I’m convinced. Fried chicken is universal.
In the U.S., we’re most familiar with Southern-style fried chicken–thanks (or perhap, no thanks) to ubiquitous fast food chain KFC–but Southerners weren’t the first people in the world to fry their chickens. Just about every country has their version of fried chicken: Vietnam has ga chien (marinated with fish sauce of course) while Italy has pollo fritto. And then there’s the tongue tickling Indonesian fried chicken*s*–yes, there’re two different types–my mum made when I was growing up. One was ayam goreng kalasan (sweet chicken) made with coconut water, palm sugar, bay leaves, and galangal among other herbs and spices; while the other, ayam goreng kuning (yellow chicken), is seasoned with lemongrass, ginger, and turmeric which gives it its ochre hue. Both chicken dishes have to be braised together with the herbs and spices first before deep frying.
Lucky Seattleites can savor my mum’s signature fried chicken at Julia’s Indonesian Kitchen. Others will just have to wait until I blog about her recipe :).
Or you could try this very tasty and oh-so-simple fried chicken recipe christened Chicken Joy! (exclamation point included). I asked Aunty Neneng, who gave me this recipe, why it’s called as such. She couldn’t tell me but once my teeth sank into the crisped skin of a freshly fried drumstick and I chewed on the moist flesh beneath, I knew the answer. The smile on my face must have spoken of pure joy. (An aside: as a child I used to love chicken wings, I especially enjoyed gnawing on wingtips till they lost their flavor but drumsticks have since overtaken as my favorite chicken part.)
Aunty Neneng is Filipino (and not really my aunt, see here for explanation) and I was a wee bit surprised that she offered up this fried chicken recipe which I thought very “American.” When she was showing me how to make it, I was hoping at every step that she would “Asianize” the recipe, perhaps with some chilies or tamarind juice. No such luck.
Then it came to me. Considering the Philippines was under U.S. rule (1889-1935) and then dominated by heavy U.S. military presence (the last military base closed in 1992) for almost a century, it’s not surprising that fried chicken is common. And like the advent of Chinese-American restaurants (though much tastier and more authentic I’d hope), it’s inevitable that Asian home cooking in the U.S. evolved to include dishes from the adopted homeland or fusion dishes amalgamating both near and far. In a similar vein, many former colonies have embraced offbeat hybrids into their culinary vernacular–Filipino spaghetti and my mum’s spam Mac and Cheese come to mind.
Besides, the recipe differs from traditional Southern fried recipes in that it doesn’t use milk or buttermilk, and the chicken is mixed in with the flour as opposed to dredged in it. And instead of the usual biscuits, coleslaw, or mashed potatoes with gravy, Chicken Joy! is more often than not, eaten with rice. Tell me if I’m hanging on by a thread here …
Regardless of where it originates or how it’s made, we can all agree on one thing–that fried chicken should be eaten with the fingers.
If you have a cross-pollinated home cooked dish to share, do drop me a comment!
Aunty Neneng says her Chicken Joy! is a favorite at children’s parties and fiestas to celebrate the days dedicated to patron saints. But this scrumptious crispy on the outside, succulent on the inside fried chicken (also known as yummy yummy chicken to Aunty Neneng’s grandkids) is perfect anytime you’d like a bite of comfort food. Frying always makes a mess and isn’t the healthiest of cooking methods, so if you don’t feel like dealing with kitchen splattering, artery clogging oil for one day, you can always bake the chicken in the oven at 375F for about 45 minutes. It doesn’t turn out as juicy but still tastes pretty good. Tip: younger chickens, broilers, fryers, and game hens are best for frying.
Makes: 6 servings
3-1/2 to 4 pounds of chicken pieces: drumsticks, wings, breasts, thighs, etc.
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper
Juice from 2 small lemons, (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups (or more) of canola oil for frying
Wash chicken pieces.
In a large bowl, combine chicken, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper and lemon juice. Mix well. Set aside and marinate for at least 30 minutes up to an hour.
After 30 minutes, crack eggs into bowl. Add flour and 1 teaspoon salt and mix until chicken is well coated.
Heat oil in a wok or heavy skillet over high heat until temperature reaches 375F. Reduce heat to medium. Use tongs or cooking chopsticks to lower chicken into the fat, one piece at a time.
Chicken should be completely immersed in oil and do not crowd the pan.
Fry chicken until golden brown and tender, turning the pieces, if necessary, so they brown evenly, about 10 to 15 minutes. When done, drain on paper towels. Use a slotted spoon or a wire mesh strainer to remove any debris from the oil then continue frying the rest of the chicken.