamed large intestines).

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This was really good! Tasty streamed rice and spareribs, and some surprise sweet potato hiding underneath.

And then, the main event:

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Dang. My mouth waters even now just looking at that photo. More than anything we were exciting about those MASSIVE chunks of super-soft beef! It felt like so long since we’d had beef because it’s so crazy expensive in Korea. We live off white meat – which I’m fine with – but seeing a whole steak’s worth of red meat sitting on top of the noodles… we were both very  very happy.

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The broth is actually quite mild, despite its dark-red colour, and the noodles are thick but light and so easy to slurp up. I am a soup-noodle fiend so this was one of my personal favourites from our trip – especially because it’s so unique to Taiwan. Apparently all the famous beef noodle places make their noodles slightly differently, and I wish I could have tried some other restaurants but as I mentioned before, sleep > eat.

We were pretty full, but my friend had recommended a really good Taiwanese-style pop corn chicken place and I was determined to find it. She said to look for the place with the chicken giving a big thumbs up.

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Found it!

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But everything was in Chinese and only Chinese! We were so confused, just staring at the different types of battered items for ages with no idea what any of them were. We gave up and just asked the lady, “Fried chicken?” and she understood. They also had a big photo of what was obviously fried cheese, so we ordered that too. Then she had to enlist the help of the girl next door to ask us what kind of seasoning we wanted, and we opted for chilli and garlic. After that ordeal, she told us we had to wait 20 minutes, so we took a stroll around the street and came back to collect.

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THUMBS UP PRO!! FRIED CHICKEN!

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Okay, the photo really does not do any justice to how freaking delicious this was. TFC (Taiwanese Fried Chicken) really gives KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) a run for its money – I LOVE how the batter is light, ultra crispy and then seasoned with a really generous amount of flavoured salts. Garlic and chilli was definitely a good choice. And the fried cheese! Fried cheese NEVER disappoints. NEVER. It is one of the most reliably delightful foods in the world.

We concluded our evening with a visit to the famous mango shaved ice dessert at Smoothie House. This was one of the things EVERYONE I spoke to recommended as a “Must Eat” but I was somewhat skeptical. It’s just mango shaved ice – I can get this at any cafe in Korea. How good can it be?

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A wink and a thumbs up must be the Taiwanese symbol for “You can trust us for best and delicious foods!” There were a few things to choose from, but we went for the panna cotta mango shaved ice.

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How good does that look??? Soft, delicate snowflakes of shaved ice, huge chunks of FRESH MANGO and a little cap of panna cotta on top.

So, just to give you all a bit of context, prior to this trip I had spent my entire summer eating shaved ice. Korean summers are stinking hot, and nothing quite refreshes like a big bowl of bingsoo. I’d had red bean bingsoo, green tea bingsoo, royal milk tea bingsoo, black sesame bingsoo, strawberry bingsoo, blueberry bingsoo, mango bingsoo, five-grain bingsoo, lemon bingsoo, oreo bingsoo, cheesecake bingsoo… and I could go on. I’d tried all types and textures, from crunchy, chunky ice, to melt-in-your-mouth shaved milk.

This depth of experience makes me feel qualified to award this Taiwanese mango shaved ice with the official, coveted crown of:

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In the sub-categories: Mango beats strawberries, blueberries and bananas for best fruit topping. Panna cotta beats yogurt, ice cream, soft serve and whipped cream for best dairy topping. And snowflake shaved ice beats snowflake shaved milk and coarsely ground ice for best texture. All-round perfection.

And you don’t even need to go all the way to Taiwan to taste it – Smoothie House has branches in Korea! But sadly they’re all in Busan. I’m hoping it’s only a matter of time before they expand to Seoul – but even if not, Busan is only a 2 hour train ride away!

We saved Din Tai Fung for our last day in Taipei. We had arranged to meet Matt’s cousin and his friend which was awesome because between four people we could get so much more variety. Din Tai Fung between two people is not very exciting.

We arrived at the Taipei 101 branch of the restaurant to find this ridiculously large crowd of people.

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And then we were told there was a 90 minute wait. SERIOUSLY?! For a chain restaurant that has been around for years and has plenty of branches around Taipei city?? I couldn’t believe it – but I’m told this is pretty normal, particularly for the Taipei 101 branch.

We went all the way up and down the second tallest building in the world and came back at around 3pm to eat lunch.

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The restaurant is HUGE – like, bigger than your average food court huge. We sat down, and wrote down all our orders for the waiter to come and pick up. When he looked at our order he started talking to our cousin’s friend like something was wrong and my heart sank thinking “Omg… they haven’t run out of XiaoLongBao have they? Impossible!”

When he left I asked whether something was wrong. Turns out the waiter just thought that we had ordered too much food and suggested we remove some things from our order. Luckily, our Taiwanese friend had the wisdom to assure him it was okay and that we’d be able to eat everything. I laughed. PUHLEASE. Just look at us! Any good waiter would see that these fatties could eat the entire menu.

Since Din Tai Fung is available all over the world, I won’t bore you with a dish-by-dish account of our meal. Here’s a collage of the twelve dishes that we ate.

I am kind of ashamed to admit this, but this was my favourite meal from Taiwan. Ashamed because when I said this to my Taiwanese friend she took personal offence and informed me that Din Tai Fung is “not real Taiwanese food.” Real or not, I am in love with Xiao Long Bao and might even go so far as to say it’s my all-time favourite dumpling. I also really liked the pickled cucumber and potstickers. And I know its a franchise but I swear it tasted better than Sydney’s DTF and you can’t even compare it with Seoul’s DTF, which really sucks.

Before I end my Taiwanese food story, I want to add one more thing I forgot to include in my previous street food post. Of all the things I tried, the little street snack I actually liked the most this fried quail egg on a stick.

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The eggs are cracked into those little moulds, fried and then flipped over to cook the other side like Takoyaki balls. They skewer three onto a stick and drizzle salty soy-like sauce on top. So good! I bought one stick, ate it while I walked, and then we happened to pass another guy selling them, so I bought one more. This doesn’t seem to be a very famous snack, and maybe I only liked it because I’m such an egg-addict, but I wish someone would set up a cart like this outside my house so I could eat it on my way to work and again on my way back in.

And that is all! I didn’t get to eat everything on my list, but what’s more important is that my husband and I had a wonderful, relaxing holiday… well that’s what I keep telling myself anyway.

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깐풍기 / Ganpoonggi / Ganpoongs

This is an eating blog not a cooking blog – BUT cooking is a necessary part of eating (like during my HSC I developed intense sweet cravings and took up baking) so occasionally I’ll post up a recipe here. I do like cooking, but I suck at it pretty badly so I only really cook for special occasions where I can dedicate my entire day and all my energy and brainpower into cooking something.

I’ve been hanging with the fam a lot these days because the boy is overseas, and the other night mum and I decided to cook something new together. She was given a bunch of recipes from her friend who is a lady of leisure and took cooking classes in Korea because she wanted to impress her son in law. My mum will soon have a son-in-law so I guess she feels the pressure.

Mum wanted to try 깐풍기 (Korean) / Ganpoonggi (Romanised) / Ganpoongs (Aussie) which is a deep-fried chicken in a sticky garlicky chilli sauce that is apparently a Korean/Chinese fusion dish (thought my Chinese friends aren’t aware of any Chinese equivalent). It’s a guilty pleasure, usually indulged in alongside 짜장면 (Jjajangmyun/fried black bean noodles). The deliciousness stems from the chilli oil and dried chilli infused sauce that is so sticky that it candies onto the batter of the fried chicken, creating a double crunch.

It’s one of those dishes you’d never think of attempting at home just because you’d think that the number of ingredients, processes and potential failure would not make it worth your time when you can go to the local Korean and just buy a big plate for like $15.

But bored housewife and bored future housewife attempted it and TA-DA! It actually turned out well!

I’m surprised because my mum doesn’t exactly have a talent for cooking either … and our powers combined creates the potential for double failure. And to be honest…. it looks better than it tasted. Here’s the recipe (which we didn’t follow that closely…)

Ingredients 

Chicken
2 thigh fillets (or breast if you must)
Soy sauce (1 Tbsp)
Rice wine/Mirin (1 Tbsp)
Lots of frying oil

Batter
Cornflower (7 Tbsp)
1 egg white (but keep another egg white spare)
Oil (1 Tbsp)

Sauce
Spring onion (1/4 of a bunch)
1 green chilli
2 dried chillies
Crushed ginger (1/2 Tbsp)
Crushed garlic (1 Tbsp)
Chilli oil (1 Tbsp)
Chilli powder (1/2 Tbsp)
Soy Sauce, Sugar, Rice Wine, Vinegar (2 Tbsp each)
Chicken stock (4 Tbsp)

Steps

1. Cut up the chicken into bite size pieces and marinate with the soy sauce and rice wine in a bowl, and leave to one side.

2. Chuck the batter ingredients into a bowl and mix – the recipe says only one egg white but we ended up with a playdough like batter which resulted in an embarrassing emergency call to my mum’s friend…. but then we added one more egg white and some more cornflour and oil, until we got to consistency we liked – which is basically thin enough to easily coat the chicken but thick enough to stay on. DO NOT ADD WATER… says the recipe – not sure why – maybe because water makes oil spit?

3. Throw the chicken into the batter and make sure all the pieces are well covered.

4. Get your oil in your deep-frying vessel and heat up while you make your sauce. We don’t have a deep fryer so we used this old deep frying pot my mum has. Our family rarely cooks deep fried… mum’s scared of the hot oil. BE CAREFUL WITH THE HOT OIL. Its frickin scary.

5. Put the chilli oil and all the dry ingredients for the sauce into a hot frypan and cook until fragrant. Then add the other liquids and simmer on medium heat until reduced to half. We didn’t have chilli oil or dried chillis… which you would think were a critical omission but the sauce didn’t end up too bad. We also didn’t include the chicken stock because…. we forgot (like I said, bad cooks). You could really do whatever you wanted here – make the sauce as spicy/salty/sweet as you like and you could even throw in some extra veg like chopped capsicum. Next time I make this I think I’ll add more sugar than the recipe recommends because we didn’t quite achieve the sticky toffee-like consistency you get at a restaurant.

6. Once the oil has reached 170degrees (celcius) you can start frying the chicken or if you have no way of measuring temp just sacrifice some “test pieces” of chicken in the oil. Don’t be like us and be stingy with the oil – use enough so that the chicken pieces are fully suspended so they don’t stick to the bottom. Take the pieces out of the oil onto paper towel once they look golden delcious.

7. The recipe didn’t say to to this, but mum insisted that we twice-fry the chicken. So we chucked all the chicken back into the hot oil until it reached a golden-brown colour. Once all the chicken was out, we poured the sauce over it.

Though the chicken looked crunchy – the batter softened a bit. Not sure why – maybe oil wasn’t hot enough or we left it out too long after the first fry. But the cornflour + eggwhite does create a really nice batter that covers the meat well without being too thick and heavy. Without the sauce, it reminded me of Karaage chicken and made me want to use the batter to dip and deep fry everything!

So not quite restaurant quality Kanpoonggi but still delicious and well worth the effort!

* Recipe is adapted from Hansol Cooking Academy’s recipe for 매콤깐풍기

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