Korean Chicken Dakgangjeong 닭강정 with Rice Joshua Kennon
Kennon-Green & Co. Global Asset Management, Wealth Management, Investment Advisory, and Value Investing

My mom has been enjoying the adventures of Rooftop Prince, so for her 52nd birthday, she wanted to come over, watch a few episodes, try a new Korean recipe, and hang out with us.  My dad was in a golf tournament in the morning but she and my youngest sister pulled into the driveway at 11:23 a.m., ready to go.  Aaron and I were already in the kitchen working on Dakgangjeong (닭강정).  We settled on it since the ingredient list looked amazing, and mom had requested something with poultry for the sake of variety as she tried Bulgogi for the first time last week.  (Last week was the first time she realized she loved rice.  She had never made anything but the instant kind and had no idea the difference between it and the real stuff.)

[mainbodyad]What is Dakgangjeong?  If you’ve never had it, you are missing out on one of life’s great joys.  It’s a crunchy fried Korean chicken recipe with a sweet, sour, and spicy sauce that can become semi-candied.  Done right, there is a pleasant, intense burn that is created when you cook chili peppers, garlic, and ginger into oil, allowing the flavors to disburse throughout the mixture, then add in several forms of sugar, soy sauce, mustard, a few other ingredients, and coat the double-fried chicken.

For our Dakgangjeong, we went with wings.  Next time, we’re going to try drumsticks.  I am so grateful to Maangchi for posting her recipe.  This one is a winner.  My mom informed us that she must be notified any time we make it for the rest of our lives so she can skip her dinner plans and have this, instead.  In our preparation, we opted for her corn starch substitute over potato starch, we had to use several more small peppers instead of large peppers as every grocery store we visited was sold out completely and we had a large supply of the former stored in the pantry, we did manage to find her suggested frying oil (grapeseed), and we made the mustard from classic Colman’s as there is no better variety for cooking (seriously, if you ever see mustard called for in a recipe and you squeeze in French’s, you are doing yourself a great disservice).

Battered Korean Chicken Korean Chicken Dakgangjeong Before Frying

We took chicken wings and battered them in corn starch for the Dakgangjeong …

Grapeseed Oil for Korean Chicken Dakgangjeong

The recipe called for using grapeseed oil.  This is a relatively new oil made possible by modern technology as the wine industry can now extract the tiny bit of oil left in the seeds of the grapes.  There are some pretty interesting, and heated, debates on the health benefits or drawbacks of using it.  It’s stupidly expensive compared to other oils, so if you wanted to substitute, the recipe allowed for the more classic peanut oil in your Dakgangjeong.  I might make a batch sometime with it to see how the flavor changes.

Frying Dakgangjeong Grapeseed Oil

The Dakgangjeong had to be fried in two steps. The batch was cut in two, each batch fried for 12 minutes. Then you turn off the oil, let it rest, and a few minutes after that, fry it all again in one giant batch for 14-15 minutes.  This keeps the outside crunchy and crispy, with the inside tender.

Dakgangjeong Sauce Korean Chicken

The Dakgangjeong sauce was fragrant and delicious!  It’s the same basic process as an Italian sauce, as you take the flavor compound and dissolve them in hot oil so they become interspersed throughout the liquid.  Then you build upon it, introducing additional ingredients as you go.  In this case, the sauce needed to thicken and boil to where it almost resembled candy.

Coating Chicken for Dakgangjeong

We had to fry some peanuts for texture, too, add them to the Dakgangjeong sauce, then coat the chicken in the pan, letting the flavor adhere to the meat.

Korean Chicken Dakgangjeong 닭강정 with Rice Joshua Kennon

We took the Dakgangjeong out of the pan, plated it, sprinkled some sesame seeds on top, and served with short-grain Korean rice as we jumped into the next episode of Rooftop Prince.

After the Dakgangjeong, we broke out the birthday cupcakes.  My mom got a small box for her to take home and enjoy for the next week or share with the other members of the family.  Some in the big box are going to my in-laws tonight, where we are going to have a Father’s Day weekend celebration.  For mom, we put little dinosaur candles in one of the cupcakes and sang Happy Birthday in Korean.  You can tell where I get my personality.  Once she gets into something, she gets into it.

Birthday Cupcakes and Birthday Present

We were going to make dessert ourselves but decided to focus on getting the Dakgangjeong right.  We outsourced the job to a bakery called Smallcakes Cupcakery.  They were fantastic.  One cupcake is way too much.  These are monster sized desserts.

Birthday Cupcakes for Mom's 52nd Birthday

I’m a vanilla guy, so I went with the pink vanilla.  The other flavors included peanut butter, Oreo cookie, red velvet, rocky road, strawberry, lemon raspberry, and a take on the traditional cream-filled Hostess cupcake.

It was an awesome day.  She said it was the best birthday she’s had in longer than she can remember.  It’s funny how true it is that the great things in life are the simplest.  It’s definitely the case for me.  Like most people, when I think back on my experiences, it isn’t the big, flashy events that standout but the soft, quiet, pleasant moments that wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else.

If any of you are thinking about making Dakgangjeong, do it.  It’s heavy food – I skipped breakfast and dinner because it was just too much – but it’s one of those things that, enjoyed a few times a year, can make you crave it for the spicy burn. Here is Maangchi’s original video: