Detroit’s Breakfast House & Grill (now the Hudson Café) was where I first experienced the textural contrast of pillowy waffle and crunchy fried chicken skin, and the sweet-and-salty harmony of juicy dark meat chicken and a slick of maple syrup. The pairing was so satisfying that I fell into a ritual of having it delivered every Sunday morning after a late night out. It wasn’t until many years later that I thought to try this dish in my own style using Hong Kong egg waffles (aka eggettes) and karaage (small bites of Japanese fried chicken). The combination— enhanced with the use of Szechuan peppercorns in the maple syrup and splashes of chili oil—became so popular that I was constantly encouraged to enter local fried chicken and waffle competitions (I never could bring myself to; I don’t really enjoy competitive cooking). I particularly like tearing up the waffle into little individual pieces, then taking a fork and stabbing into one of those pieces, then stabbing a piece of chicken, then stabbing another piece of waffle. You now have a tiny and perfect fried chicken and waffle sandwich that you can eat plain or dunk into a ramekin of warm Szechuan-spiced maple syrup. The waffles are best made in a Hong Kong–style waffle/eggette maker, which they sell online in varying levels of quality. I understand it’s a very specialized thing and of course you’re free to use whatever waffle maker you already have, but the experience won’t be quite the same without one. I’ve heard you can try to sub vanilla pudding mix for custard powder, but I’ve never tried it myself. 

Serves 4

Fried chicken

  • ⅓ cup light soy sauce

    TST- Kung Food- Book Cover Kung Food Jon Kung
  • ⅓ cup Shaoxing wine

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground white pepper

  • 1½ to 2 pounds boneless skin-on chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces

  • Neutral oil, for frying

  • 2 cups potato starch

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 3 large eggs


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1½ cups sugar

  • 2 tablespoons custard powder (available online)

  • 1 tablespoon nonfat milk powder

  • 1 tablespoon tapioca starch

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1½ cups whole milk

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for the waffle maker

  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • Szechuan-Spiced Maple Syrup (see below), for serving 

Marinate the chicken: In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce, wine, sugar, and fish sauce. Add the chicken, stir to coat, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken from the marinade and transfer to a paper towel–lined plate, then return it to the refrigerator to air dry for 30 minutes.

Fry the chicken: Preheat the oven to 200°F.

Fill a heavy saucepan, wok, or Dutch oven with neutral oil to a depth of 1½ inches and heat over medium-high heat to 350°F (or set your deep fryer to 350°F). Have a paper towel–lined baking sheet nearby.

Place the potato starch in a medium bowl and the flour in a second medium bowl. Mix 1 tablespoon of the salt, 1½ teaspoons of the black pepper, and 1½ teaspoons of the white pepper into each bowl. In a small bowl, beat the eggs.

Bread the chicken using a dry-wet-dry sequence: Working in batches, dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, then coat it in egg, then dredge it in the potato starch mixture. Gently place the breaded chicken in the hot oil (do not overcrowd) and fry until the chicken is golden and the internal temperature reaches 165°F, about 3 to 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer the chicken to the paper towels to drain, and repeat with the remaining chicken. Once you’re finished with the whole batch of chicken, give it a quick double fry to really get them crispy, about 1 to 3 minutes. Set them all on a tray and keep the fried chicken warm in the oven until you’re ready to serve it.

Make the waffles: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, custard powder, milk powder, tapioca starch, and baking powder. In a separate medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk, 2 tablespoons oil, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk just to combine.

Heat a waffle maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Using a pastry brush, dab a bit of oil onto the plates of the waffle maker (every one I’ve come across has a nonstick coating, so avoid sprays, as those don’t work well on nonstick surfaces). Add enough batter to fill the iron per the manufacturer’s instructions and flip, if necessary (an eggette maker will require you to flip). Use the first waffle to gauge how much batter is needed to fill the iron going forward. Cook the waffles until golden and keep them warm in the oven until serving. Divide waffles and chicken evenly among serving plates and pass the syrup.

Szechuan-Spiced Maple Syrup

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 cups pure maple syrup

  • ¼ cup Szechuan peppercorns

  • 1 to 2 cups dried Szechuan chilies (or any fresh hot red chili), chopped (quantity depends on desired spice level)

    In a small saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a simmer over medium heat. Add the peppercorns and cook for 5 minutes, reducing the heat to low if it looks like it will boil over. Add the chilies and cook, tasting every 5 minutes, until the syrup reaches your desired spice level; it will become spicier the longer it simmers. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a heat-safe container (discard the solids). Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Warm before serving.

Reprinted with permission from Kung Food: Chinese American Recipes from a Third-Culture Kitchen by Jon Kung © 2023. Photographs © 2023 by Johnny Miller. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

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