Korean fried chicken is a mysterious and marvelous thing. Ever since a recent New York Times article on the topic, chowhounds across America have been searching their Korean communities for local versions of that magic substance.
In San Francisco, P. Punko found 99 Chicken. Here, the chicken–consisting entirely of drumsticks and wings–is fried slowly, to the point where the fat is entirely rendered, and the meat perfectly juicy. This place is run by a Korean family; they’re incredibly friendly and deeply into helping outsiders experience the glories of their chicken. Their English is limited, but this can be got around.
They also make some great fried chicken. They fry in cottonseed oil, and the owner takes pride in the fact that he fries every single piece of chicken himself.
Ordered “plain”, the chicken is perfectly crispy and juicy. Add a little bit of the salt, pepper, and MSG. Ordered “spicy”, the chicken comes slathered in sweet, spicy, savory, garlicky red sauce. It’s sauced right before it comes to you, so there’s still some crispiness to the skin, under that sauce. There’s a lot of it–be ready to lick your fingers. Ordered “with sauce”, the chicken comes with a savory, garlicky, sweet, unspicy sauce. (P. Punko thinks it is probably worth skipping the plain “sauce” chicken and going straight for the “spicy”.) And ordered “sweet”, the chicken comes covered with a clear, sticky glaze–sort of like the honey-drenched fried chicken you can get in certain American-style place.
99 Chicken [South Bay]
2781 El Camino Real, Santa Clara