Make Philadelphia's famous za'atar fried chicken

Michael Solomonov

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Prep time: 4 hours | Cook time: 20 minutes | Serves: 10


Chef Michael Solomonov may be known as the James Beard Award-winning chef responsible for translating Israeli cuisine to the American palate, but when he's not focusing his energy on salatim, he's playing with flavor at Federal Donuts.  Yes, the doughnuts are insane – salted 'tehina' glaze, blueberry mascarpone, pomegranate Nutella to name a few outrageous flavors – but locals really love going to Federal Donuts for the KFC: Korean fried chicken.

Below is chef Solomonov's recipe for the Master Fried Chicken, the base for all of the innovative types of Korean fried chicken served up at Federal Donuts. He's also included an optional za'atar blend, one of the many flavors you can enjoy his Korean fried chicken.

If you are enticed by the flavors of those doughnuts and love this Korean fried chicken, then check out the book Federal Donuts: The (Partially) True Spectacular Story for more recipes.


The Cure
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
The Batter
  • 3 cups cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups cold water
The Chicken
  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), cut into 10 pieces (including wings)
  • 2-3 quarts canola oil for frying
Za'atar Spice Blend
  • 1 cup za'atar
  • 1/2 cup sumac


The Cure

  1. Combine all the cure ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well blended. Add the chicken parts and get in there with your hands to coat each piece well.
  2. Put the coated pieces of chicken on a baking pan and cover with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

The Batter

  1. Combine the cornstarch, flour and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Slowly pour in the water and whisk until the mixture is smooth and the consistency of thin pancake batter.

Twice-Fried Chicken

  1. Clip a candy or deep-frying thermometer onto one side of a big enameled cast-iron pot and add 2 to 3 quarts of canola oil, enough so the chicken parts will be fully submerged. Oil expands as it heats, so don't overfill the pot.
  2. Heat the oil over low heat until it reaches 300°F. Meanwhile, bring the cured chicken to room temperature – you don’t want to fry ice-cold chicken because it throws o the timing. When the oil is hot, dip each chicken piece into the batter to fully coat.
  3. Hold a corner of each piece with your fingers and slide the battered legs and thighs into the oil. Be careful not to splash the hot oil. After 1 minute, add the wings; after 3 minutes, the breasts.
  4. Use a spoon to make sure the chicken pieces don’t stick together or to the bottom of the pot. If they do stick, gently separate them with the spoon, without tearing the precious crust.
  5. After 10 minutes total, with a slotted spoon, remove the chicken pieces to drain on paper towels. (The chicken won’t be fully cooked–there’s a second fry.)
  6. Let the chicken rest for 15 to 20 minutes. While it hangs out, reheat the oil to 350°F. Fry the chicken pieces again, this time for 4 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.
  7. With the slotted spoon, remove the chicken pieces to drain on a rack set over a fresh paper towel–lined baking sheet. If using a spice blend, drop the hot chicken pieces right into the bowl with the spices and dust to coat. If using a glaze, use a paint brush or a silicone brush to spread on the hot glaze.

Adding Za'atar Spice Blend

  1. Combine all za'atar ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. In the same bowl, dust the hot twice-fried chicken with the spice blend.

Michael Solomonov

About Michael Solomonov

Read more about Michael Solomonov here.


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