THE SOUTH Korean wave is hitting the skies with AirAsia’s extensive Santan menu, featuring the popular dakgangjeong aka sweet and spicy fried chicken in its recently unveiled Celebrity Chef Series.
This sweet and spicy chicken - served with aromatic Jasmine rice, bokchoy, and carrots - is a special collaboration with Korean TV personality and restaurateur Chef Hong Seok-Cheon, which was inspired by his childhood comfort food.
According to Hong: “This is a dish I enjoyed growing up and even throughout all my TV shoots.”
“I’m thrilled to be collaborating with AirAsia on this exciting project to bring Korean cuisine to more people.”
Sporting tender bites of chicken coated in delightfully sticky, sweet and spicy Korean sauce, sprinkled with crispy fritters, the celebrity chef worked closely with the Santan team for this first dish of the series.
“Working with the celebrity chef of Please Take Care of My Refrigerator fame on the dish was enjoyable because of his friendly demeanour,” said AirAsia Resident Chef Calvin Soo, who gave a cooking demonstration of the new inflight meal.
Soo added that the team initially was anxious in doing the recipe justice, considering the sweet and spicy chicken interpretation - popular in South Korea - is based on Hong’s personal take on the comforting dakgangjeong.
Soo said: “It’s his recipe so we had to make sure that we got it very good, but when he came and he taught us how to cook the recipe, he was very friendly.
“He was also very open to suggestions because we had to make certain changes to the menu because of our operation.
He added: “So together we came up with the idea of having the crispy batter, the crispy bits we call it or fritters, to add on the crunch factor to the meal because that is one of the important textures to the meal.”
During the time the Korean chef and Soo were working together, the latter also learned that a dish like this sweet and spicy chicken is fondly eaten with pickled radish or washed down with a cool can of Coca-Cola or beer.
Popular across the country, Soo relates that dakgangjeong is commonly made at home: “So it’s something they either eat for dinner or something they snack on. It’s something that is eaten anywhere in Korea.”
Slathered in Korean red chilli sauce mix, the gochujang-based glaze received an added twist of sweetness from brown sugar, which Hong used to balance the flavours in an otherwise spicier dish, said Soo.
“Normally you would see only spicy, it’s not so much sweet ... a little bit of brown sugar helps to make the meal a little bit more pleasant for everybody.
Soo added: “You get a mixture of different tastes - sweet, spicy, salty, and also a little bit of sour - so it’s a very balanced flavour.”
Chef Hong’s Korean Sweet and Spicy Chicken is available onboard and through online pre-booking, alongside other Santan menu items.