Why are beer and soda often added to batter for frying chicken, meat or fish? The little bubbles. Froth. They make the batter lighter which translates to a crispier coating for the chicken, meat or fish after frying. Soda water does not add flavor; not everyone has the taste for beer. The wise option? Ginger ale. And that was how this ginger-ale battered fried chicken fingers came to be.
Ginger ale has punch, it is sufficiently sweet to balance with the salt in the batter, and it has all the required froth to create that light but ultra crispy coating that makes fried chicken so good.
But don’t rely on the outstanding crust alone! You want to flavor the chicken well too. Salt and pepper form the base for the seasonings for these ginger ale-battered fried chicken fingers. On top of that, there was thyme, cayenne and paprika. The seasoning came in two stages too. The chicken fillets were tossed with the seasonings; the batter was seasoned separately.
Why not just season the batter? Won’t the chicken catch all the flavors anyway when dipped in it? It will but not sufficiently. I’m a believer of layering the flavors. Season every step for optimum results.
Another question I anticipate is why toss the chicken with flour before dipping in batter. Because the flour helps the batter to stick to the chicken fingers.
What’s with the thyme and dill combo? I love the aroma of thyme. In terms of flavor, it is earthy with hints of mint and lemon. Dill has citrusy scent and flavor. The combination of minty and lemony thyme, citrusy dill and the ginger in ginger ale is simply superb.
Why more dill than thyme? Because dill loses flavor fast in the heat. To counter the loss of flavor during frying, I just use more dill.
- 6 to 8 chicken thigh fillets
To season the chicken
For the batter
- 1 cup ginger ale
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
To fry the chicken
- 3 to 4 cups cooking oil
- Wipe the chicken fillets dry with paper towels. Cut into strips about half an inch wide.
- In a resealable bag, shake together all the ingredients for the seasoning. Add the chicken, seal the bag and shake well. Make sure that every piece of chicken is coated with the seasonings. Marinate the chicken in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- In a large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the batter.
- Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan. Ideally, the depth of the oil should be at least three inches. How much oil you will actually need depends on the size and shape of your wok or frying pan.
- Take the chicken out of the fridge. Dump into the batter. Mix lightly but thoroughly.
- When the oil is hot (350F if you're using a thermometer), drop the chicken fingers one by one into the wok or frying pan. COOK IN BATCHES of eight to ten pieces to make sure that the temperature of the oil does not drop tremendously.
- Cook the chicken fingers in the hot oil for four to eight minutes, flipping them over halfway through the cooking time.
- Scoop out the chicken, move to a rack or on a stack of paper towels. Cook the next batch, and so on, and so forth, until all the chicken fingers have been fried.
- Serve the ginger ale-battered fried chicken fingers as an appetizer, snack or as a main dish.
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