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Korean Fried Chicken And Pickled Veg Are A Perfect Pair, According To Chef Ji Hye Kim

Plate of Korean fried chicken with kimchi and rice
Plate of Korean fried chicken with kimchi and rice - Jaded Art/Shutterstock

From salty soy sauces to mounds of flavorful kimchi, Korean cuisine spans a wide range of ingredients adored by food lovers and cooks alike. Korean fried chicken — the crispy chicken of your dreams — might just be one of its best offerings. These crunchy pieces of savory goodness are double-fried, coated in thick, rich sauces, and perfect for your next snack or meal.

While Korean fried chicken boasts more than enough meat to be the star of any dish, it can still use a few sides. Michigan chef Ji Hye Kim has a few suggestions. Chef Kim, who runs the Ann Arbor-based Miss Kim, holds an impressive plate of accolades, including being listed as one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs in 2021 and placing as a James Beard semifinalist in multiple years. When it comes to Korean fried chicken, Chef Kim told Daily Meal she feels that pickled vegetables offer the best pairing, as their taste and crunch complement deep-fried chicken's rich, oily feel.

Read more: The Ultimate Ranking Of The Best Fried Chicken Chains

The Secret Is In The Pickling

Jars of pickled vegetables
Jars of pickled vegetables - Nungning20/Shutterstock

Pickled veggies — soaked in a briny solution of preservatives like salt and vinegar — offer a crisp but tender crunch. Besides their unique texture, they give off a distinct tangy flavor. Chef Ji Hye Kim says this strong taste is the key to their great pairing with chicken. "The richness and unctuousness of fried chicken needs that bright acidity to balance it out," she said.

Without the off-setting flavor profile, fried foods can be heavy and filling. If you're looking to chow down on your Korean fried chicken (and let's admit it — who isn't?), the pickled veggies can help alleviate the overwhelming richness, allowing you to eat "piece after piece."

The high acidity packed into a pickled vegetable mirrors much of the tanginess found in an old-school fried chicken pairing: vinegar. Chef Kim says back in the Joseon era (a period in Korean history that lasted until the early 20th century), fried chicken was typically sold with vinegar, which, as she notes, is "not too different from fish and chips with salt and vinegar!" Today, pickled veggies offer the same tangy taste found in vinegar and make the ultimate pairing for fried chicken.

Use These Vegetables

Daikon radish
Daikon radish - NANTAWAN PATAMAROT/Shutterstock

So, which pickled vegetables reign supreme as the side of choice for your next Korean fried chicken? If you want to follow the conventional route, you'll want to use radishes. These crunchy veggies are the "most common and traditional side dish for Korean fried chicken," said Chef Ji Hye Kim.

When pickled, these radishes will offer the essential acidic taste that makes them such a perfect pairing. Try pickled daikon, a winter radish found in East Asia, or sample other vegetables. Radishes may be traditional, but Chef Kim notes that "any kind of pickled vegetables...would be really fantastic," as a side to Korean fried chicken.

Try mixing favorites like onions, cucumbers, and cabbage, which will each lend their own flavor to the dish while also offering the all-important zing of vinegar. You can also sample another Korean staple: kimchi. This mix of fermented — not pickled — vegetables will bring a similar sour and salty flavor to your dish. Radish kimchi retains the same acidic profile found in the pickled variety but can add notes of sweetness and even umami.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.