Best national anthem? Best martial arts? Best language? Best music? Best economy? Best fashion? Best movies? None of these questions matter! What we should be asking is which one of these three Far East Asian countries serves up the best fried chicken!
When eating abroad, it is always nice to experiment with some national dishes. I love ramen from Japan, I love bulgogi from Korea, and I love Lu Rou Fan from Taiwan, but when I fancy something a little more familiar, fried chicken always springs to mind, as I find cheeseburgers a little too boring – and I don’t like pizza! But fear not, as chicken is always going to be on the menu, especially in the Far East, where street food specialists Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea all have their own methods of cooking these little mother cluckers – and I wanted to analyse which country does it best!
The main style of fried chicken in Japan is known as Karaage chicken. Karaage is a cooking technique whereby the chicken will be deep fried in oil. Some pieces of chicken can be marinated in certain sauces before it is cooked, which gives it a certain unique taste when compared to other varieties of fried chicken in the Far East. As far as the texture is concerned, karaage chicken is juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside, which is exactly how the Japanese people like it!
Taiwan actually has quite a few different styles of fried chicken that I’ve tried. There’s the HUGE cutlets that you get from the night markets but also from franchises like Hot Star. Then there’s the salt and peppered chicken, which the Taiwanese seem to love and I’ve not seen being sold prominently anywhere else. And then finally there’s the cutesy popcorn chicken, which is bite-size portions that you can eat…just like popcorn! I rated popcorn chicken as Taiwan’s best street food! One thing is clear: if you love your fried chicken, you will not want to miss out on a trip to Taiwan!
Known locally as Yang Yeum, Korean Fried Chicken is always fried twice, which gives the texture a much crunchier and a less greasy feel when compared the likes of Taiwanese or even Japanese varieties. Yang yeum is marinated in plenty of salt and sugar before and after frying, and some will even be seasoned with gochujang. I have eaten plenty of yang yeum when in Seoul, and KyoChon seems to be my favourite brand. The fact that Korean fast food chains use smaller and younger chickens means that the meat is more tender, and even this tiny difference is noticed and appreciated! Remember to drink plenty of soju when consuming your Korean Fried Chicken – it’s a tradition!
So now for the decision: I think it is very hard to choose between these 3 famous types of fried chicken. I almost don’t want to choose at all. With regret, I think Japanese Karaage chicken must be eliminated first. Although I love it, I just don’t love it as much as the other two! Plus karaage is more expensive. So in a final head-to-head shoot out between Taiwan and Korea, I think I would plump for the mother cluckers from…Korea! It’s really, really difficult but the only way I can separate Korean and Taiwanese fried chicken is by thinking of the delectable crunchiness of the skin of the KFC, whereas I find Taiwanese chicken (especially the large cutlets) sometimes a little on the soggy side.
So say “Yum” for Yang Yeum!