Ball Dont Lie Food Don't Lie

Ginger-Garlic-Scallion Chicken Wings

I fried chicken and didn't burn down my apartment; AMA.

Ginger-Garlic-Scallion Chicken Wings

Ginger-Garlic-Scallion Chicken Wings

PSA: Chinese restaurants, even the ones in sketchy neighborhoods where the cashier takes your order behind a thick pane of bulletproof glass (I’m looking at you, West Philly), serve some of the best fried chicken in your city. People just don’t know.

Well seasoned, battered and fried chicken is universally delicious. But a common misconception is that fried chicken is all the same. People limit fried chicken to a bucket of Popeyes but buttermilk/hot sauce-marinated fried chicken is different from pickle juice-marinated fried chicken is different from a dry rub of spices and a dusting of corn starch. There’s more nuance here than meets the eye.

I have a particular fondness for the fried chicken I get at Chinese restaurants because it doesn’t feel as greasy. The glory and horror of Popeyes rests in the nooks and crannies of its crust, which, several translucent napkins later, hammers home how much grease it absorbs. The now super popular Korean fried chicken, despite its multiple frying process, feels and tastes less greasy. What’s the difference and what’s the trade off?

Here’s an untested hypothesis: American fried chicken is made of a thicker, heartier batter because its spices/flavors are captured in its crust, whereas Chinese/Korean fried chicken fries for texture and adds the bulk of its flavor as a coating.

One of my favorite dishes at Chinese restaurants is salt and pepper squid, which is lightly fried squid with a strong salt/pepper dusting and some combination of garlic, ginger and scallions. I wanted to fry chicken but capture that flavor profile.

Deep Frying at Home

I’ve always wanted to try to deep fry something in my apartment but was held back by an irrational fear of heating oil to a really high temperature. It’s similar to my irrational fear of my pressure cooker (which sadly continues to collect dust) in that I envisioned a mushroom cloud of pot contents exploding over my tiny apartment, caking my Ikea particle board furniture in an insalvageable slurry of breading, chicken bones and peanut oil. I was also worried about the smell – would I return after a hard days work to an apartment that smelled constantly like the kitchen of a McDonalds?

But a weekend of manning a real deep fryer at my in-law’s restaurant gave me the confidence that with the right oil and temperature monitoring I could deep fry food safely and without seriously injuring myself.

Here’s the hardware you need:

  • A pot big enough for the amount of oil you plan to use (I used my Lodge enameled dutch oven workhorse);
  • Peanut oil (or canola, or another oil with a high smoke point that’s commonly used for frying);
  • Tongs and/or a wire spider;
  • A thermometer that you believe in that can safely read temperatures above 350F.

Random Protips

  • Completely dry things before frying them. Oil and water don’t mix, and more importantly, pop.
  • Keep the container the oil comes in for easy disposal later. You’ll want to wait until the oil is completely cool to pour it back into its original bottle, which you can then throw away. For frequent fryers (heh) you can filter/save oil for repeated cooking sessions. DONT POUR OIL DOWN THE SINK, IT WILL CLOG.
  • I hate mincing garlic. Its oils are unpleasantly sticky and necessitate cleaning the board, the knife and your hands before continuing to cut other things which is super annoying. While I don’t love one-utility cooking utensils (especially in a small kitchen) I am a huge fan of my garlic press. Insert, squeeze, and scrape off with a knife. Voila – minced garlic.
  • My fry temperature was 350F. I have one of these run of the mill fry thermometers that I’ve never used before and it sucks. I checked its reading against my Thermopop instant-read electronic thermometer only to realize how grossly inaccurate it was. The Thermopop ($30) is the cheaper, simpler version of the uber-popular Thermapen ($99), which many people consider the gold standard of electronic cooking thermometers. Having an accurate thermometer has been instrumental (heh x2) in the quality and safety of my cooking overall.
  • Peel ginger with a spoon.


Sadly I neglected to take photos of a lot of these steps but with a pot of hot oil going I had more pressing concerns than photography.

When you buy chicken wings they’re typically kept whole – the thigh, drumstick and wingtip are connected in one piece. Use a sharp knife to disconnect each individual section of the wing, discarding the wingtips (which can be saved for stock). For whatever reason this was harder than it looked, which reminded me that one of these days I need to pick up a cheap cleaver from Chinatown.

Season the wings liberally with salt and pepper.

Grated/minced garlic and ginger. Ginger isn’t as annoying to mince by hand as garlic.

Outside of making bread/pasta I’m not really one for precise measurements, but I knew that I wanted my chicken to definitely taste both gingery and garlicky. I’d say a couple tablespoons of each went into my quick dry marinade, which I then placed in the refridgerator for 30 mins.

I looked at various recipes online with regards to breading and opinions run the gamut. Wet batter, dry batter, potato starch, corn starch, all purpose flour… vodka?! (courtesy of the Food Lab). After looking at Kenji’s recipe and Maangchi’s recipe I decided on optimizing for convenience and having a hybrid approach: a dry batter composed of half AP flour, half corn starch, a sprinkle of baking powder and a lot of crushed black pepper. I was aiming for the drier/smoother Chinese style fry rather than a craggly American style fry, which is why the breading is heavy on the corn starch and relatively lightly applied.

Soon after this photo was taken I realized this fry thermometer sucks.

Thermopop: you the real MVP. Peanut oil to temperature – it’s go time.

The key to doing this without splash-back is to lower the chicken to the edge of the oil and ease it in slowly. Imagine using your feet to feel out a hot jacuzzi, except your feet are chicken wings and the jacuzzi is a vat of scalding-hot oil.

Adhere to a common cooking axiom: don’t overcrowd the pan. Fry in batches.

After putting in the uncooked wings I was surprised at how quickly the oil temperature dropped, even with the stove on high. I did my best to keep the actual frying temperature around 300F.

First fry done after around 8-9-10 minutes or so. The length of fry time seems to vary widely among recipes, and while I’m sure it’s possible to overfry chicken I assume the upper bound is unreasonably high. I fried each wing twice for a total of ~15 minutes fry time. They came out perfectly crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.

The second fry, which is a hallmark of Korean fried chicken (see Maangchi’s recipe above). They float closer to the surface as they complete frying. The oil temperature doesn’t seem to drop at all during the second fry, so they re-fried at a consistently higher temperature.

Shout out to Maangchi, who I know even Korean moms use as a recipe resource. Super interesting NYTimes article on Maangchi here, which describes her history as an online gaming/gambling addict turned Korean cuisine chef Internet superstar.

Post second fry. The craggliness is strong.

After the frying is done it’s important to flavor the wings before serving. After drying the wings on paper towels/racks, I heated up some grapeseed oil in a pan over medium heat with red pepper flakes and the remaining minced garlic/ginger, as well as some diced scallions. With the oil properly infused I then tossed the wings, letting the garlic/ginger bits coat their exterior.

Plate, top with sesame seeds/more scallions, and eat hot.

These were really, really good and spot on to the flavors I was going for. And my apartment didn’t burn down, and the smell was negligible. And I don’t have burn marks all over my body.

In conclusion, these are a killer replacement for conventional, sticky wings, and I need to eat less fried foods.