Dak means chicken in Korean. Gangjeong is a type of traditional Korean confectionery. It’s made by deep-frying sweet rice batter into crackers, coating with a syrup, and finally covering with puffed rice, sesame seeds, or nuts. Traditionally, the similar concept/technique — deep frying and coating with a sticky syrup — is also used to make various other sweet and savory dishes. Dakgangjeong is the chicken version.
To make this dish, I first soaked the raw chicken in milk for a couple of hours, but it’s not absolutely necessary. The milk helps tenderize the meat and remove any odor, resulting in tender, juicy, and flavorful fried chicken. Then, the chicken gets marinated with a little bit of salt, ginger and garlic before being lightly coated with the potato starch.
The sauce is sweet and tangy with a little spicy kick from the gochujang (Korean red chili pepper paste). It’s far from fiery hot, but reduce or omit the gochujang if you’d like. You can replace gochujang partially or entirely with ketchup. It’s very common to use ketchup in a dakgangjeong sauce for a milder taste. You can also boost the heat level by simmering the sauce with a little bit of gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper flakes) or whole dried red peppers.
I try not to eat too much fried food, but I couldn’t stop popping these into my mouth. So addictive! Who wouldn’t like crispy tender chicken that’s sweet, tangy, and spicy all in one bite?
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thigh and/or breast
- 1/2 cup milk (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- pinch pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon rice wine (if not using milk)
- 1/3 cup potato starch (or corn starch)
- oil for deep frying
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons rice wine (or mirin)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or rice wine vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean red chili pepper paste)
- 3 tablespoons honey (or corn or rice syrup)
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- pinch pepper
- 1 to 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped peanuts (or almonds) for garnish
- Soak the chicken pieces in milk for at least 2 hours in the fridge. This step is optional.
- Drain thoroughly. Remove any visible fat. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. Mix with the salt, pepper, rice wine (if you didn’t use milk) garlic, and ginger. Let it stand for 20 to 30 minutes.
- In a pan, add all the sauce ingredients, and stir well. Bring it to a boil. When it starts to bubble, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until it thickens slightly, about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the heat off.
- Add the potato (or corn) starch to the chicken, and mix well to coat evenly.
- Pour about 1 inch of oil in to a heavy bottom pan. When the oil is sufficiently hot (350°F or starts smoking), drop the chicken pieces in one at a time. Fry them in two batches. Overcrowding will drop the oil temperature too quickly. Cook until light golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and set them on a wire rack or a paper towel-lined plate.
- Reheat the oil to 350°F. Deep fry again until golden brown, about 30 to 40 seconds. You can do the second frying in one batch.
- Heat the sauce over medium low heat. Add the chicken and stir well until the chicken pieces are evenly coated.