I’m not usually one for deep fried beige items between a bun, but on this occasion, I couldn’t say no to Sanaa’s pleas for a take on Pop Eye’s famous chicken sandwich that could be made at home. And in case you’ve had your head under your pillow for the last few months, let me fill you in on the rage of fans that has spread like wild fowl, sorry wild fire, across the States. Pop Eye’s Chicken Sandwich was launched on 12th August, and the world continued to turn. Then a week later, Chick-fil-A, apparently America’s favourite restaurant, tweeted “Bun+Chicken+Pickles = all the [heart] for the original”. Just stating that Chick-fil-A was the first chicken sandwich out there. A few hours passed before Popeyes fired back ‘y’all good?’. And with that, the war was on. Chicken sandwich enthusiasts used #chickenwars and #chickensandwichwars to tweet and comment on everything from flavour to politics. Then the politicians weighed in, with some claiming that Afro Americans were more inclined to stand in line for a chicken sandwich than to vote, which was rapidly put down as a racist slur. In the end, what’s clear is that most elements of American life can be told through the chicken sandwich. The story of the #ChickenWars is a story about brand identity. It is a story of human identity. It is a story about chicken.
Predictably, for us it’s less about the surrounding furore and more about creating a DIY take on this chicken sandwich, one that might, or might not, make Popeyes pop their eyes.
Having spent hours scouring my cookbooks, and of course the internet, I knew that the basic premise was about a good bun, pickles, mayo and chicken. In most fast food restaurants, you probably wouldn’t want to ask where the chicken is sourced. And that counts for a lot with me, so I’d rather try and make these things at home using the best quality chicken I can find. The next challenge: how to make it as juicy and tender as the one from Pop Eyes (just jump on YouTube to see some of the reviews!). You’ll find that one of the key steps is the yoghurt marinade, as the acid in the yoghurt helps tenderize the chicken, making it super succulent.
2 chicken breasts, sliced into 3 inch strips.
450g natural yoghurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp ginger chilli relish or hot sauce of your choice
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp smoked paprika
Spicy Oil Mix:
3 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp brown sugar or date syrup
Oil for cooking- around 2 litres in a deep, narrow pan.
Cut the breasts into 3 inch strips.
Mix the yoghurt, lemon juice, egg, salt and relish together. Place the chicken strips in the yoghurt mix and allow to marinate overnight.
When ready to cook, heat the oil (should be enough to deep fry) to 180 degrees. Mix the flour with the cayenne pepper and smoked paprika. Remove the chicken strips one by one from the yoghurt marinade and then dip into the flour mix. When the oil is hot enough, drop the chicken pieces in one at a time. They should cook within around 5 minutes, but to be sure, skewer them to ensure there are no bloody juices coming out.
As soon as you take them out of the hot oil, brush them with the spicy oil.
Serve on a toasted Bbrood bun with herby mayonnaise, a lettuce leaf and some cucumber pickles.