I have a thing for copy-cat recipes. And by ‘thing’, I mean a desire to recreate, replicate and – dare I say – reinvent, my favourite restaurant dishes. This particular dish is an appetizer I first had at a fabulous Thai restaurant in Toronto. I’ve ordered it countless times to start my meal, and figured I would enjoy it at home as much as I did in the restaurant; so, to that end, I set out to recreate this appetizer using the same or similar ingredients that are reminiscent of the flavour and texture of the original.
As the name of the recipe suggests, these chicken appetizers are robust with the flavour of garlic, however, the flavour is by no means aggressive. Don’t get me wrong: if you’re not a garlic lover, you should probably steer clear of this recipe, but if you use garlic in cooking, then you will absolutely love this recipe. The garlic flavour, although fragrant and aromatic, is mellowed out by the buttermilk and the crumb coating, so each bite of chicken will leave only a faint and residual flavour of garlic in your mouth. When I first attempted to create these, I used Japanese panko crumbs (which are used to make tempura) and bread crumbs, but I found the coating, when fried, was too light and didn’t have a hearty crunch to it. To keep it as true to the restaurant’s appetizer as possible, I then experimented with a combination of corn flake crumbs (which you can purchase at your local grocer or make your own at home using corn flakes run through a food processor) as well as bread crumbs and the crunch it produced came pretty darn close to the restaurant’s version. Served with a sweet and sour sauce as it is in the restaurant, these were a dead ringer for the garlic chicken appetizers found in my favourite Thai restaurant.
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon (15 ml) canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup corn flake crumbs
1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil, for frying
Cut the chicken in strips about 2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Mince the garlic. Place the chicken in a bowl and combine with the garlic, oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, and paprika. Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. In a wide, shallow bowl, combine the corn flake crumbs, bread crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of salt. In a small bowl, add the buttermilk. Line up the three bowls starting with the raw chicken, followed by the buttermilk and, lastly, the crumb mixture. Dip the raw chicken pieces in the buttermilk until fully coated then dredge the chicken strips in the bread crumb mixture. In a medium pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Fry the chicken in batches until golden and completely cooked through. Drain the chicken strips on a plate lined with paper towel to collect the excess oil. Serve warm with your favourite dipping sauce.