Tag Archives: fried chicken

How Does Red Star’s Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich Stack Up?

Red Star-DNA
Red Star Sandwich Shop – Via DNA Info

It’s been a day since this blog did…anything. But with “Best of” food lists becoming something of a cottage industry in New York City publications, I figured I could dust off this old boat and take it out for a spin every so often, and never run out of places to review.

Today’s location, Red Star, and its Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich, comes from Brooklyn Magazine‘s Reinventing Sliced Bread, or: The 50 Best Sandwiches in Brooklyn. Unlike the New York cheap eats list, this list typically hones in one sandwich.

The five boroughs are not lacking in fried chicken options. From the fried chicken plates at places like the Commodore to celebrity chef fast food options at Shake Shack and Fuku, it takes a lot to stand out. Which brings us to Cobble Hill’s Red Star.

Red Star’s fried chicken option gives the sandwich a Korean bent. And for what it’s worth, the trappings have the makings of a good sandwich. The bread roll is warm and soft. The lettuce and mayo are appropriately sparse. The pickled daikon and dill provide a nice balance to the gochujang sauce spread across the sandwich.

Let’s talk about that gochujang sauce. Derived from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybean, salt, Wikipedia tells me it is supposed to be savory, spicy, and pungent. Red Star’s pulls off the first two without too much pungency. The spiciness is combined with a nice tangy flavor. But, no one is turning out to a restaurant or sandwich shop for the toppings and condiments.

KFC_Yelp

Things go awry with the chicken. Double fried and battered with gossamer rice flour batter, the meat leaves the eater wanting. The sandwich is filling. So over the course of the meal, some of the chicken is tender white meat. But far too often it’s dry, or on my first bite, downright rubbery. This was the case on both of my visits.

I’m leery to write off Red Star based on the shortcoming of just one sandwich. Maybe their banh mi meatball or shrimp po’boy offering are top-notch. But on a stretch of Smith that has Fawkner offering up a (slightly more expensive) fried chicken sandwich and Abilene up and over on Smith serving a buffalo chicken sandwich, Red Star’s Korean Fried Chicken isn’t enough to get me to jump off the subway a few stops before home.

 

 

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A Banh Mi Worth Fighting With…

John Mulaney has this funny bit about the power McDonalds had over him and his siblings growing up on summer vacations. How, after hours of being stuck in the car, the appearance of the golden arches changed the entire mood of the family car.

For me growing up, the draw of McDonalds was not the euphoria brought on by the arches, but the happy meal toy and the ball pits paired with the seemingly skyscraper heightened enclosed slides play areas. I was a chicken nugget happy meal kid. There’s no one out there who will defend the taste, quality, or the consistency of what the rightfully maligned McNugget. Fast food byproduct doesn’t usually have many culinary advocates.

The deep fried bread on the other hand felt like some sort of mad scientist creation. The crunch, crispness, and taste of the nugget’s cover seems designed to trick the eater into thinking they are about to have something real. Really good no less.

Like most well adjusted people, I don’t spent much time thinking about the appeal of McDonalds’ chicken nugget. Recently though, I found myself sitting at a back table at High Dive in Park Slope with a bounty of food from Wangs – a joint that specializes in fried chicken and combines “Southern foul food and east Asian flavor profiles.” Of all the complimentary things that one thinks about when you adeptly cross Dixie with east Asia in the way that Wangs does, I went with the McNugget.

Before you think of me as some Guy Fieri-esque hack, the reaction was limited solely to my first take on the breading. Unlike the lab created, mass produced, assembly line dispersed McNugget, Wangs’ southern styled breading isn’t there to trick the eater into ignoring what the rest of the item is. Instead, it serves as a proper opening act to the Asian-spiced brine chicken.

Let’s talk about that chicken. My friend went with the half Organic Fried Chicken. Four pieces. Pieces doesnt do the size of these entities justice. People hold bar wings with two hands to get as much of the meat as possible and avoid a mess. These pieces have to be held with two hands. And the meat itself, having been brined for 24 hours is tender and should be used as Evidence A that the place is doing right by its claim of “creat[ing] a truly unique food experience” through the use of “east Asian flavor profiles.”

banhmiAll of that food was just for my half-marathon runner of a friend. I went with their signature sandwich – the Fried Chicken Banh Mi. Open up a sandwich of any type – hero, baguette, panini, bang mi – and you are typically disappointed when your eyes are drawn to just how much bread there is in comparison to the fillings. Not because bread is bad. But in a good sandwich, it should play a supporting role. Not the lead.

This Banh Mi comes on a huge piece of bread. It wasn’t until the end of my second bite that I got any meat. But this is a sandwich that is a grower. Like the half chicken, the portions on this sandwich are huge. The breading was more crumb focused in texture than the pieces. Pairing with a variety of seasoned vegetables, a five space pate, and coriander and lime aioli, the crunchier texture on the fried chicken works. I got a side with the sandwich. It is not needed. This sandwich will fill you up. What you will need is napkins. It can get messy. But it is worth the mess and the fight that is powering through this delicious monstrosity.

I saved my side to the end in what quickly became a terribly misguided assumption that I wouldn’t be completely full by that point. I didn’t make much of a dent in the collared greens but they underwhelmed in comparison. The Chinese sausage were few and far between and those that were there were very small. It was one-note type of side in the flavor department and after a few bites, I put it aside.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving week was a chilly night and we were the only people ordering in person. The phone was ringing frequently and the on-line orders kept coming in. Even with this high volume, there was just one tireless woman holding down the in-person order, the phone, and online demands….all while running the kitchen space as well. Maybe it was unexpectedly busy that night, but it seems like a second hand would be a plus during dinners.

It’s no summer vacation drive and there are no golden arches, but the next time you find yourself hungry and walking up the stairs from the R Train at Union Street, find the white painted cover of Wangs and get yourself some food that isn’t just designed to make you think it tastes good. It is good.