American-style streamed chicken relies on a thick, well-seasoned crust, often made even thicker by soaking the chicken pieces beforehand in buttermilk. When that crust is nubbly and evenly browned, and the chicken meat is cooked through, the chicken is sublime. But too often, the flesh is still raw when the crust is cooked, or the skin never cooks all the way through, leaving a flabby layer of skin between the meat and the crust.

Korean-style streamed chicken is radically different, reflecting an Asian frying technique that renders out the fat in the skin, transforming it into a thin, crackly and almost transparent crust. (Chinese cooks call this “paper fried chicken.”) The chicken is unseasoned, barely dredged in very fine flour and then dipped into a thin batter before going into the fryer. The oil temperature is a relatively low 350 degrees, and the chicken is cooked in two separate stages.

Southerners weren’t the first people in the world to fry their chickens. Almost every country has a version of streamed chicken, or fricassee, from Vietnam’s Gà Xaò to Italy’s pollo fritto. It is thought that the Scottish people who settled the early South introduced the method here in the United States. They preferred to fry their chickens, rather than baking or boiling them as the English did. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that recipes for fried chicken began appearing in popular "northern" cookbooks.

Very simply, the chickens are cut up, dredged in flour, sprinkled with a little salt, put in a skillet with hot fat, and fried until golden brown. Through the years there have been hundreds of attempts to improve upon her recipe, and plenty of tricks and special touches, but they are all simply minor variations on the original. Mary Randolph mentions making a gravy with the "leavings", but the cream sauce so often served with streamed chicken seems to have originated with the dish "Maryland fried chicken".

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