Monday, April 5, 2010

The New KFC: Korean Fried Chicken - Review of BonChon Chicken

Original Soy & Garlic Fried Chicken.

This review originally appeared on The Gotham Palate.

I love KFC. That's Korean Fried Chicken (not that other, Colonel Sanders-style chicken). No, this isn't Southern fried chicken with grits and collard greens on the side. You'd more likely find it served with daikon (pickled radish). It's not dipped in batter twice and fried to a crisp. Instead, Korean fried chicken is made with a delicate soy and garlic marinade, resulting in a light crunch.

Koreans like their noraebang (karaoke) and soju. And they've got to have their fried chicken. But out here in the States, it's a relatively new concept. When you sample it for yourself, you'll find out why - explosive seasoning, tender meat and a dainty shell that crackles apart with one touch is the recipe for a savory gourmet chicken fest.

Fried chicken is a popular food item in Korea, where it's been a hit for 20 years and counting. Consumers flock to trendy eateries to indulge in this flavorful treat. They've spread their refined taste to the West, where Korean fried chicken joints like KyoChon, BonChon and UFC (Unidentified Flying Chickens) have taken up residence. In China, this thin crust technique is called "paper fried chicken."

Chicken Close-Up.

Here's how it's done:
The chicken starts off unseasoned and is tossed around in fine flour, then dunked in a thin batter before it hits the fryer. Oil temperature stays at a low 35 degrees and the chicken undergoes two separate cooking phases. After the 10 minute mark, the chicken and oil part ways while the chicken is given a shakedown in a wire strainer and set to cook for 2 minutes. Then it's back to the fryer for 10 more minutes until the chicken is lightly browned.

The best chicken has the least sauce, so it's generally served up plain. However, it can also be topped with s asweet hot and spicy sauce.

BonChon menu.

I was eager to try out the new midtown KyoChon location on its March 6th grand opening. I'm familiar with the KyoChon brand, as there's one in Flushing. But when we (my friend and I) got there, we didn't find a single soul inside. Granted, it was almost 3 p.m. and past the lunch rush, but it just didn't seem all that inviting. So we strolled over to BonChon instead.

We had the mixed 4 drums and 12 wings set and easily finished it off. Those drums were huge and buffalo-sized. You don't feel overly greasy when eating these crispy nubs.

Tangy daikon and a choice of one side came with our order. We opted for cole slaw to be more "healthy." True to my love for all things tart and vinegar-infused, I drank that daikon juice straight up! Including tax, everything added up to about $22.

You can also add other side dishes, if you're extra hungry (dinner, anyone?). Ddukbokki (spicy rice cake), scallion pancake and rosemary fries are among the fixins. Zucchini fries and bulgolgi tacos also looked promising.

Maybe I'll check out the new KyoChon another time, but for now I've found me some mighty fine KFC comfort grub.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. This is more of a take-out restaurant and not a sit- down outfit, so I can't grade on service. However, the chicken was worth it for me. Just try not to stray too far from the chicken and you should be fine!

BonChon Chicken
207 W 38th St
New York, NY 10018

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