Finger lickin' fried chicken
Southern Fried Chicken with creamed corn, char grilled corn bread and gumbo sauce from Panama House, Bondi. Photo: Brianne Makin
It's not as though the appeal of fried chicken is in any way mysterious; juicy, tender flesh encased in a shell with a shattering crunch – what's not to like? Australia's first KFC opened in Guildford in Sydney's west in 1968, 29 years after the Colonel nailed his secret herb and spice blend and it's been a popular fast food choice ever since. But there's been a shift in recent times with eat-in restaurant menus all over town putting it on and selling it out. Our current obsession with American food is driving the trend but it's a hit way beyond the US – just ask the Japanese, Koreans and Indonesians. Oh, and there's a reason it's chicken outplays other poultry in the frying game - turkeys are too large and impractical, even when jointed, while ducks and geese are too fatty.
Here are six options for a fried chicken fix.
The menu might read like a down-home diner but this American-focused bar/restaurant is more sophisticated than that. They employ a few modern techniques getting their produce to table but you'd never know it with the authentic Southern fried chicken. The bird is brined for a day, cold smoked for an hour and cooked sous vide. The secret to the crunchy shell is double dipping in housemade hot sauce, buttermilk marinade and seasoned flour and only then deep frying it in a combination of oil and lard. Buttermilk biscuits (think scones) and sausage meat gravy based on spicy white sauce complete the picture.
33 Enmore Road, Newtown, 8068 1473, www.hartsyard.com.au
Jazz City Diner
The waitress in the pink and white retro uniform with the 'Sue-Ellen' name badge (eavesdropping revealed that's not her real name) sets a delightful '50s tone in this simple inner city diner. Singles and couples nab counter spots with full view of the kitchen but everywhere in this compact space tunes in to the smooth jazz soundtrack. Suitably soulful is the dish of chicken and waffles served with a jug of maple syrup. The bird, straight from the fryer, is greaseless and cracklingly good, gold coated, juicy fleshed. The waffles are warm and light, obligingly collecting puddles of syrup which we found worked best with the chicken after generous salting at the table. Go hard - there's banana cream pie with caramel sauce for afters.
238 Crown Street, Darlinghurst, 9332 2903, www.jazzcitydiner.com
This bamboo lined room at the north end of Dixon Street is dotted with TVs screening Korean pop videos at low volume and the back tables have glimpses of Darling Harbour's Chinese gardens. Fried chicken's a go-to dish here with three variations on offer. Good Food tried the soy sauce version, a whole chicken cut into small chunks easily manageable with fingers and drizzled with a housemade soy-based sauce sweetened with apples and pears. Chicken is battered and fried to order keeping things hot and crisp so it's alarmingly easy to demolish the generous serve.
1 Dixon Street, Haymarket, 9264 1588
Barely a year old this place is a magnet for lovers of American faves such as pulled pork, slaw, sticky back ribs and Po Boys. Naturally southern fried chicken's on the list and, like everything else, is served with four fabulous housemade relishes. The buttermilk-marinated bird is succulent, encased in a crunchy Cajun-spiced shell. Sweet and tangy gumbo sauce adds interest and there's a slab of moist corn bread, nicely charred and smoky.
251 Bondi Road, Bondi, 9365 0839 www.panamahouse.com.au
Ayam Goreng 99
It's a real DIY experience at this simple Indonesian diner: write your order on paper, hand it to the waitress, help yourself to drinks, cups and cutlery. No need to fry your own chicken though. The name of this place translates as fried chicken so you'd expect they'd be across that. Every table is set with sweet soy and blindingly hot chilli sauce. There are a couple of fried chicken versions which are difficult to tell apart, though the Javanese one is supposedly sweeter. It's thigh or breast - your choice - and regardless of the style, the flesh is moist, though less so at the extremities and the skin deep gold and blistered.
464 Anzac Parade, Kingsford, 9697 0030
Sushi @ Yachiyo
Finding this cute place tucked under a building in a dead end off William Street feels like being let in on a secret. It's best known for its sushi but the good range of more substantial dishes such as Japanese fried chicken, or karaage, make ideal companions to the sake list. Thigh fillets are marinated in miso, chilli, ginger, garlic and soy before being tossed in flour and fried until it puffs and bubbles to a shattering crunch.
1/13 Kirketon Road, Darlinghurst, 9331 8107 www.yachiyo.com.au/sushi
Where do you go for your fried chicken fix? Jump on the comments and share your top picks.