We got tired of paying for middling hipster baos. So we came up with this take on the too cool for school Asian burger/sandwich. This version combines two classic favourites: Korean fried chicken and fluffy mantou. Spiked with gochujang (Korean spicy fermented soybean paste) butter and kimchi-flavoured mayo, these bao-gers are jam-packed with sassy flavors and fantastic contrasting textures. Think light, fluffy mantous against crisp and succulent chicken fillets. Deep-frying ain’t our fave thing to do, so we’ve kept the frying shallow and less messy. You still get crunchy chook, but you won’t end up with a vat of used oil sitting around your house.
4 skinless chicken thigh fillets (about 100g each)
1 cup plain flour
1½ cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 cup cooking oil
4 mantou, steamed (available at supermarkets)
1 head curly lettuce
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp gochujang
3 tbsp light soy sauce
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp white vinegar
½ tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp gochujang
3 tbsp butter, softened at room temperature
¾ cup kimchi, chopped
¼ cup mayonnaise (try Hellman’s)
2 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise
*To make gochujang butter and kimchi mayo respectively, mix all the ingredients together till evenly blended.
1. Begin at least two hours ahead. Place all the chicken marinade ingredients in a large bowl and stir to mix.
2. Place the chicken fillets in the bowl of marinade and rub the marinade into the meat.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight.
4. Remove the chicken fillets from the marinade.
5. Place the eggs in a large saucer and beat with a fork.
6. Place the flour on one plate and the panko breadcrumbs on another.
7. Dip one chicken fillet into the flour, and then into the egg, making sure that the whole fillet is coated. Then coat the fillet in panko.
8. Repeat with the rest of the chicken fillets.
9. Warm the oil in a wok over medium heat till its surface starts to shimmer. To test if oil is hot enough, throw in a small piece of bread. If it bubbles and floats to the surface immediately, it’s ready. Shallow-fry the chicken, turning the fillets after about 2.5 to 3 minutes, until crisp, golden and cooked through.
10. Place the fillets on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
11. To assemble the burgers, split each mantou with a sharp knife and butter both sides with the gochujang butter.
12. Place some curly lettuce leaves on the bottom half of the mantou and top with a fried chicken fillet.
13. Spoon some kimchi mayo on chicken and place the top half of the mantou over it. Repeat with the rest of the burgers. Serve immediately.
(This story first appeared in Issue 1340, June 27, 2016)