Recipes for the perfect fried chicken—American style, at least—usually begin with the three Bs: brining, breading, and buttermilking. After all, fried chicken is often regarded as a dish particular to the American South. But a quick tour of Asia reveals some enchanting alternatives. For instance, chef Martin Martin of Taste of Jakarta, a 24-seat Indonesian eatery on SW 13th Avenue and Jefferson Street, likes to stir up a veritable alphabet of other ingredients into what is the most complexly flavored fried chicken in the city.
For his ayam goreng kuning, or “yellow fried chicken,” Martin boils chicken legs for hours in a bath of water, turmeric, salt, sugar, shallots, lemongrass, chiles, garlic, and coriander, slowly reducing the liquid until it nearly evaporates. He then adds more chicken parts to the marinade and deep-freezes it all for two days. After a second boil, he fries the chicken up by the order. The chicken that emerges from the fryer is tender and sweet, its meat infused with the bracing flavors of Southeast Asian curries and encased in a thin, bright skin that’s both crisp and candy-sweet.
Martin’s recipe is just one of hundreds regularly made by his countrymen. “It’s a source of pride,” he says. “If Beaverton, Portland, and Hillsboro were cities in Indonesia, each would have its own style of fried chicken.”
Many local foodies’ favorite fried chicken is served at Thai restaurant Pok Pok. “The Thais deep-fry everything that moves,” says owner Andy Ricker, “and they fry all of the chicken, from head to toe.”
While you won’t find deep-fried chicken heads on the menu at Pok Pok, Ricker’s pungent, sweet fish-sauce wings are undeniably addictive. Eight hundred pounds of the wings—marinated in sugar and fish sauce, then dredged in rice and tempura flour before being deep-fried—fly off the menu each week. When he’s not savoring his own fare, Ricker enjoys the sweet fried chicken at Bun Bo Hue, a Vietnamese soup shop on SE 82nd Avenue.