By Christina Autry
Spring Branch District has been long famed as the best neighborhood in Houston for Korean food. Long Point Road and the surrounding area is home to our city’s most delicious Korean BBQ, noodles, bars, groceries, and of course, Korean fried chicken (KFC).
American fried chicken was introduced to Korea in the 1960’s, but the recipe was soon altered to the tastes of its new country. Korea created their own twist by double-frying the chicken, making for extra crispy, thin skin, compared to the textured, thick fried batter typical in America. The biggest differentiation is drenching the chicken in a variety of sauces, from mild garlic to extremely spicy.
KFC in South Korea is eaten either as a filling meal, a snack, or with alcohol. Pairing fried food with alcohol is a place where Korean and American cultures find common culinary ground. In Korean cuisine in particular, there is a strong value for contrasting flavors and textures to balance out a dining experience. Salty, sweet, bitter, creamy crunchy, hot, cold and endless opposites tend to share a space on your plate.
One contrast that is essential to Korean dishes is that of fermented, or pickled, vs. fresh. Whether it’s pickled vegetables, fermented kimchi, or of course alcohol, that bitter or sour flavor is a craveable pairing with tender meat. This is why Korean fried chicken as a necessity comes with pickled, chopped radish (“chicken-mu”) to be eaten as a side dish.
With a handful of options for KFC in Spring Branch, fried chicken aficionados may be surprised to find a local favorite inside the H-Mart food court. This Korean food haven draws in customers who may not even be shopping at H-Mart, but have come simply for a satisfying Korean lunch. H-Mart itself is America’s ultimate Korean grocery store, worthy of exploration, especially with a friend familiar with the products who can serve as a guide.
Call ToreOre and order ahead, or walk into the food court and be prepared to wait for your chicken to be made fresh. Choose between “All parts mixed,” “Wings,” and “Boneless Chicken Thighs,” before picking your flavors. Decide how brave you’re feeling before approaching the “Hot & Spicy,” unless you’re accustomed to the burn of red chili peppers.
Getting “Original” will allow you to appreciate the uniqueness of the frying method and the tenderness of the chicken. But make sure to try the “Garlic Plus,” or the “Chili BBQ” for a burst of flavor without the intensity of the “Hot & Spicy” coating. Ordering the “Creamy Onion” means getting a pile of fried chicken, a box of sliced white onions (a typical topping for KFC), and a sweet gravy-like sauce that can be poured over the chicken at your discretion.
In a move to save your hands from becoming an absolute mess (if you care about such things), the ToreOre provides plastic gloves with your platter. We still recommend bringing wet wipes.
Yes, your ToreOre chicken is served to you in a pizza box, that is in fact labeled “Pizza” with a chef rolling dough on the lid. Why, we don’t know. But the important thing is that there is mouthwatering, possibly mouth-scorching, splendid fried chicken inside your box.
1302 Blalock Rd, Houston, TX 77055