Momofuku’s Fried Chicken

Momofuku fried chicken is chef David Chang’s approach in which you steam chicken before frying it and then you douse it in a Korean-inspired vinaigrette. It’s unfailingly crisp-skinned on the outside and tender within. Genius as well as gluten-free.

A pile of Momofuku fired chicken pieces on a piece of brown paper, covered with Octo Vin, with chopsticks piled beside.

I came up with this approach to fried chicken at the Momofuku Noodle Bar in Manhattan. I steam the chicken first, just until it’s cooked, then use the fryer to simply crisp and brown the outside. Because of the sugar in the brine, the chicken browns deeply. And quickly, so be at the ready with a brown paper bag on which you can drop the chicken when it comes out of the hot oil.

Frying the chicken this way means the bird spends less time in the oil, which makes it easier on you, the home cook, to cook a batch on a random weeknight. And the other ingredients are few and gluten-free, which means you get a fried chicken unfettered with excess but that excels in terms of simple, pure taste. The Korean-inspired vinaigrette in which you douse the chicken is truly exemplary—and will have everyone asking, wanting, begging for more.–David Chang and Peter Meehan

WHY STEAM CHICKEN BEFORE COOKING IT?

The secret to David Chang’s intensely crisp and flavorful chicken is the fact that he steams it before he fries it. This might seem a little counter-intuitive, right? Doesn’t steam make things soggy? Well, sure. But it also helps to render some of the fat before the meat even gets into the hot fat, making that skin so, so crisp.

You may have used the technique of letting your chicken skin dry out in the fridge overnight–this does the same thing but steaming is just that much faster.

Momofuku's Fried Chicken

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 20 M
  • 1 H, 35 M
  • Serves 2 to 4
5/5 - 1 reviews
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Special Equipment: Deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer

Ingredients


Directions

Combine the water, sugar, and salt in a large container with a lid or a large freezer bag and stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Pat the chicken dry. Add the chicken pieces to the brine, cover or seal, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and no more than 6 hours.

Set up a steamer on the stove. Drain the chicken and discard the brine. Put the chicken in the steamer basket (if you are using a stacking Chinese-style bamboo steamer, put the legs in the bottom level and the breast on the top). Turn the heat to medium and set the lid of the steamer ever so slightly ajar. Steam the chicken for 40 minutes, then remove it from the steamer and place it on a cooling rack to cool. Then put the chicken in the refrigerator, uncovered and preferably still on the cooling rack, for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

Take the chicken out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you fry it.

Pour enough oil for the chicken to be submerged into a deep skillet. Heat it to 350°F (175°C). Fry the chicken in batches, turning once, until the skin is deep brown and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove to a paper towel–lined plate or a cut up brown paper bag to drain.

If you haven’t already, cut the wing from the breast, cut the breast in half, and cut through the “knee” to separate the thigh from the drumstick. Place the chicken in a large bowl, toss with the vinaigrette, and serve hot. Originally published June 26, 2011.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

As touted, this is not your traditional fried chicken; yet, this recipe serves up the same salty, savory satisfaction of biting into the warm, juicy, crispy chicken. I can only imagine now how divine it would be in the restaurant. The Octo Vinaigrette is a hauntingly familiar concoction that makes you ask yourself “How come I never put vinegar on fried chicken before?” Serve this version of fried chicken to your friends and you’re a superstar.

Oh, and did I mention it was ridiculously easy? I would stick with Chang’s direction to cut the chicken into four pieces. I broke the meat down into the traditional eight and found the chicken shrunk quite a bit when steamed. I think keeping the pieces intact minimizes the shrinkage. The Octo Vin softens the crisp skin anyway. I used a stainless steel steamer basket in a pot and that worked just fine. I served it with Sriracha hot sauce which put it over the top.

I debated marking this as a TC since there are quite a few steps and waiting periods in making this recipe but my family agreed that if I made this again they’d happily devour the results. We all decided it’s worth the extra effort to make this dish. We also all agreed the Octo Vinaigrette would be great on almost anything. My daughter put some on corn we had and declared it very tasty.

I couldn’t find a bird’s eye chile at the two stores I visited and my daughter went to three more also with no luck so we substituted a serrano chile. I got the smallest whole chicken our market had and it was about 5 pounds instead of the 3 to 3 1/2 pound size suggested by this recipe. I opted to cut mine in 8 pieces instead of 4 and steamed in my Chinese bamboo steamer for the suggested 40 minutes since I had a bit more weight than called for. I also fried in two batches for 8 minutes and it was perfect — moist, juicy, a bit spicy but delicious.

Love the Asian flavors but didn’t care much for the skin since after tossing with the vinaigrette as the skin lost its crispness.

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

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Comments

  1. I am going to give this a try this week! Do you think I could use a pressure cooker for the “steam” step?

    1. Madeline, we’ve never tried doing this with a pressure cooker, so we can’t say how it would turn out. I think the pressure cooker would probably work with a little liquid in the bottom, but the cooking time would be significantly shorter. Do let us know how it turns out!

  2. Not to distract from David Chang’s Fried Chicken, but the steam and fry method is not original to Momofuku –it’s the method originated by Harlan Sanders for Kentucky Fried Chicken. The KFC version fully cooks the chicken in a pressure cooker first and then deep fries it. That’s why when you order KFC it’s “fresh fried”–into the fryer for a minute or two before it gets to you. The decades old method was a culinary break through for tender chicken and for Fast Food. Nice to see that David Chang has enlarged the flavor profile!

    1. Thanks, Suzanne! I believe David Leite is correct regarding the pressure frying. Although what David Chang’s approach shares with what you suggest is that he, too, came up with his steam and fry technique out of necessity so that the already-cooked chicken could be “fried” and served warm in a matter of just a couple minutes without taking up too much time or space in a small crowded restaurant kitchen. Had the chicken not already been precooked, it would have taken a prohibitively long amount of time to fry each batch of chicken to order. Also, the genius Chang brings to this recipe is that he allows the chicken to dry overnight, uncovered, in the fridge, which crisps the skin to marvelously crackling effect. I hope you try the recipe!

    2. Suzanne, if I remember correctly, he didn’t steam and fry his chicken but rather pressured fried it. It’s a different method. Which was and still is an ingenious method.

    1. Uncovered, P. You want the air to circulate as much as possible around the skin to dry it out. This results in insanely and cracklingly crisp skin after you pull the chicken from the oil.

  3. Oops I added the octo vin to the brine. I am making chicken wings instead of whole chicken and I was planning on using hot sauce afterwards. They are in the fridge right now. I’ll reply with the end result. Sometimes the best recipes have came from making mistakes so I hope so. I think the octo vin in with the brine will make the wings even more flavourful. I am going to par bake instead of steaming also. Fingers crossed

    1. Hey Steve, completely agree, sometimes seeming misfortune leads us to fantastic things. I am a huge proponent of the steaming prior to frying so am really curious to hear how the parbaking works. Thanks for keeping us in the loop!

  4. Hey y’all,

    Not only is this delicious, but it’s perfect for someone who’s craving fried chicken but is on a gluten-free diet!

    1. Exactly, Audrey. We didn’t want to shout it from the rooftops because we feel the taste is the primary reason to make this, and anyone who happened to be gluten-free would realize in a heartbeat that this is gf friendly. I count myself among those who’ve been mandated to be gluten-free, and I have to say, it’s the best fried chicken I’ve had.

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