I have been on a fried chicken bender.
It began with the ladies-of-the-night Thai chicken wings and continued the next day with bright-red Indian fried chicken for lunch and then a dinner of Indonesian nasi ayam penyet, a dish of rice and gloriously crunchy cumin/coriander/lemongrass-seasoned fried chicken that I’m still hoping will make its way across the ocean to New York City.
By the time I sat down to my next meal and saw the Malay fried chicken wings on the table, I knew it was time to admit: I have a problem.
Everyone has a comfort food and mine, somehow, is fried chicken.
Over recent cocktails with some local food folk in Singapore, the question emerged: “When you come back to Singapore after being away for a while, what’s the first thing you want to eat?”
My quick response was “Fried chicken!” — an answer I immediately regretted as I heard others calling out more appropriate Singaporean answers like, “Noodles!”
I didn’t mean just any fried chicken, however. While I live for Southern fried chicken in New York, it’s the Indian fried chicken, dusted with garam masala, chili, turmeric and ginger, that I crave. Not to mention Malay versions (pictured above) that are as heavy on Southeast Asian spices.
This obsession with deep-fried fowl took root early on — as an occasional treat, my mother would invite my little friends over for fried bee hoon (thin rice noodles) and her crispy, garlicky chicken wings. Years later in the U.S., my discovery of Shake ‘n Bake (Hello fried chicken in a box — just add chicken!) all but confirmed my impression that America was, like, the best country ever.
Now, clean kitchen be damned — the Hubbs and I will fill a pot with oil and fry up chicken as often as we can, throwing “I Wish It Were Summer Already” fried chicken parties in the dead of winter, putting three kinds of fried chicken on the table along with all the fixings.
For the record, my favorite fried chicken cookbook is simply called “Fried Chicken” by a man named (I kid you not) Damon Lee Fowler. Talk about a man who was born to write about poultry.
Mr. Fowler’s recipes have been culled from China, South Africa, the Middle East. And while he doesn’t have specific recipes for the versions I find in Singapore hawker centers, I’m particularly partial to one that calls for marinating the wings in lime juice and soy sauce for hours before frying.
While I wax lyrical about actual fried chicken, the truth is, most nights I’m too lazy to deal with the greasy aftermath in my little Brooklyn Heights kitchen. So, when inspiration strikes, out comes the buttermilk, a big head of garlic and this handy little recipe below.
Spicy Oven-Fried Chicken
Bon Appétit | June 2000
Yield: Makes 6 servings
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large onion, sliced
12 chicken pieces (breasts, thighs and drumsticks) with skin and bones
1 cup dry unseasoned breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Whisk buttermilk, oil, hot pepper sauce, mustard, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in large bowl to blend well. Add onion, then chicken and turn to coat. Cover; chill at least 3 hours or up to 1 day, turning chicken occasionally.
Place racks on 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Whisk breadcrumbs, cheese, flour, thyme, paprika, cayenne and 1 teaspoon salt in large baking dish to blend. Remove chicken from marinade, allowing excess to drip off. Add chicken to breadcrumb mixture and turn to coat completely. Arrange chicken, skin side up, on racks on baking sheets. Let stand 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Drizzle butter over chicken. Bake until crisp, golden and cooked through, about 50 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.