“The Bucket List” is a new series devoted to the best fried chicken in Los Angeles and the people who make it. When you think about the foods Los Angeles is known for — tacos, avocado toast, Thai, sushi, Chinese — fried chicken might not come to mind. But Los Angeles is home to some of the best fried chicken in the country, and Times Food writer Jenn Harris wants to eat and share it all.
She thinks of fried chicken as the great unifier; almost every culture has some form of fried poultry — often a dish rooted in comfort and family and good times. Jenn isn’t just a fried chicken tourist: She tries to (and usually does) eat fried chicken every day. She is at a new fried chicken joint the week it opens; she’s on a first-name basis with the places that have been good forever.
Jenn is the person to tell you where to find the best Taiwanese popcorn chicken or Korean chicken wings. She opines on the realness of Nashville hot chicken and who’s making it and can tell you why broasting chicken actually makes a damn fine fried chicken.
For the next 10 weeks, Jenn will introduce you to a fried chicken to know, love and be eating right now. Los Angeles is a fried chicken town, and this series is a love letter to all the great fried chicken in the city and the people behind it.
Ep. 1: Making Nashville hot chicken with Howlin’ Ray’s and Hotville
Fiery, melt-your-face-off, totally addictive Nashville hot chicken is the focus of our pilot episode, featuring Kim Prince of Hotville Chicken at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw mall and Johnny Ray Zone of Howlin’ Ray’s in Chinatown. Prince is hot chicken royalty; her great-great uncle Thorton invented the stuff in the 1930s. Zone was the first to bring hot chicken to L.A. and his fealty to the Prince family’s style and ethos has won him a fan in Prince. Jenn gets a lesson in how to make hot chicken from the two as they discuss the best ways to marinate, fry and eat fried chicken.
Ep. 2: Tasting the best fried chicken sandwiches in Los Angeles
A fried chicken sandwich can be a little like a Rorschach test: The specific imprint of grease and schmutz and stray vegetation it leaves behind are a picture of the person who made it, or at least a good look at how they take something already delicious and try to put their own spin on it.
In this episode, Jenn visits with two of her favorite fried chicken sandwiches in Los Angeles. The first — an unlikely alliance of schnitzel and Texas toast and herb-spiked mayonnaise — is as distinctive as everything chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson serve at their nouveau Middle Eastern spot Kismet. Jenn and the Sara(h)s then visit the Shad’s New Cali Catering food truck in Torrance to try chef Michael “Shad” Lawless’ Kickin’ Chicken sandwich. It’s closer to Southern tradition with a fried chicken breast, slaw and pickles on a buttery bun.
Ep. 3: Why is fried chicken so good?! We break it down with Sang Yoon
Frying chicken is a science and an art form. Knowing what tastes good is easy: juicy, well-seasoned meat plus crispy coating. How to make it delicious? That’s the tricky part.
In this episode, Jenn enlists the help of Sang Yoon, the guy behind Father’s Office and Lukshon, to get nerdy about frying. Sang may be best known for his Father’s Office burger, but he’s a mad scientist of a chef who Alton Browns whatever he’s making, and he knows how to make some pretty excellent fried chicken.
First, the two visit Tokyo Fried Chicken Company in Monterey Park to try the restaurant’s signature hybrid of Southern fried and Japanese karaage. Then Jenn and Sang head to his test kitchen at the Helms Bakery building in Culver City, where the chef breaks down the basics of frying and offers tips on how to make the best fried chicken. Does his method involve a secret soundwave machine? You’ll have to watch and see.
Ep. 4: Where to find the best Taiwanese fried chicken and boba in the San Gabriel Valley
In this episode, Jenn meets up with Jocelyn and Justine Wong to try some of the best fried chicken and boba in the SGV. The sisters, who grew up in Hong Kong and now live in Los Angeles, spend a good amount of time eating all over the SGV and chronicle their adventures on their blog and Instagram account called the Hangry Diary.
Jocelyn and Justine first take Jenn to Sinbala in Arcadia, a place that serves a version of Taiwanese popcorn chicken they say is close to what you’ll find at the night markets in Taiwan. Then they visit Tastea in Alhambra, one of Jenn’s favorite places for boba and chicken.
Ep. 5: We ranked the best fast-food fried chicken in Los Angeles
After a long day at work, a bucket or a box of fried chicken, eaten ripped open on a kitchen counter scattered with plastic cutlery, crumpled paper napkins and packets of hot sauce, is car-to-table dining at its finest.
There are dozens of fast food restaurants pushing poultry in Los Angeles, but which is best? Jenn enlists the help of Food columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson, the Power Rankings king, to help rank five fast-food chicken spots. The two embarked on a fast-food crawl across the city to eat at Jollibee, KFC, Popeyes, Krispy Krunchy and Church’s Chicken. They were rewarded with bellies full of chicken and a hankering for raw kale and Pepto-Bismol.
Ep. 6: Eating the best fried chicken wings in L.A. with actress Valerie Bertinelli
There’s no better way to get to know someone than over a basket of wings with your sleeves rolled up, hands greasy and sauce in the corners of your mouth. Are you a flats or drumette person? Do you prefer ranch or blue cheese?
Jenn introduces friends Valerie Bertinelli — actress and host of “Valerie’s Home Cooking” on the Food Network — and writer Jo Stougaard to some of the best wings in Los Angeles.
The episode starts at Ye Rustic Inn, a dive bar in Los Feliz famous for its classic Buffalo wings. Then Jenn takes Valerie and Jo to Chef Kang Sul Box, a new restaurant in Koreatown that specializes in Korean chicken wings. The three end their mini wing crawl at E.P. & L.P., a Southeast Asian restaurant in West Hollywood where chef Sabel Braganza has created wings so excellent they’re in a category all their own.
Ep. 7: Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about broasted chicken
You’ve probably seen signs advertising broasted chicken around town and wondered what it is. Is it the same as frying? Is it boiling, then roasting?
Jenn digs into the mysteries of broasted chicken (which is deep-fried in a pressure cooker!) with the help of cooking editor Genevieve Ko, who spent her childhood celebrating birthdays at Broaster Kitchen, a family-run fried chicken restaurant in Montebello. Mike Monroe, the second-generation owner whose family opened Broaster Kitchen in 1970, makes the case for why he thinks broasting is superior to all other methods of frying.
Ep. 8: How to make the fried chicken at Dulan’s on Crenshaw
Jenn meets up with Greg and Terry Dulan at Dulan’s on Crenshaw Boulevard. Their father, Adolf Dulan, known as the king of soul food, started serving fried chicken, smothered pork chops and cornbread at Aunt Kizzy’s Back Porch in Marina del Rey in 1985. He opened the first Dulan’s Soul Food in Inglewood in 1999, and the family later added a location in Gramercy Park as well as the Dulan’s on Crenshaw.
It’s a Los Angeles institution serving some of the best fried chicken in town. Watch to learn more about soul food in Los Angeles and to see how Greg and Terry make their family’s famous fried chicken.
Ep. 9: Eating chicken karaage in Tokyo and where to find it in Los Angeles
In this episode, Jenn heads to Tokyo. Well, she was in Tokyo last year with some friends, running around eating ramen, aged sushi, really expensive fruit and, of course, karaage.
When most people in the U.S. say karaage, they mean fried chicken. But karaage is actually a Japanese word that refers to all kinds of fried food— chicken just happens to be one of the most popular.
Back in Los Angeles, Jenn visits Tenkatori, home to some of her favorite karaage. Watch to learn more about chicken karaage in Japan, and where to find it here in Los Angeles.