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Image: Bruce Wolf

Deep-fried chicken legs from Reel ’M Inn Tavern

Kentucky Fried Chicken is ubiquitous in Japan, but the chicken dish called kara age—crispy, bite-size bits of fried chicken served with hot mustard—is a staple at the neighborhood izakayas, or pubs. In Portland, excellent versions can be found at the Beaverton izakaya Yuzu or at Portland’s Biwa, where diminutive pieces of deboned white and dark meat get a punch from a ginger-sake-soy marinade. The extra crunch comes courtesy of a breading of rice flour, wheat flour, and corn starch.

For Chinese-style fried chicken, try either of Jin Wah’s locations. Although the restaurant is more famous among the local Chinese community for its pepper-salted squid, its pepper-salted chicken wings are just as impressive.

Of course, no conversation about fried chicken would be complete without mentioning the best in Southern cooking. The Country Cat and Screen Door serve up resounding favorites from the three-B school, but the Reel ’M Inn Tavern achieves the holy grail of fried chicken—skin with maximum crunch and tender flesh throughout—by submerging the pieces in a high-temperature deep fryer. Chop Butchery & Charcuterie sells its picnic-perfect fried chicken for takeout every Thursday, while the pan-fried bird is offered at Savoy Tavern & Bistro on Sundays only.

But the most magical interpretation of traditional American-style fried chicken is served up on Wednesdays at Kenny & Zuke’s Delicatessen—chicken pan-fried in duck fat. Still, when pressed for his all-time favorite fried chicken, co-owner Nick Zukin, a well-traveled expert on Asian food, says he prefers the Southern-Indonesian variety. And in Portland, he gets his fix at Taste of Jakarta.