Thursday, June 10, 2010

Korean-Style Crispy, Spicy, and Sweet Chicken Wings (Dak Kang Jung)

Dak kang jung, a Korean dish of chicken fried crisp then coated in a sweet and spicy sauce, is David Lebovitz's idea of Super Bowl food.  That is why he is awesome.  I was really excited to make these, because it gave me an opportunity to use my new Actifry, which I had never heard of before seeing DL's recipe for these chicken wings.  (He adapted it from Maangchi's recipe for use in the Actifry.)

I love chicken wings -- my favorite are the kind that are served in some Chinese restaurants, where they are deep fried, then seasoned with salt, pepper, and maybe some chopped hot pepper, but I also like buffalo wings, barbecue wings, etc.  So I was pretty excited about these.  I used walnuts instead of peanuts (because that's what I had on hand, and because walnuts are healthier) and tapioca starch instead of corn starch, but otherwise followed DL's recipe to the letter.  I also used rice syrup as he suggests.  Oh, and I had to add some water to the coating, because it was WAY too thick to actually coat the chicken.  It was more like a dough than a paste.

Sweet & Spicy Crispy Chicken Wings

The verdict?  Too sweet for me. :-(  They were good, but I like my food more on the savory rather than sweet side (dessert excepted, of course).  That's why when I am asked to choose a barbecue sauce I usually avoid anything that says "honey" in it.  I think they would appeal to many people; the taste and consistency of the coating is like that of syrup or honey.  I think of this experiment as a success, however, because now I can make chicken wings the same way in the Actifry, but use seasoning I prefer, instead. :-)

A quick note about the Actifry and what it is/does: It basically makes food crispy, emulating the texture of deep-fried foods, with only 1 tbsp of oil.  Obviously this is a healthier and less smelly alternative to deep frying (and perhaps even more importantly, no pot of oil to deal with afterward).  It works well, but does not actually replicate deep frying.  I've made French fries and now the chicken wings, and while both get fairly crisp, it's definitely not to the same level of crisp as deep frying.  It's more like oven crisp, except more evenly done with less work.  So if you're going to make the $300 investment, do so with that in mind.

The chicken wings took 35 minutes to cook.  Here's a time-lapse image compilation of the process:

Chicken Wings Cooked with Actifry

1) The raw chicken wings coated in batter.
2) Wings after 10 minutes of cooking.,
3) After 20 minutes.
4) Done after 35 minutes.

Actifry Cleanup

Afterward, the clean up was a breeze.  The loose batter became crisp, so it was really just a matter of wiping it out with a paper towel and giving the pan a quick wash.  No scrubbing required.  What *was* a big pain to clean was the wok I used to create the sticky coating.  Needed to soak in plenty of hot water before the syrup would wash off.

Korean-Style Crispy, Spicy, and Sweet Chicken Wings (adapted from David Lebovitz's adaptation :P)


For the batter
  • 1/4 cup (35 g) flour
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) cornstarch or other starch
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground red chili pepper
  • 10 chicken wings, tips removed, then each wing cut into two pieces
  • 1 tbsp frying oil (peanut, olive, or canola)
For the coating
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) water or beer
  • 3-inch (7 cm) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tbsps soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light or dark brown sugar
  • 3 tbsps rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup (160 g) light corn syrup or rice syrup
To finish
  • 1/3 cup (35 g) roasted walnuts (or peanuts), very coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsps toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, starch, egg, salt and ground chili pepper until it's a thick paste. Add the wings and mix well with your hands until they're thoroughly coated.  You may need to add a bit of water or milk if the paste is too dry.
  2. Put the coated wings in the ActiFry and drizzle with the oil. Close the lid and cook for 35 minutes, until brown and crispy.  (Or deep-fry the wings in a pot of hot oil twice, in batches. Drain well.)
  3. In a large pot or wok, bring to a boil the water or beer, ginger, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, and syrup. Let cook until the mixture becomes syrupy and thick, and is foaming. It should be about as thick as honey.
  4. Turn off the heat and stir in the cooked wings, nuts, sesame seeds, and chili flakes, until completely coated.

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