Korean Fried Chicken, Bon Chon
We live in part of San Francisco Bay Area that is famous for Korean food. So when the popular south Korea based franchise, Bon Chon Restaurant, opened a branch in our neighborhood strip mall, it was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I got in. My neighborhood hole in the walls are just that. Decor is typically non-existent. Menu is minimally put together. Furniture, floor and walls have a beat up look. The wait staff is typically a first generation immigrant who speaks rudimentary English. But this is an immigrant community and while these restaurants are not for special occasions, they can serve up a dish or two that are expertly put together. In general, fried food in Asian cuisine is less greasy. Korean tastes are fiery. So, it is fair to say that I was expecting a less greasy and more spicy version of southern style fried chicken from a fast food joint, a Korean McDonald.
Bon Chon turned out to be much better put together. The restaurant is tiny but had a hip air about it. The staff was extra friendly and came by to explain the dishes in great details with a lot of enthusiasm. The menu, while short offers a variety of tastes. We ended up ordering a small order of fried white meat and a bowl of bulgogi with rice. We waited a while for the fried food to arrive. I got a quick glimpse of the kitchen staff – Mexican. Yes, Californian restaurants are run by Mexican cooks. They are equally good at making sushi, stir frying, making naans and curry… you name it, they do it.
The fried chicken breasts were served with kimchi slaw and picked radishes. We had ordered the extra spicy variety. They were indeed not greasy but they weren’t spicy either. Definitely less spicier than the southern fried chicken. What was really the highlight was the crisp skin. The batter layer was minimal but crisp – I expect from a starch other than flour. Perhaps rice or arrowroot. The white meat was juicy, the sides perfect. I could have eaten another five bowls of the pickled radishes. The rice and beef came with some leafy salad in a large bowl. Again, expertly made. Light and flavorful. And again, not spicy.
I have a few favorite restaurants in my neighborhood – Yume-Ya, a Japanese gem, Tacos Jalapa, a taqueria. Bon Chon is being added to the list. Next time, I am going all out for a big order of fried drumsticks. I will have to sneak in some hot sauce or red pepper flakes.