Jerk Fried Chicken Jamaica and the Caribbean ➔
As a child, Trey Lamont would visit Caribbean relatives on the East Coast, then yearn for their distinct spice combinations back home in Seattle. As an adult, he combines those worldly flavors with his culinary training to produce a majestic half chicken, fried just past golden, its skin a terrain of crusted spice. Lamont excels at the more traditional version of jerk chicken, but when building his restaurant menu, the chef asked himself, “What do people freaking love?” Fried chicken, duh. It proved a good representation of jerk’s definitive flavors—allspice, thyme, and scotch bonnets—since Lamont’s dry rub sticks to the chicken like a dredge, minus any actual flour. Each of his brined birds receives three rounds of seasoning, the final clinging to an intermediary layer of tamarind sauce to deliver a low roar of flavor. Belltown
Ayam Goreng Masala ➔ Malaysia…by way of New Delhi
In 2013, Kevin Burzell and Alysson Wilson parlayed passionate study of Malaysian food into a Capitol Hill restaurant, a rare Seattle destination for nasi lemak, roti jala, and other favorites from this island nation’s multifaceted cuisine. Over the years, though, they’ve adapted the fried chicken in all sorts of cross-cultural directions. The current version is rooted in the week Burzell spent wandering New Delhi’s street food stalls back in 2019. A yogurt and garam masala marinade gives the meat a sort of lilt, but the most memorable part happens at the end. Burzell tempers whole spices in hot ghee—first mustard seeds, then cumin, fennel, chilies, and curry leaves—to amplify flavors as they blanket chicken with extra texture.
Ayam Goreng ➔ Malaysia
Chong Boon Ooi makes remarkable ramen with house-cranked noodles in his shop on Capitol Hill. But when he expanded Ooink’s concise appetizer menu, he reverted to the classic fried chicken he ate growing up in Malaysia. “This is what my mom made,” he says—no marinade, almost no flour, no complex double fry. Just a striking assortment of fresh spices (turmeric, galangal, curry leaf, lemongrass, garlic, chilies) ground up to coat each drumstick. “Over there, protein is expensive,” says Ooi. Ayam goreng’s bold flavors mean “you can eat one piece of meat with a lot of rice.” During the pandemic, he started offering a sandwich version that’s just as inspired (and only $8).
Karaage ➔ Japan
Technically, the garlic, ginger, and soy sauce marinade defines Japan’s signature fried chicken (oh, and thighs—always thighs). Chef Yoshi Matsumoto also adds dashi, a trick he picked up from chefs in Japan, to layer in “a different kind of umami.” His Belltown restaurant goes through 200 pounds of chicken a week, fried to a shade of marigold that practically matches the dining room walls. Subtle cornstarch amplifies chicken’s natural charms rather than wrapping it in crunch, and the rainbow of dipping sauces—spicy mayo, curry ketchup, mango barbecue sauce—sidesteps tradition to satisfy Seattle diners. While karaage is a superlative drinking snack, Matsumoto also serves plenty for lunch, in Hawaiian-inspired combo plates with macaroni salad or curry: “It’s a good partner for both beer and rice.”
Chongqing Chicken Sichuan, China ➔
Back in the American heyday of orange chicken and beef broccoli, two Chengdu natives channeled their nostalgia for break-a-sweat spicy Sichuan into a restaurant in Southern California. The Seattle outpost in Chinatown–International District serves perhaps the town’s best Chongqing laziji chicken under a deceptively tame moniker: crispy chicken with red chili pepper. Bite-size morsels get a deep-fry to lock in moisture, then a wokked follow-up tossed with Sichuan peppercorns, toasted sesame seeds, and generous lengths of red chilies. Together they touch off a complex chain reaction—salty, tingly, numb—on pleasant repeat. Chengdu Taste has two versions of this dish on its menu, a traditional bone-in chicken and a boneless take that’s easier to eat. Either way, snatch up that chicken with your chopsticks and leave the peppers behind.
504 Fifth Ave S, Chinatown–International District, 206-333-0457
Korean Fried ChickenKorea ➔
Seattle’s home to a lot of excellent Korean-style fried chicken, from international chains (Bonchon, Bb.q Chicken) to homegrown adaptations like Bok a Bok. But this unassuming spot in an Edmonds retail center delivers a superlative version, fried twice in olive oil for that signature delicate crackle. Along the way, gently seasoned batter firms into choppy swells that almost look as if someone rolled this chicken in cornflakes. Each piece is equally enjoyable sauceless or doused in honey butter garlic. Stars in the Sky also delivers the thrill of devouring this basket of chicken at a bar (pandemic notwithstanding), along with some beer or soju, and the traditional accompaniment, pickled radish sprinkled with salt and pepper.
Frango a PassarinhoBrazil ➔
A low-key newcomer tacks empty burlap coffee bags to the ceiling and infuses a decidedly un-vibrant stretch in Shoreline with chef-owner Flavio Moreno’s classic Brazilian dishes. This includes the drinking snack that translates to “little birdie chicken,” a cheerful jumble of chicken (broken down in Botteco’s kitchen) infused with deep garlic flavors. Moreno’s version amps up the garlic “just because I like it” and holds off on frango a passarinho’s other key ingredient, lime, until the very end. Squeeze a wedge over that crisped skin and it vaults those garlicky flavors into tropical
territory, full of hot nights and cold beer. Shoreline
Amaravati ChickenSouthern India ➔
In a beige-and-brick Snoqualmie shopping center, chef Ajay Panicker weaves nuances from India’s southernmost regions into his amaravati chicken, an appetizer loosely based on the dish known as chicken 65, but with a few extra fireworks. Here, the indulgence of battered, fried chicken is merely the starting point for a coating of sour cream, lemon, and spices (garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander, garam masala), a palate-popping combo of acid and heat. Chicken stays crunchy, even bathed in that pumpkin-
colored sauce. Amaravati chicken remains a top seller on a menu filled with destination fare—plus a new cloud kitchen venture (favekitchens.com) ups its availability within Seattle. Snoqualmie
Pollo CarpioneNorthern Italy ➔
While visiting family in Italy’s Piedmont region, Marcus Lalario discovered this dish of chicken, coated in bread crumbs and fried, then steeped in white wine, vinegar, and a ton of herbs—a rare fried chicken dish intended to be cold. You don’t find it much in America, which is why Lalario insisted it appear on the menu of the Italian restaurant he opened in Georgetown last year. Mezzanotte returned from a winter hiatus in April with Jason Stratton in the kitchen. No surprise, one of the city’s most esteemed Italian chefs also made this dish back in his Spinasse days.
Hot ChickenNashville ➔
A sort of Tennessee dialect permeates the spice levels at this chill fried chicken hangout in Interbay. Here, ordering chicken “naked” means just enough spice to induce a light sweat. The hottest option, “insane,” leaves taste buds and sinuses sputtering for mercy. Sisters and Brothers began as a bar in Georgetown, Seattle’s first outpost for Nashville’s particular style of melt-your-face fried chicken, supposedly born as a form of mouth-singeing revenge on a cheating husband in the 1930s. Sisters and Brothers brines its version in hot sauce and buttermilk and deploys four types of peppers and an astronomical quantity of cayenne. Chicken emerges a shade of deep crimson you’d expect to see on a steak rather than on tenders, wings, and dark meat combos.
Taiwanese Popcorn ChickenTaiwan ➔
Favorite street food dishes from Taiwanese night markets exist by day at a counter in Greenwood, courtesy of chef Lucy Ye. This includes a heap of crunchy morsels often Anglicized as “popcorn chicken.” Each (gluten-free) bite delivers a cohesive burst of salt and pepper, plus a memorable, almost crumbly texture thanks to a coating of hard-to-source sweet potato starch. Ye and her business/life partner, Joe, also make their own syrup for the house bubble teas, a traditional companion to Taiwanese chicken.
More Great Local chicken, from Northwest icons to legit newcomers.
Local chicken legend Ezell Stephens went on to found this duo of shops in Lake City and Everett. His recipe has nudged ever-so-slightly spicier over the years, with chicken reliably juicy.
Lake City and Everett
Stephens parted ways with his original restaurant, but it mastered the art of the fry (not to mention the mashed potatoes) back when Oprah ruled the airwaves—and had Stephens cater her birthday.
Part of the appeal lies in owner Brian “Cookie” Chandler’s hyperfolksy patois. The other (bigger, juicier) part—those crinkly good wings and drums. The former popup now resides inside Quality Athletics in Pioneer Square.
Fried bird—whole, half, wings, in a sandwich, on waffles—emerged as the superstar of a versatile menu over the past year.
A Big Bucket of Plot Device
I N THE K-DRAMA Crash Landing on You, some undercover visitors from North Korea press their faces against the front window of a Bb.q Olive Chicken restaurant in Seoul’s posh Gangnam district, their stomachs growling in agony at the sight of so much offhand indulgence. The show follows wealthy Seoul businesswoman Yoon Se-Ri, who meets a straitlaced hunk of an army captain when she becomes stranded in North Korea after a paragliding mishap. Later in the season (which you can stream on Netflix), the two gaze chastely at one another across Se-Ri’s dining table while tucking into a delivery of that same Bb.q Olive Chicken, the twice-fried crackle standing in for their electric attraction.
As product placement goes, it’s not subtle. But it is effective; after
Crash Landing on You became a hit in South Korea, sales at Bb.q Olive Chicken reportedly increased 100 percent. The franchise, known in the states simply as Bb.q Chicken, shows up in a number of other popular K-dramas, including Goblin, a runaway favorite that centers on an immortal general on a quest for his human bride. It also shows up in Seattle, specifically in a shop near the University of Washington and a satellite counter inside District H in South Lake Union. The chicken is dynamite—even if you don’t share it with a 900-year-old warrior displaced in time, or a dreamboat in uniform.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story included a mention of Edouardo Jordan and JuneBaby. Ten days after this feature was published, the Seattle Times Seattle Met ran a story chronicling accusations of sexual misconduct or unwanted touching by more than a dozen former female employees and associates of Jordan. stands in strong opposition to this type of behavior and has removed mentions of Jordan from this story.