Yangnyeom tongdak has been steadily on my mind lately. That’s KFC, but the ‘K’ is for Korean, not Kentucky, in this fried chicken. When I get a hankering, I usually head over to Red Wings on Geary Blvd. – problem solved. But, there’s nothing like go-to meal excitement getting crushed by blackened windows and a “Closed” sign. And they mean forever.
Surprised, sad, starving, I remembered hearing about a wings place out in the avenues. I speed-walked the 15 or so blocks to Hot Sauce and Panko.
Terrence and Roxanne Luk opened this “little shop that could” 15 months ago on Clement Street, in the part of the Richmond that seems like it’s constantly taking a nap. I spotted it by the line of people on the otherwise vacant block – a good sign. Aside from wings, Hot Sauce and Panko sells 200 bottles of “pourable pepper sauces,” two sandwiches, and a waffle.
I walked in and barked an order of “KFC five piece” (5 pieces for $5.89, 8 for $8.89) over a few hungry heads. About 10 minutes later, a steaming bundle of large, orange baby fists arrived.
KFC is Korean late-night/bar food, and can be pretty standard – sometimes too hard outside, too oily or dry inside. The seasoning (and usually your intoxication) is what makes it highly edible. But Hot Sauce and Panko’s KFC gave me pause after the first bite. The skin is thick, but airy. The meat is juicy. The blue agave addition to the standard ginger and gojuchang (a savory red chili paste) flavors had me going back the very next day. Same order, same satisfaction.
Terrence explained to me on day two of my new romance that “real” KFC, like how it’s made in Korea, isn’t made with batter like his, but instead a double or triple frying technique that leaves the skin crispy, but thin. This variety is rarely seen in the States (SF KFC popular suppliers Toyose, Cocobang, Namu Gaji, the brand new K-Pop, all use batter).
Terrence also told me about a sleeper spot (that will remain nameless) out at the end of Noriega that would not pass health inspection, but makes good “authentic” KFC. Tasting “authentic” KFC in the city will definitely have to happen at some point. For now, Hot Sauce and Panko, you win.
Hot Sauce and Panko is on Clement and 17th Ave. They’re open Wednesday through Saturday, noon-6:30 p.m., Sunday, noon-5:30 p.m., but check their website (it’s hilarious, btw) first because they sell out early, and often.
All photos by Summer Sewell