Once we acquire a fond memory it is there to stay, forever etched in our minds. Food memories in particular hold a deep sentiment for me, not because I'm a food enthusiast, though I am, but rather because most of my happy memories stem from experiences in which food was a main subject.
After all, isn't that a hot topic when one grows up in Asian culture? Eating revolves every waking moment, conversation, fellowship, and even the salutations between two decent human beings. Before hello (or ahnyounghasaeyoh) slips out of one's mouth, it's common courtesy to ask if he or she ate lunch. If one hasn't eaten lunch, it is the other person's responsibility and point of concern that he or she will, very soon. It's the unwritten rule of our social etiquette, so to speak. And it's just our way of life. It brings forth a sense of trust and true community, more often than not.
So when I think of chicken, wings that are drenched in the usual American barbeque sauce are the furthest thing from my mind. On the contrary, some of my fondest memories growing up in Buenos Aires are from eating out with my family; those rare times when we would free mother from cooking--a treat that happened only a few times a year--were always worth the wait. We sometimes stopped by the hole in the wall Korean rotisserie house (tong-dhak jeep). Their chicken was unlike any other I've ever tasted, and I'm still not sure if there will ever be one like it. It was far from luxurious. And it was vastly different from the American variation of rotiesserie, but something about the flavor was unique, somewhat deep like the aromas of the earth thanks to the rub they used (whatever that was), and always paired with the tangiest pickled radish cubes. They are the perfect companions for each other.
Nowadays there are so many variations of chicken to be found, namely in the Korean culinary world. The garlicky, spicy, sticky, gochujang laden ones will always be my favorite, but not before I coat them in this luscious batter I concocted some months ago. This batter rends a texture that is so crispy, doughy, but without the chew, while exploding with flavors. It's uncomplicated and unpretentious, because that's where the culinary palate flourishes first. My secret ingredients are a mixture of sweet rice flour, buttermilk, and baking soda. Together they meld into a crackly and tender skin, encasing the chicken in its own aromatic juices.
Buttermilk Baking Soda Fried Chicken
Makes about 14 large fried drumsticks
enough canola oil for frying (or other neutral tasting oil)
1 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup sweet rice flour (I use mochiko)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
pinch of black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 large egg
1 cup+2 tbsp buttermilk***
14 large drumsticks
1. Pour enough canola oil in a cast iron skillet or a deep pot, in order to cover the entirety of the chicken legs. Heat on the stove top over medium fire. Let it heat up while you coat the chicken.
2. In a deep dish, whisk all the ingredients in the listed order, minus the chicken. ***For the buttermilk, you don't need to buy it from the store. You can simply mix 1 cup+2 tbsp of milk with 1 tbsp of vinegar until it begins to curdle slightly.
3. Dip the chicken legs in the batter and coat them thoroughly, making sure to let any excess batter drip back into the plate. Drop a tiny dollop of batter in the oil and if it fizzles and rises to the top, it is ready for frying.
4. Carefully drop each coated leg into the oil. Depending on the size of your pan/pot, you might be able to cook several legs at a time. Just make sure they don't touch each other. Cook all sides thoroughly--roughly 4-5 minutes each side, or until it's golden brown.
5. Using a straining ladle or a set of tongs, place each fried chicken on a plate lined with paper towels. Then serve with spicy peppers or your favorite sauce.