Incredibly crispy, dakgangjeong (닭강정) also called ganjeong chikin, is a crispy fried chicken dish glazed in a spicy sweet and sour sauce, that is very popular in Korea.
How to make dakgangjeong
Dakgangjeong is a dish of chicken that is fried twice and then sautéed in a sweet, spicy, thick, and slightly sticky sauce.
The chicken, once fried, is mixed directly with the sauce, caramelized, which gives a more sticky appearance.
Dak means “chicken” in Korean, and gangjeong (강정) is a hangwa (한과), a traditional Korean confectionery made from sticky rice flour, fried and coated with honey, seeds, or nuts.
The dakgangjeong sauce is sweet and tart with a spicy touch of gochujang (Korean red pepper paste). This sauce is far from being very spicy, but it is possible to reduce or even remove the gochujang from the recipe, or even replace it with sweet paprika.
Although not the original recipe, many replace gochujang partially or entirely with ketchup. It has become very common to use ketchup in a dakgangjeong sauce with a milder taste.
On the other hand, it is also possible to increase the level of spiciness by simmering the sauce with gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes) or dried whole red hot peppers.
Sesame seeds are the most common garnish, but peanuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are also excellent.
Dakgangjeong is traditionally cooked with a whole chicken, with its skin, which is then cut. Some people only do it with chicken wings. However, dakgangjeong made from boneless chicken pieces, like cutlet, has become very popular in Korea. This boneless version is faster and easier to prepare.
Experts say the secret to Korean fried chicken is that it’s fried twice, which makes it very crisp, while others argue that it is the marinades, like the spicy soybeans, that really define the dish.
Double frying is essential for this recipe and the amount of frying oil must be very large so that the chicken is very crisp without being fatty. Indeed, paradoxically, when you fry food, the more oil, the less greasy the food is.
Fried chicken in Korea
Fried chicken has been incredibly popular in Korea since the 1970s and there are many fried chicken stores across the country. There are also countless styles and variations. The dakgangjeong is a crunchier version than any fried chicken. Soft, a little spiced, with only a little bit of heat, and a little sticky.
In Korea, whatever the variant of fried chicken, fried chicken is called chikin (치킨), a word which most certainly comes from the English “chicken” and which refers to South Korea fried chicken, including basic huraideu-chikin (후라이드 치킨), meaning “fried chicken” and spicy yangnyeom-chikin (양념 치킨), meaning “seasoned chicken”.
Dakgangjeong (닭강정) is therefore also called ganjeong chikin. In South Korea, fried chicken is eaten not only as a main dish but also as an anju (appetizer), or even as a snack between meals.
The two versions of fried chicken most often found in Korea are the dakgangjeong and the yangnyeom.
For the yangnyeom, the sauce is more fluid and spicier. The chicken is crispier, and the sauce is just poured over it. Yangneom means “seasoned” in Korean.
What is the origin of dakgangjeong?
Anyone who goes to Korea cannot miss these chicken restaurants and bars. They are essential.
Despite the popularity of fried chicken in South Korea, dakgangjeong, if not all variants of chikin, does not have a particularly long history.
Fried chicken was first introduced during the Korean War (1950 to 1953) by American soldiers, who served the American fried chicken version at all military bases.
Korean fried chicken only became a mainstay of Korean cuisine in the 1960s and 1970s, when a restaurant called the Yeong-yang Center began serving roast chicken.
A handful of franchised stores were born, specializing in this crispy fried chicken that Koreans know today.
Each Korean consumes the equivalent of 14 whole chickens a year.
Koreans are the undisputed masters of chicken. Whether fried, roasted, simmered or sautéed chicken is without a doubt one of the best Korean specialties.
South Korea’s classic dakgangjeong is said to be the best of the best.
It is so addictive, but at the same time, who wouldn’t love chicken that is tender inside and crispy outside, with sweet, tangy and spicy flavors in one bite?
- 3 lb chicken either whole and cut into pieces, or wings (cut in half, either breast, or drumsticks, or a mixture)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger chopped
- ½ cup corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ cup cornstarch or potato starch
- 5 cloves garlic pressed
- 1 tablespoon red chili paste gochujang
- 4 dried red peppers seeded, cut crosswise into pieces (optional)
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- Vegetable oil
- Heat a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium/high heat.
- Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, garlic, gochujang and dried red peppers.
- Stir with a wooden spoon for about 30 seconds.
- Add soy sauce, corn syrup, and vinegar.
- Stir and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add the brown sugar and stir for 1 minute.
- Remove from heat and reserve.
- Place the chicken in a bowl and add the salt, ginger and pepper and mix well by hand.
- Add the cornstarch (or potato starch) into a freezer bag and add the chicken.
- Close the bag tightly and shake it in order to coat all the chicken pieces well.
- Pour 4 cups (1 liter) of vegetable oil into a pan and heat on high for 7 minutes to bring the temperature to 350 F (175°C).
- Dip the pieces of chicken and fry until golden, for about 12 minutes, turning them several times with tongs.
- Remove them from the oil and drain them in a colander.
- Turn off the heat and let the chicken stand for 15 minutes.
- Reheat the oil again to 350 F (175°C) and fry the chicken pieces a second time for 10 minutes until they are all light golden brown and crispy.
- If the pan is not large enough to fry all the chicken at once, divide it according to the size of the pan, adding cooking oil if necessary.
- Once the chicken is fried, reheat the reserved sauce until it boils.
- Add the hot chicken pieces and mix well with a wooden spoon to coat them well with the sauce.
- Remove from heat and transfer the chicken to a large dish.
- Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and serve immediately.
- Double frying is essential.
- The amount of vegetable oil must be very large so that the chicken is very crisp without being greasy. The more oil, the less greasy the chicken will be.