Fried Chicken and Me.

Yangnyeom chicken, Korean style fried chicken

Mmm… Fried Chicken.

I LOVE Fried Chicken. I think most people know this about me. I’ve always loved fried chicken, along with fried fish, most likely from growing up around the beautiful city of Baltimore.

The thing that most people don’t realize is that fried chicken, in all its greasy glory, isn’t the same everywhere you go. It’s not even the same across your state. Southern fried chicken has a thicker crust, uses rendered pork fat/lard, and is sometimes served with gravy. Gravy goes with everything in my opinion. Southwestern chicken or South American chicken often has a hint of spices &  pepper. But my favorite chicken is probably ghetto fried chicken, accompanied by waffles, fried lake trout/whiting/catfish, and either hot sauce or mambo sauce.

So what’s the difference between good chicken and bad chicken. KFC is NOT good fried chicken. Actually it’s not even chicken. It’s some sort of genetic cross between a polar bear and a cloned embryo of a chicken. These mutant monster birds are specifically designed to appeal to the largest possible consumer base, and are therefore completely tasteless, unappetizing and disturbingly disproportionate.

Popeye‘s is better than KFC by far but is still made for the the average consumer. They use the same mutant chickens but at least the chicken is usually fresh and juicy. If you really need a fried chicken fix and there isn’t anything else around, I’m not gonna fault you for picking up a 8 or 12 piece box of Popeye’s.

Good chicken is very hard to come by. Whether it’s fried chicken or chicken wings, there are so many horrible variations out there that most people don’t even know the difference anymore. We’re all guilty of eating chicken wings out of a freezer bag or getting a box of greasy over-sauced wings with our pizza delivery. Fried chicken drummies from 7-11 shouldn’t even be considered a food. Unless you’ve spent the time to search through countless online reviews, delivery sites and restaurants, you’ll probably never stumble across the perfect piece of juicy, crispy, golden fried chicken.

Well not anymore! It’s time for you to taste the difference. For your consideration I’ve chosen a few choice locations, all located within 10 min of Columbia, Maryland. If you live somewhere else… too bad, I can’t help you. The best advice I have for you is to imagine the differences I’m about to list, taking the time to remember what things you like and dislike about each variety of delectable poultry. Then try to find something similar in your area. On to the list!

BonChon Chicken: If you haven’t caught on by now, Korean fried chicken is the new KFC. It’s awesome. I thought it was all a gimmick when I first heard about their chicken wings but was an instant devotee the second I bit into a fresh, juicy, crispy, aromatic, perfectly seasoned chicken leg.  Instead of flash frying the meat to death like most other bars/carry-out restaurants, they slowly and carefully cook their wings at a relatively low temperature in order to get the meat to separate from the skin. This process causes the skin to blend with the batter to create a puffy, crispy, slightly greasy crust that protects the meat inside from drying out. This is just in preparation for final cooking. The wings are then lightly dunked in very hot oil before serving, and quickly basted with a brush in either a sweet soy-garlic sauce or a combination chili oil. Amazing.

Either flavor is explosive, without being TOO greasy or making the skin soggy. The delicate puffy skin even manages to stay crispy after being tossed in the refrigerator a couple of times. That’s the biggest thing isn’t it? Don’t you hate when your leftovers become mushy and tasteless after going into the microwave? I do, and these don’t. BonChon is relatively new to our area, with the only location in a 50 mile radius being in a terrible location in Ellicott City. Stuffed in the corner of a lonely strip mall behind the Crab Shanty, next to Sarafino’s.

Try them and let me know what you think. I would easily rate these as the best chicken wings in the DMV.

Chick n’ Friends: If you’re looking for fine dining, this definitely ISN’T it. Located in the Long Reach Village Center area of Columbia, Maryland, this is by far the worst village center in the area. It looks like a vacant strip mall in the middle of Baltimore, with boarded up windows and closed businesses. Your probably still trying to wrap your mind around it so here’s a little help.

Wilde Lake Village Center has tennis courts, indoor swimming pools, the Melting Pot, an organic grocery store, the Bagel Bin, some ghetto Chinese restaurant (Emperor Tso’s Hunan Warrior???), and Omaha Steaks. King’s Contrivance Village Center has an absolutely delicious family-owned Italian restaurant, Rita’s Ice(!), Harris Teeter‘s and a very classy wine/liquor/cigar shop. Harper’s Choice has a family-owned Mexican restaurant (Zapata’s), Safeway, the Athletic Club gym, Papa John’s, a family-owned Afghan-restaurant (Maiwand Kabob), Bank of America and a locally-owned Korean dry cleaners.

Long Reach has nothing of the sort. The sole saving grace of the entire shopping center is Chick ‘n Friends, a place so ghetto the R in Friends stopped working months ago and they haven’t fixed it. So it’s now called Chick ‘n Fiends. Which I think is a reasonable assumption. Basically, the normal clientage of this restaurant include drug dealers, drug addicts, and South American/Asian immigrants.

But who cares what the outside looks like, that’s only thinking skin deep. The true beauty of this little fried chicken shop is the fact that the chicken is melt in your mouth tender, like Colonel Sanders used to make it. The heart and soul of the restaurant is it’s reasonable prices, hand-cut, fresh-as-hell chicken pieces, delicate, flaky fried fish and homemade sides. They make Belgian waffles too, and there are few things as good as a bite of sweet syrupy waffle, mixed with salty greasy broasted chicken.

Ah, the wonders of broasted chicken. Fresh chicken cooked at just the right constant temperature in a Henny Penny with a pressurized cap is the mountain top of fried chicke.n. The holy grail of Friolated Arts. This is known as broasted chicken. When done right, it will not even resemble those awful chain restaurant concoctions, it will crunch beneath your teeth as you bite through the paper-thin delectable skin. Juice will drip off your chin and mouth, and that’s perfectly ok. The aroma of gently seasoned chicken will flood your nostrils as your teeth melt through the steaming meat.

If it sounds like this is too good to be true, you haven’t even tried their sides. There is such a stark comparison between homemade sides and regular packaged crap that you won’t even know there was such a difference until you bite into a mouthful of porky, salty greens or crunchy coleslaw. They even make handmade sweet potato/pumpkin pies, served stark naked and quivering. They also make fresh southern-style sweet tea in a large Styrofoam cup, or by the gallon.

Trust me, there is nothing better in the area. So either park in the parking lot and order it directly from the counter, or now you can actually order this simple good thing and have it delivered by using Carryoutmenu.com. I don’t usually like using this service since they not only charge you 5 dollars a delivery, they also charge 20% to the restaurant in question. Per order. LivingSocial.com’s fees are even worse to the small business, but there are places like Grubhub.com or Delivery.com that give you more bang for your buck. AND a pick-a-card game every few orders that gives away discounts and FREE FOOD!

By now you’ve realized that I am completely insane for food. I have probably ordered every type of possible food in my life, from Ethiopian to Cambodian and everything in between. Nothing is more satisfying than stuff from my mom’s house(a professional chef), or great fried chicken. If you live in the area and you enjoy finding little gems that can rival fine dining, without the price tag, I’m your guy. You can reach me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/kyarnboy or on Twitter at http://www.Twitter.com/kyarnboy. Feel free to drop me a message anytime.

Onto my final recommendation of the article. Sometimes the places I mentioned will be closed. I’m pretty sure Chick n’ Fiends is closed by 10pm daily, while BonChon stays open til 12am (Until they get their bar license. It’s BYOB Btw.) So what can satisfy that craving for good fried chicken at, let’s say, 3 in the morning?

Royal Farms: Don’t look at me funny. I’m almost positive that if you live within 300 miles of Columbia, there’s gotta be a Royal Farms nearby. Yes, the same place you can buy gas at sometimes, or cigarettes or magazines. Even though there are hundreds of these convenience stores, and even though some convenience store clerk is going to serve you your fried chicken, there’s no denying it. Their chicken is DAMN GOOD.

The key is that they fry their chicken in peanut oil. They have automated Henny Penny-fryers, so even the convenience store clerk can’t fuck up your order.  Don’t even bother wondering if you can get a healthy-version, I promise you there is no such thing. It’s bad for you, but oh so good. For around 12 dollars you can grab an 8 piece chicken with 2 wings, 2 legs, 2 thighs, and you guessed it, 2 breasts.

Did I mention the western fries? These bear no resemblance to those nasty little dry sticks you get from most drive-thrus. They are real potatoes cut into wedges, boiled and finally fried quickly. They use very little batter, so the outside is crispy and aromatic while the inside is hot, starchy and comforting. As long as your calling a Mulligan on your diet for the night, you might as well grab these with a side of gooey cheddar cheese sauce. Eat both the chicken and the western fries while they are still hot, they won’t taste nearly as good after hitting the fridge. Grab a milkshake/smoothie from the Royal Farms-automated milkshake machine and your set. (The ones with fruit flavors are a WHOLE lot healthier than the ones with cookies or smores or candy in them. Just FYI.)

You can’t really beat that in the middle of the night without taking a lot of time to drive to a diner. If you live in my area, you realize there’s only a few choices at that time of night anyways:

Simmies aka: Airiang Hill Cheese Steaks (In the Harper’s Choice area, next to the hospital),

Double-T Diner(15 minutes away in Baltimore County, off Route 40),

Denny’s (In Laurel, off Route 1, or In Arundel Mills, go left off route 1 instead of towards the mall),

or Honey Pig(24/7 Korean BBQ in the Centennial area, also off Route 40).

They all have their merits, especially Simmie’s Ehson’s Special, a 6-inch cheese steak or cheeseburger sub and 5 mambo wings w/ fries. I can’t even begin to tell you all the nights I got drunk as hell after going to the bar/club, and had to make an emergency stop at Simmies for an Ehson’s Special. The mambo sauce is a guarded secret, and good as hell. Simmie stacks paper to the ceiling off those wings. Honey Pig is the best Korean BBQ your going to get at 3am without cooking it yourself. Denny’s is, well, Denny’s, and Double-T has the hugest selection of random food you’ll ever find, and fresh baked goods. All of these are also open 24/7 except Simmies, which I believe closed at 2 or 3am.

For me, however, nothing beats fried chicken, and nothing tops the 3 choices I wrote about above. I’m so sure you will enjoy them that  I would be willing to bet them against fried chicken from any other region of the country. Yes, Bojangles and Church’s Chicken included. There’s only one way you’ll ever know though. Go grab a piece and send me a comment when you do.

~Wong_83@Hotmail.com

Bear Grylls: Rugged Hero of Masculinity

Like I said, Bear Grylls is my f&$king Hero.

If anyone would be my role model, a father-figure/brother, it would be the host of Man vs. Wild. If you haven’t seen this show, it’s very entertaining, what with the eating bugs, climbing steep cliffs, jumping out of airplanes, and doing push-ups naked in the Arctic!! He’s a cross between James Bond, Joe Rogan and Hercules. If he were even a bit more masculine, he would start making Terminator movies, become the Governator of California, and cheat on Maria Shriver with a fat, ugly Mexican maid.

But I’m getting off topic(Editor’s Note: Author thinks Schwarzenegger is masculine). Here is a premise of every/any episode of Man vs. Wild:

1. Bear appears on-screen.

2. Bear does backflip out of helicopter, with or without a parachute.

3. Bear lands on the ground/in a lake and immediately starts chopping at rotten stumps, looking for the nastiest insects he can find.

4. Bear proceeds to eat said insects, you can hear the crunching and see legs and pincers poking out of his mouth.

5. Bear says with an English accent, “Taste haarible, but this will give me loads of protein.”

6. Bear says, “Let’s move on then.”  Bear proceeds to randomly pick the hardest route possible, usually including jagged icy cliffs, eighty-foot waterfalls, dangerous class-5 rapids, and jumping over a ravine into a ten-story pine tree. (Note to self, do not do ANY of this if I want to survive. Instead, I should eat tons of fucking coconuts, clams, oysters, plant roots; Basically be lazy as shit like Survivorman.)

7. Bear lights signal fire near his newest shelter. He then immediately dives back into the jungle before anyone has a chance to spot the signal fire. What’s the point of the fire???

8. Bear finds random snake. Bear clubs snake with random stick.

8. Sky opens up and dumps torrential rain on Bear, since that’s what happens in tropical rain-forest. No need to worry because Bear can light a fire anywhere, anytime. Dry firewood and fluffy fire-starter can conveniently be found anywhere in the world if your name is Bear Grylls.

9. Bear puts snake on fire, skin still attached. He says it’s for the nutrients but I don’t believe him. I think he likes eating terrible, rubbery snake-meat. He then proceeds to bite right into the snake, skin, spine and all. He says it tastes terrible but he needs all the calories he can get. In actuality, Bear has no taste buds. At least that’s what I think.

10. Bear puts out campfire and jumps over towering

8. Bear does some Parkour, randomly jumping, flipping, sliding and running through loose and dangerous conditions. He then warns viewers that in a ‘survival situation,’ you must be careful. A sprained/broken ankle or other injury is even more serious than usual in a hostile environment. If that’s true, why are you doing Parkour off the edge of a cliff?

9. At some point, Bear comes along a rapidly flowing river. He tells us not to underestimate fast-flowing jungle/glacial rivers and shortly thereafter jumps into the dangerous river. Sometimes he makes a raft out of tin cans, plastic jugs, rusty sheet metal and shoelaces/jungle vines. Inevitably the raft sinks after a short interlude, leaving him flying through some whitewater rapids… filled with rocky outcroppings.

10. He miraculously survives, regardless of what predicament he is in. Towards the end of the show, regardless of what vast uninhabited area of the world he’s in, Bear suddenly spots a Boat/Plane/Helicopter. He makes another signal fire and gets spotted miraculously, all in a few short minutes.

11. Sometimes he doesn’t get picked up, but instead ends his newest adventure by doing something incredibly dangerous, such as outrunning a train and then jumping on the moving train. Another time he makes a raft, rowing his way across arctic waters, regardless of the fact that his raft is leaking, AND he doesn’t know when or where he might be rescued. Again he’s saved in the nick of time.

If this isn’t crazy enough, on top of everything, on various occasions our valiant host puts himself in needless and exceedingly dangerous situations, just to show the viewers what to do, just in case. Just in case of WHAT?! Do you really need to jump out of an airplane and cut off your parachute, thousands of feet in the air, just so you can show us what to do in case? How about jumping butt naked into a frozen lake, swimming under the ice to another hole while struggling to keep his body from freezing to death.

I know it’s television but I’m pretty sure that in any survival situation, I wont be diving into any deep caves looking for bats & bugs to eat. I’m not paddling through shark infested waters on a flimsy bamboo raft, nor am i going to explore a tiny crack in a glacier that might crush or trap me. I’m not going to rappel down the side of a cliff, hanging from a rock that might fall apart at any second. I’m not doing anything dangerous for that matter.

This is my idea of surviving the wild.

I’m sitting my ass down in the first place I deem relatively safe, with access to food and water. I’m setting up a gigantic signal fire, burning down the entire forest while tossing plastic, rubber, and anything else that’s harmful to the ozone. This will create black smoke that will be seen a few hundred miles away. No trees? I’m melting the polar ice caps, creating a massive rock-slide in the mountains… whatever it takes to get myself noticed, even if it means destroying the environment on a global scale.

Oh and as for the wildlife, I’ll look for something edible from the remains of some pristine rain-forest. All those worms, grasshoppers, beetles and snakes charred well-done, killing off any bacteria that might have caused me to vomit or have diarrhea. If that doesn’t work, I’m finding a large branch, turning it into a spear and killing off anything that moves. This includes any possible endangered species that might be living nearby. If this doesn’t get me noticed by the scientific community, I don’t know what will.

If I was an action hero, I might do things differently. I’m not and neither is the average person watching Man vs. Wild.  Recently, there was a fan special episode called Fans vs. Wild. Two fans were randomly chosen, joining Bear on a trip to the Canadian North. One guy was from New York. The other was Minnesota. They were scared to death and only barely completed a few of the easier tasks Bear does on a weekly basis.If the things he does regularly were necessary, it seems like the fans would have died within a few days at most.

Now that’s masculinity at it’s best. Crazy, reckless but so entertaining to watch.

Now I’d be more like Les Stroud from the show Survivorman. Sometimes he eats bugs and does dangerous things, but usually he just sits around a campfire, sleeping a lot and cooking whatever supplies are easy to find. Those vegetable roots and leaves seem a lot more palatable than live scorpions or tarantulas. Instead, Les just plays his harmonica and a tiny guitar on occasion. He probably wouldn’t be able to self-rescue but who the hell cares? His chances of dying of hypothermia, starvation, drowning, getting stung by dangerous insects, injected with venom or falling off the side of a mountain are greatly reduced. Isn’t that more important than looking cool in the wild?

I sure think so.

Here’s my solution, listen carefully. Don’t go to dangerous places by yourself. Make sure you have a guide if you go to the rain-forest. If you have to go somewhere dangerous, alone, make sure you bring plenty of supplies. This includes a very sharp knife, a FEW full water bottles. When packing what you believe is necessary, double it. Add things you can easily carry that you might even think aren’t necessary. Bring lots of non-perishable food like granola bars, peanut butter and spam. Bring something to start fires and even a cheap sleeping bag. This may seem like overkill but trust me, little things like this are the difference between life and death in the wilderness. Even a pint of liquor or a bag of candy can revitalize your morale/spirits.

Actually, just don’t go into the wild. I’d rather watch it on television at home where I’m relatively safe from harm. If I ever feel the need to go camping in the wild, I’ll set up a tent in the backyard. With s’mores.

MSW, Wong_83@hotmail.com