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Korean fried chicken at Dak & Bop

Image: Alice Levitt

To a good portion of Americans, the words "fried chicken" mean whatever emerged from granny's skillet on Sundays or a bucket of KFC. But we're not the only ones applying boiling oil to fresh fowl. In Houston, it's possible to enjoy fried chicken from across the world—and with this list, that's exactly what we propose you do.

Al Aseel Grill & Café

The unique touch at this Middle Eastern grill is the dusting of sumac that completes the fried bird. Dip it in piquant garlic sauce or spicy pepper paste. Sides of perfectly cooked rice and chopped tomato-cucumber salad are as inimitable as the chicken itself.

Barbecue Inn

If the waitresses at this circa-1946 time capsule don’t call you “hon,’” you’ve done something very wrong. The 30-minute wait for the brined bird harks back to an earlier time, too, when folks did things a little more slowly, with a little more care—as shown in the juicy, crisp-skinned chicken that's remained in style for good reason.

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Barbecue Inn's fried chicken

Image: Alice Levitt

Dak & Bop

An influx of native-Korean fried-chicken chains has done nothing to dim the glow of Houston’s homegrown purveyor of double-fried poultry, cooked to order and worth the half hour of anticipation. There are five sauces, ranging from non-spicy soy-garlic to the smokey, fiery Hot & Spicy; luckily you can try more than one flavor to an order.

Himalaya

Southern-fried and tandoori chicken find a missing link in this fusion dish from owner Kaiser Lakshari. While the whole chicken—cut in eight pieces and sold as "HFC"— shares its marinade of garam masala, ginger and garlic with the Indian dish, the thick, crunchy batter is as American as it gets. The bird is served à la carte, so order a plate of liberally spiced vegetable biryani on the side.

Jollibee

The name “Chickenjoy” on the buckets at this massive, Philippines-based fast food chain (with more than 3,000 locations worldwide—and only one in Houston) tells you all you need to know. The crunchy skin surrounding schmaltz-covered meat is especially heartening between sips of pandan- or ube-flavored bubble tea, or finished with a colorful dessert of halo-halo.

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Fried chicken from King's Bierhaus

Image: Alice Levitt

King’s Bierhaus 

You no longer need to have an Austrian grandmother to enjoy Oma’s Famous Fried Chicken. This leg-and-thigh combo is stewed in broth before being coated in bread crumbs and fried. It may sound rich, but a side salad and bright cilantro dipping sauce lighten the indulgent chicken and warm, bacon-filled potato salad. 

Pollo Campero

What would it taste like if Colonel Sanders took a trip to Central America? Something like this ultra-crispy, well-spiced chicken. Get a leg-and-thigh or breast-and-wing meal, then load up on fresh sides. We like the crisp-edged plantains and the Chilean tomato-cucumber salad.

Pho Nhi

Marinated in ginger and fish sauce, Vietnamese com ga takes its cues from Hainanese chicken rice. The difference is the crispy skin, a deep copper color protecting juicy meat. Chicken fat flavors the mound of al dente rice, over which a fried egg spills its yolk. The $8 meal also includes a small salad and comforting seaweed soup.

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Pho Nhi's take on the bird.

Image: Alice Levitt

Punta Cana

There’s no breading or batter on the bite-sized chunks of chicharrón de pollo here, but they don’t need it—not when the bone-in meat is bursting with a garlicky, salty marinade. Get it with the buttery mashed plantain dish mofongo, which crackles with pork chicharrones, or rice dotted with pigeon peas.

Tainan Bistro

You don't need to peek at the English menu at this counter-service spot; just order the chicken steak and wait to fall in love. The flattened pieces of breast meat—marinated in soy, rice wine and five-spice, then dusted in flour, salt and pepper before frying—come with braised cabbage, a tea egg, tofu and rice topped with braised pork.

Zen Japanese Izakaya

What makes the karaage, essentially Japanese chicken nuggets, so bewitching? The thighs are marinated for at least 24 hours before they’re coated in flour and fried with skin still attached, for a chicken chicharrón that hangs off the tender, flavorful meat. Order it as an app or add rice and miso soup to make it a meal.