This chicken sandwich may look pretty basic as it consists of only a few elements: a seedless bun, a crispy fried boneless chicken thigh, a spicy sauce, and some thinly shredded vegetables on top. However, once you sink your teeth into this sandwich you will realize it is all but basic! A chicken sandwich really doesn’t need a lot as long as each element perfectly complements the others. Indeed, in this sandwich, the fried chicken is soft and JUICY on the inside (hello there, succulent chicken thigh), but extremely crispy and well-seasoned on the outside, the cabbage and carrot provide some freshness and another level of crunchiness, and the sauce is both creamy from the mayonnaise and tangy and spicy from the Kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage).
I like my fried chicken sandwich a little hot and spicy, but simply adding cayenne pepper to the spice-mix won’t do it for me. Instead, I tried to spice things up by adding some Gochujang (Korean fermented chili paste) to the sauce together with the slightly spicy Kimchi. In addition, I’ve added some Gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes) to the chicken’s dry-rub and into the flour-coating. This is one hot little chicken sandwich!
Now, how to you achieve that extremely soft and juicy chicken inside the crispy coating? Instead of using skinless chicken breast as one might usually do, you will need to use boneless chicken thighs… preferably with the skin still on. I like to use thighs for fried chicken because they’re moist, full of flavor and I just simply prefer them to chicken breast (as I already confessed here). The only issue with chicken thighs I can really see is that they’re usually not sold boneless and you might have to debone them yourself. Luckily, deboning a chicken thigh is not that hard…
[If you already know how to debone a chicken thigh, or bought thighs without bones, skip the instructions in the following section]
How to debone a chicken thigh?
You will need a boning knife, or a simple thin, sharp knife and a cutting board.
If you’ve bought whole chicken legs, you will first need to remove the drumstick from the thigh by finding the joint. Either whack at it with a heavy cleaver, or insert the sharp knife into the joint and wiggle it until it separates (I assume ‘whack at it’ and ‘wiggle it’ are the proper professional terms…).
Cut off the drumsticks and set them aside for another use (you can fry them with the same coating as the thighs, of course).
You can choose to remove the skin from the meat at this point if you want, but I say: leave it on! The skin protects the meat from drying out and also: what monster throws away a good piece of chicken skin?!
Next, flip the chicken thigh so the ‘inner thigh’ (the skinless side) is up. Find the bone inside the middle of the thigh. With the tip of the sharp knife, score the chicken along the length of the bone. Continue scoring the chicken in the same manner until the bone is exposed.
Grab one side of the bone with one hand, pull it up slightly, and with the knife gently ‘scrape’ the meat of the bone one the sides and underneath. At some point, it should be easy to separate the bone from the meat. However, the bone could be stuck to some other small, flat pieces of bone so you might have to cut these out as well (they can easily be felt when running your fingers along the sides of the meat).
Remove any leftover gristle and thin bits of meat that stick out and make sure your pieces of chicken are more-or-less of a uniform thickness (about 3 – 4 cm thick). That’s all!
Now that I’ve discussed the condiments and chicken, I only want to make a final comment on how to achieve ultimate crispiness on the coating of the chicken; the most important element of a good fried chicken. I create my ultimate crispy coating by dipping the pieces of chicken into a buttermilk and egg mixture and then into a separate flour-and-spice mixture two times per piece until there is a thick, almost lumpy layer with some dry floury patches around the chicken (see photo). For this fried chicken, I substitute a bit less than half of the flour I would normally use for a batter with cornstarch. While I do like a nice thick crust around the chicken, I also like it to be slightly airy and light – the cornstarch does just that. However, if you don’t have cornstarch it’s okay to just use some additional flour.
Having said all that, writing this post probably took me longer than frying up these perfect pieces of spicy crispy fried chicken. This sandwich is definitely a new favorite in our house and is a great replacement for what is still one of my last few fast-food guilty pleasures (Yeah, I’m coming for your gig KFC).
Tip #1: I like to add only an egg white instead of a whole egg to the buttermilk, as the fattiness of an egg yolk can soften up the batter a little and make it a bit heavier. If you feel like that is too wasteful, just add the entire egg… it honestly doesn’t make that much of a difference flavor wise.
Tip #2: Don’t throw away the bones and cut-offs of the chicken thighs, but use them to make chicken stock! I usually save the bones and cut-offs in a bag in the freezer to use later.
Spicy Fried Chicken Thigh Sandwich with Kimchi Sauce
- For the sandwiches:
- 4 buns, or sandwich rolls
- Some white cabbage leaves
- 1 small carrot
- For the sauce:
- 5 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean chili paste)
- 100g kimchi
- For the fried chicken:
- 4 boneless chicken thighs of about 3 - 4cm thick, skin on
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons Korean red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon ground paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 250ml buttermilk
- 1 egg white
- 100g all-purpose flour
- 75g cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Sunflower-, or peanut oil, for frying
MethodNote: Preparation time does not include the hands-off (1 hour minimal) marinating time. You will need: a high-rimmed iron cast skillet, or Dutch oven to fry the chicken in. It also helps to have a wire rack set on top of a baking tray ready to transfer the cooked chicken on to whilst frying. -
- Make spice mix: combine salt, Korean red pepper flakes, paprika powder, ground coriander, ground ginger, white pepper.
- Marinate the boneless chicken thighs: In a bowl, coat chicken with half of the spice mix and all of the finely chopped garlic (save the remaining spice mixture for later). Cover the chicken with cling film and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce and cabbage topping: For the Kimchi sauce, combine 5 tablespoons of mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon of gochujang and 100g of kimchi in a food processor until you’ve got a slightly chunky sauce. Refrigerate until needed. For the cabbage topping, thinly shred some cabbage leaves and peel and grate the small carrot. Mix the cabbage and carrot and refrigerate until needed.
- Once your chicken has marinated, prepare your set-up: In a deep plate, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder and the remaining spice mix. In a separate bowl, beat the egg white into the buttermilk.
- Coat your pieces of chicken: One by one, dip the marinated chicken into the buttermilk and egg mixture and transfer to the other bowl with the flour and spice mixture. Coat the chicken well and make sure you get the mixture into all nooks and crannies of the chicken. For extra crispiness, quickly dip the chicken back into the buttermilk and once more into the flour mixture, making sure the previous coating doesn’t come off. Set the coated chicken aside onto a plate for about 5 minutes before frying.
- Pour the oil into a high-rimmed iron cast skillet, or Dutch oven to a depth of about 5cm. Heat the oil to about 180°C. Use an oil thermometer to check the temperature if you have one, or test if the oil is hot enough by sticking a wooden chopstick into it; if you see bubbles coming off the stick, the oil is hot enough to fry.
- When the oil is hot enough, carefully place the coated chicken into the oil one or two pieces at a time. Don’t overcrowd the pan and fry in batches. Fry the chicken on both sides until golden brown and cooked all the way through. 3 - 4cm thick pieces need about 5 to 6 minutes on each side (so about 10 to 12 minutes in total, though you can check the internal temperature with a thermometer if you are unsure or are using thicker thighs). Once golden and cooked through, transfer fried chicken onto a wire rack set on top of a baking tray to let the excess fat drip off and to keep the chicken crispy while you fry the next batch.
- Assemble the chicken sandwiches. Slice the buns in half and spread about a tablespoon of the kimchi sauce on each bottom half. Place a piece of fried chicken on top and place a small handful of the thinly shredded cabbage and grated carrot on top of the chicken. Close the sandwich with the top half of the bun. You can use a wooden skewer to keep the sandwiches from falling apart.