When I lived in South Korea in the noughties, fried chicken was just starting to become popular. Now, you see Korean fried chicken everywhere - including in Dublin. It has exploded in popularity.

My first experience with Korean fried chicken was many years ago, in a newly opened quick-service restaurant.

My Korean neighbourhood wasn't in the nicest part of town - there were lots of apartment buildings, a convenience shop, a pizza restaurant and two grocery stores. There were a few other restaurants, which mainly specialised in Korean barbecue.

When the fried chicken restaurant opened, excitement rippled through the whole neighbourhood, but especially through the North American population. Fried chicken was something we thought we knew.

That said, eating Korean-style fried chicken for the first time was mind-blowing. The chicken was juicy; the skin extra-crispy. You had the option of a few different flavourings and the chicken was served with peppery white chunks of fresh radish (the perfect complement). I was hooked.

My favourite type of fried chicken was coated in a sweet and spicy sauce, mainly comprised of Korean fermented chilli pasta called gochujang.

You can get gochujang in most Asian supermarkets and, now, even in some of the larger supermarkets around the country. It is spicy, but also slightly sweet and very deeply flavoured.

It's difficult to match or replace gochujang with another type of chilli paste; if you can't find it, I would recommend a buffalo-style sauce instead, such as Frank's Red Hot.

In western countries, it's traditional to have fried chicken with chips or French fries, but my favourite side dish is actually sticky rice, sprinkled with some Irish seaweed flakes and toasted sesame seeds. Honestly, though, this chicken doesn't need a starch - you could eat it with a fresh salad and that in itself is a great meal.

Gochujang chilli paste and maple syrup go really well together, especially to be served with fried chicken. / Janine Kennedy

I tend to combine methods for my fried chicken - I love the flavour of a buttermilk brine, which isn't the norm for Korean fried chicken. So my chicken is brined in buttermilk and then coated in a Korean-style sauce.

Sweet and spicy fried chicken

If you can't find Korean fermented chilli paste, make a buffalo-style sauce with Frank's Red Hot - it is just as good. / Janine Kennedy

  • Serves four
  • Ingredients:

    1 whole large chicken, cut into portions (ask your butcher to do this) OR two packs of skinless, boneless chicken thighs (boneless is less flavourful but cooks more quickly)

    250ml buttermilk

    1 tbsp salt

    2 tsp pepper

    2 tsp ground ginger

    2 tsp garlic powder

    1 tsp chilli powder

    200g plain flour

    100g cornflour or rice flour

    1L vegetable oil, for frying

    For the sauce:

    60g gochujang chilli paste (or another chilli sauce)

    60g butter

    60ml maple syrup

    To serve:

    Fresh salad

    Cooked rice

    Toasted sesame seeds


  • 1 In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk, salt, pepper, ginger and garlic. Add the chicken and gently massage into the buttermilk mixture until everything is well coated. Cover the dish and refridgerate for at least an hour (you can marinate the chicken overnight, too, if you like).
  • 2 Take a large baking sheet and place a rack over the top. Mix the flour and the rice or corn flour in a shallow dish.
  • 3 Take a piece of marinated chicken and dredge it into the flour mixture.You want the flour to form clumps on the outside of the chicken. Some people like double dredging - when you dredge the chicken for the first time, dip it back into the buttermilk mixture and dredge again. I like doing it once.
  • 4 When all of the chicken is dredged, place the pieces on the rack over the baking sheet. Let the chicken rest for 30 minutes. This will ensure the coating stays on while it cooks.
  • 5 Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat or, if you have a deep fat fryer, preheat it to 180°C.
  • 6 When the oil is hot and the chicken has rested, fry it in batches for 8-10 minutes, until it is cooked through (an internal temperature of 74°C). Remove the chicken from the oil and place on a clean, parchment lined baking sheet.
  • 7 In a saucepan, combine the chilli paste, maple syrup and butter. Melt together and let the mixture gently bubble for 5-6 minutes. When the chicken is fried, use a brush to brush over the sauce.
  • 8 Serve hot with cooked rice and fresh salad.
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