Savoury and full of herbs and vegetables, Korean cuisine is flavoured with sesame oil, soy sauce, Korean hot pepper paste, garlic and ginger. Meals are served with little side dishes called banchan, including preserves such as pickles and the ubiquitous kimchi, or small salads. At the table, stainless steel chopsticks and large spoons are used - most ingredients are presented in small pieces and stews contain such tender meat that no knife is needed. You can get prepared banchan at Korean grocery stores, and other ingredients are available at Asian stores.
At a cultural summit I attended in South Korea, I met Lucia Cho, whose family makes ceramics for restaurants. This dish is part of a dinner she made for me, and it combines traditional Korean flavours with Western cooking techniques. A deep-fat-frying thermometer is very helpful in determining oil temperature.
½ cup Lucia's gochujang sauce (see recipe below)
2 tablespoons chicken stock
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup chopped kimchi
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 cup flour
1 cup beer
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Flour for dredging
Vegetable oil for frying
2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
Mint, coriander and slivered perilla leaves
Combine Gochujang Sauce and stock in a skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, lower heat to medium and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes or until flavours have combined. Reserve.
Place chicken thighs between two pieces of parchment paper and use a mallet to pound into a thin layer. Season with salt and sprinkle lightly with cornstarch. Combine kimchi and sesame oil. Place a line of kimchi down the middle of chicken, roll tightly to enclose and secure with a toothpick or wooden skewer. Repeat with remaining rolls. Chill for one hour.
Whisk together flour, beer and salt to make batter. Season with pepper and reserve.
Preheat oven to 425F.
Heat about 4 inches of oil in a wok or deep pot over medium-high heat to 325F. Working in batches, dip rolls lightly in flour, then beer batter, and fry for five to six minutes, turning if needed, until golden brown. Place chicken on a rack on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining rolls.
Place baking sheet in oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until cooked through. Cool for five minutes. Remove toothpicks.
Spoon some sauce onto four plates, cut rolls into half-inch slices and fan out on top. Drizzle with a little more sauce. Garnish with pistachios and herbs.