If you’re a fan of KFC wings — the kind lashed with Korean hot sauce rather than the Southern-style from a certain fast food chain — you may think of them as just a form of basic sustenance.
Aldo and Nami Nakaganeku are trying to change that. The married couple opened Hot n Sweet Chicken in 2013.
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“In Korea, people eat wings like a snack, and most people eat them with beer,” says Aldo Nakaganeku, who owns Hot n Sweet Chicken with his wife Nami in Arcadia, Calif. “Thousands of people offer wings. It’s like Starbucks here.”
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Most of Nami’s experience in the kitchen came from decades of cooking for her family in South Korea and in the U.S. She and her husband developed the restaurant’s wing recipe after eating fried chicken in Korea, Singapore, Japan, Argentina, Brazil and, of all places, Canada (every place they traveled, they’d be sure to try the fried chicken). Then they spent five years experimenting and perfecting the wings they now serve at the restaurant.
Nami’s wings are not the thick-coated, ultra crisp, completely sauce-smothered wings. They’re also not the wings that taste a bit like they’ve been coated in breakfast rice cereal. Rather, the wings at Hot n Sweet fall somewhere in between. The coating is crisp and golden, light in texture, and when you take a bite, it shatters, then melts on your tongue. That crisp, airy quality is similar to what you’d get if you dipped a wing in tempura batter. This distinct texture is achieved through Nami’s recipe — she uses a mix of cornstarch and flour in the batter — and the way she fries the chicken.
Soy Garlic Chicken Wings from Hot N Sweet
About 1 hour. Servings: 12.
Soy Garlic Sauce
2 cups corn syrup
1 1/2 cups low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup sake
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the corn syrup, soy sauce, water, sake, sugar, ginger and garlic. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until it is reduced to 1 quart, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 cup water, more as needed
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, sea salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the water to form a batter that has the consistency of cake batter (if the batter thickens too much, thin with additional water).
Soy Garlic Chicken Wings
Oil, for frying
3 pounds trimmed chicken wings, cut at the joints and wing tips removed (about 36 pieces)
Prepared soy garlic sauce
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Sliced green onion, for garnish
1. Fill a 4-quart pot with frying oil to a depth of 3 to 4 inches. Heat the oil to maintain a temperature of 350 degrees.
2. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken into the batter, shaking off any excess. Deep fry the pieces until the crust is golden-brown and the meat is thoroughly cooked, about 8 minutes. Drain the pieces on a rack and continue until all of the chicken is fried.
3. Toss the chicken in the soy garlic sauce (there may be some left over) and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve the chicken garnished with green onion.
Note: Adapted from a recipe provided by Hot n Sweet Chicken in Arcadia.