Susan Jung on Kung Pao and Beyond
The cookbook author shares her obsession with fried chicken
Susan Jung loves fried chicken.
A trained pastry chef, the former food editor for the South China Morning Post, and current food writer for Vogue Hong Kong, Jung says that wherever she travels, she seeks out the region’s most loved fried chicken dishes.
“When I’m taken around or go to a restaurant, I gravitate toward fried chicken,” she confides to Broken Palate. “I just love fried chicken and I don’t really know many people who don’t love it,” she adds.
Jung adds that fried chicken is universally popular for its value and its ability to work well with different flavor profiles. “Chicken is reasonably priced, and I tend to think of it as a blank slate. It can take any kind of spices or herbs to make it taste better.”
With that obsession in mind, Jung set out to write a book profiling her 60 favorite fried chicken dishes inspired by travels throughout East and Southeast Asia. Kung Pao & Beyond: Fried Chicken Recipes from East and Southeast Asia includes recipes for Vietnamese butter wings; sambal goreng wings, chicken cutlets with Cantonese curry sauce, coconut milk and curry powder nuggets, and more.
Cooking through the book is like taking a journey through flavors, with many recipes using fragrant lemongrass and lime leaves, savory soy and fish sauces, or pungent garlic. “The only ingredient that ties everything together is chicken, It can be flavored in so many different ways,” says Jung.
If you’re looking for a place to start while leafing through the book, Jung suggests her mom’s chicken wing recipe. The wings are coated in corn starch then potato flour and double fried before being finished in a soy and ginger-based glaze and finished in the oven. "It’s a very easy recipe, “ she says.
Of all the dishes, however, the one most likely to be a hit at parties is the chicken poppers with instant noodle coating. These babies are made by coating chicken pieces in a mixture of dry noodle powder and ground ramen noodles. “They’re really crunchy because of the fried instant noodles,” says Jung, who adds, “They taste so good with a cold beer or soju.”
Jung says she came up with the idea for the recipe after listening to some friends talking about instant noodles. “I wondered how instant noodles would work as a coating for fried chicken, and fortunately had a packet of Nongshim Shin Ramyun in my cupboard.” (Jung recommends looking for the ones made in South Korea, because they taste so much better than the ones made elsewhere.)
Jung shared her chicken poppers recipe with Broken Palate. Be sure to make sure your friends bring the beer and soju!
Chicken Poppers with Instant Noodle Coating (serves four to six people)
1 pound boneless chicken thighs with coarse salt crystals, as necessary
2–4 packets of instant noodles, depending on size
about 2 oz. potato, sweet potato, or tapioca flour
3¼ cups cooking oil
Butterfly the chicken thighs, cut them into 1 inch chunks, and put them in a bowl. Weigh the chicken, then multiply the amount by 0.005 – this is the amount of salt you need. Sprinkle the salt over the chicken, mix well, then set aside for at least 10 minutes.
Put the noodles with the contents of the dry seasoning pack in a food processor. Process until the noodles are about the size of rice grains.
Put the potato, sweet potato, or tapioca flour in a shallow dish. Whisk the eggs in another shallow dish and put the instant noodles in a third dish. Dredge the chicken thighs in the flour and shake off the excess, then dip in the egg. Dredge in the instant noodles, pressing firmly so they adhere. Lay the chicken on a cooling rack placed over a tray.
Pour the cooking oil into a pan, preferably a medium wok, and set over medium heat. Fry the chicken in two batches at 320°F. Fry the pieces for 4 minutes, then put them on the rack placed over the tray – there’s no need to fry again.