“Practically every culture that eats chicken has come up with a way to crisp birds in hot oil,” wrote Osayi Endolyn in her essay “Fried Chicken Is Common Ground,” from You and I Eat the Same. There’s the Southern American version created by African and African-American cooks and now ubiquitous all over the country, behind glass counters in gas stations and sold by the bucket in supermarket chains; there’s Japanese karaage, coated with soy, ginger, and garlic; Brazilian fried chicken or frango a passarinho; and Taiwanese fried chicken which, like Korea’s version, is fried twice.
Taiwanese fried chicken can be found across the country’s chains and night markets, and also at DC’s beloved Cambodian-Taiwanese restaurant, Maketto. Chef Erik Bruner-Yang keeps it traditional with his recipe, coating chicken tenders in sweet potato starch and calling on the five-spice powder that the fried bird can’t go on without. There’s also basil leaves to top the bits of chicken that are crunchy and almost popcorn-like.
The fried chicken easily one of Maketto’s most popular items — and you can make at home with the help of Bruner-Yang’s recipe below.
Maketto Fried Chicken
1 pound chicken tenders
2 cups flour
½ cup of potato starch, preferably sweet potato starch
2 tablespoons Chinese five-spice blend
1 tablespoon chili oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fish sauce
Fresh herbs like basil and scallions
Oil for frying
Step 1: Start by dredging your chicken. Beat eggs in a bowl and in a separate bowl, combine flour and potato starch. Dredge your chicken in the flour mix, then submerge in the beaten eggs, and then once more in the flour for a full coating. Set aside.
Step 2: To make the sauce, combine fish sauce, honey, chili oil, and Chinese five spice. Set aside.
Step 3: Heat the oil in a deep pan (or fryer if you have it) and fry prepared chicken until each piece is golden brown.
Step 4: Toss the chicken in the sauce. Plate and finish with fried shallots and fresh herbs. Enjoy immediately!