The Fried Chicken Style You Need To Try

They're enjoyed as nuggets or as butterflied and flattened pieces of chicken breast. But regardless of how they're consumed, Taiwanese fried chicken bites, aka "popcorn chicken," "salted crispy chicken," or "salt and pepper chicken," per The News Lens, is a snack that meets a gustatory need you didn't even know existed.

Fried chicken itself has a murky origin story. For decades, it was originally thought that the American South had come up with the cooking style. But "The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink" (via BBC Travel) says the roots of fried chicken is in Scotland, where author John F. Mariani said the Scots "enjoyed frying their chickens, rather than boiling or baking them as the English did." It is also believed that Scottish people who settled in the South could have taught enslaved African Americans how to cook the dish. 

Still, the creation of popcorn chicken is much more straightforward, per The News Lens. Its existence was reportedly inspired by an American classic: KFC

Taiwan fried chicken was inspired by an American favorite

This highly flavorful, Taiwanese take on KFC was created when the matriarch of a family surnamed "Yeh" opened a fried chicken stand in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan in 1979, per The News Lens. While we can imagine she must have been taken by its flavors and textures, The News Lens says mama Yeh wasn't too keen on KFC's portion sizes, which she thought were too large and difficult to eat whilst walking. 

Yeh hit upon the idea of cutting boneless meat up into bite-sized chunks and marinating it before throwing it in a vat of deep oil to cook. Given that they were so tiny, the bite-sized chicken pieces were easy to pick up and eat by skewering them with a sharpened stick. As the chicken is seasoned with a special mix of spices, it became known as "salted crispy chicken."

KFC's 11 herbs and spices may be a closely guarded trade secret, but the same cannot be said of Taiwanese fried chicken, whose flavor is derived from a marinade made with soy sauce, rice wine, garlic, five-spice powder, and white pepper, per The New York Times. And if you want to make a gluten-free version of the crunchy dish, the Times also helpfully provides a recipe that has the chicken coated in tapioca flour. The dish is then deep-fried with basil before it's enjoyed piping hot.