There is nothing I like so much as Korean fried chicken (“KFC”) and beer, or chimaek (치맥) as it’s also called, with friends. For those of you that don’t know, chimaek is slang but also literally the words “chicken” (치킨) and “maekju” (맥주, beer) smushed together. And it was, and still is, one of my favourite things to eat on a Friday night with friends. So many of my happy memories involve chimaek (both here and in Korea).
But because it’s deep-fried not just once but twice, it’s not something one can eat everyday… or even every week despite how fabulously delicious it is. Especially if you’re trying to get ready for summer (i.e. diet) or simply trying to eat more healthy. So I wanted something that combined the fabulous flavour of two of my favourite sauces the fried chicken is often doused in when I order “half & half” (half spicy, half soy garlic) but that I could serve with rice and a vegetable or two at home (or take to work for lunch). And after some experimentation and using my parents as guinea pigs… I came up with the recipe below.
I know the purists won’t be happy (I’ve already had friends complain on Facebook that fried chicken isn’t supposed to be healthy and were only slightly mollified that we drank beer with our ‘healthy’ chicken). So perhaps it would be better to think of this recipe as one that was inspired by the flavours and sauces (especially the spicy sweet one that’s my favourite), rather than as KFC. Yes, I changed the method of cooking (stir frying vs. deep frying) and it’s no longer crispy, but the sauces are the same (or at least similar as every KFC restaurant will have their own variation). Plus it’s a super easy & quick recipe so easy to do at home!
Healthy “KFC” Half & Half Chicken Recipe
- chicken thighs or breasts (cut into bite size)
- salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
Yangnyeom Tongdak Sauce
- 1/3 cup gochujang (고추장, Korean red pepper paste)
- 1 tbsp ketchup
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1-2 tbsp soju or rice wine
- ½ tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ inch fresh ginger, minced
- 1 tsp gochugaru (고추가루, Korean red pepper powder) – optional
- ½ tbsp sesame oil (+ ½ tbsp for after cooked)
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- ½-1 tbsp sesame oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-inch ginger, minced
- 1 tbsp soju or rice wine
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
For the Garnish
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
1. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces and season with cornstarch, salt and pepper.
2. Stir fry chicken pieces until cooked (approx. 8-10 minutes)
3. If you want a smooth sauce, puree garlic and ginger together in a small blender or processor until smooth. I tend to like the ginger pieces so skip this step.
4. Add the remainder of the first sauce ingredients to the pot (remembering to use one pot for each sauce ^^) and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Simmer for 3-4 minutes until it gets thicken slightly. It will start to look slightly glassy/glazed (this is good). Set aside.
5. Repeat process in another pot for the second sauce. [I generally do them at the same time.]
6. When the sauces are ready, add half of the fried chicken pieces to one pot and the other half to the second. Toss with the sauce until evenly coated.
Optional: If you want them a little crispy, turn on the broiler in your oven and broil for 5-10 minutes. It won’t give you Korean fried chicken level crispiness but it will add a little. Plus it bakes in the flavour a little and makes the sauce a little yummier.
7. Serve with rice and banchan (반찬, side dishes). Or serve with rice and a green veggie (peas, broccoli, spinach, etc.) for a more Canadian twist.
I love Korean fried chicken and this recipe isn’t meant to replace it, but rather it’s a quick & easy recipe with similar flavours that makes for a lovely weeknight meal or is great for taking to work for lunch. Of course, I’ll still have chimaek with friends on Fridays… ^^
Do you love Korean fried chicken? Have you tried chimaek? Did you make our “healthy” version? We would love to hear from you so please leave us a comment and let us know what you think!!