Picking up new global influences, fried chicken has been sporting some fresh spins of late. Fried chicken is the fifth leading chicken dish on menus, with two in five consumers saying fried is their chicken style of choice.
As half of millennials (and 44% of consumers overall) want concepts to offer more chicken entrees with ethnic ingredients and flavors, according to Technomic’s Center of the Plate Poultry Consumer Trend Report, operators are looking to emerging fried chicken preps for inspiration. Here are four styles making a splash.
1. Korean fried chicken, +28.6%
Korean fried chicken (also known as KFC) is seasoned, coated with a very thin batter of flour and cornstarch, fried, and brushed with a spicy-sweet chili sauce. It differs from typical American fried chicken by being fried twice to get a crunchier skin. In the U.S., many operators just use the wings for Korean fried chicken, as it’s a cost-saver and easy to promote as a shareable appetizer or late-night snack. But entrees work too: Grand Lux Cafe serves Korean fried chicken in a burrito with kimchi and Sriracha mayo, and Houlihan’s recently rolled out its version with gochujang.
Mentions of Korean fried chicken on menus have grown 28.6% in the last year, according to Technomic's MenuMonitor.
2. Chicken karaage, +8.3%
The Japanese dish features bite-sized chicken thigh that’s been marinated, coated with potato starch and deep-fried in oil. Though marinades vary, typical combinations include soy, mirin, sake, ginger, garlic and sugar. Although it’s typically featured as a bento box item in Japan, U.S. restaurants often serve it as a starter, small plate or entree. Florida chain Sushi Maki offers its version as $6 bites with lemon, Japanese-style mayo and ponzu sauce for dipping.
Chicken karaage menu mentions have grown 8.3% in the last year.
3. Chicken 65, +5.7%
Hailing from Chennai, India, Chicken 65 was named after the year 1965 when the dish was introduced at the Buhari Hotel restaurant. Although India’s regional preparations of Chicken 65 vary, the bone-in or boneless chicken is typically deep-fried with ginger, garlic and chili peppers. It can be served as a snack, starter or entree. Paradise Biryani Pointe, a 42-unit chain based in New Jersey, serves its version of Chicken 65 as an appetizer with ginger, cayenne pepper and lime.
Menu mentions of Chicken 65 have increased 5.7% year over year.
4. Gai tod, +20.0%
Gai tod is a popular street fried chicken in Thailand. Like American-style fried chicken, gai tod has a crispy coating, but it’s thinner and lighter in comparison, clinging more tightly to the meat. The chicken is marinated, then coated in rice flour batter and fried much longer than standard American fried chicken. It’s typically served with sticky rice and sweet chili sauce on the side. Arawan Thai Cuisine in Vancouver, Wash., serves its gai tod as a six-wing appetizer served with a sweet chili sauce, while Siam Orchid in Palo Alto, Calif.’s version is made with organic chicken breast that’s fried and served with garlic rice.
Mentions of gai tod on menus have grown 20.0% in the last year.