Why I Stopped Being A Vegetarian For Korean Fried Chicken In Toledo

. January 25, 2017.
Chef CJ tosses the goods
Chef CJ tosses the goods

I’ve been a vegetarian for about 15 years, but the decision was never difficult. Growing up as a Greek-American, I’ve had my fair share of Saw-like carnivorous exposures: I saw an entire lamb roasting on a spit in my backyard, with magiritsa (lamb brain soup) offered on the side. I grew up watching my Yia Yia scoop the eye out of a grilled fish with a piece of bread. When my father did the same, he was surprised when I did not also want to taste the “deliciously rubbery” texture.

So, when I realized “being a vegetarian” was even “a thing,” I was set. However, my hard fast rules would change over time, and I even experimented with gyros as a teen.

“Nothing with a face” has been my rule since I was 11, but one in particular always stared back at me: the face of literally anyone enjoying fried chicken.

Spread your wings

Although vegetarians generally eat well, we are often mistaken for health nuts. To this, I feel a duty to say: “Kale no. We love gluttony.” If I could sustain myself on butter and sugar, I would— meat can easily be avoided.

However, protein is required to live, so I frequently gorge tofu (honestly, it isn’t bad) at Balance Pan-Asian Grill. Quick, convenient and vegan-friendly, the locally-owned franchise offers lifestyle food with options for everyone. I trust it, I love it and eat it frequently.

Since owners HoChang “CJ” Jang and Prakash “PK” Karamchandani opened their first location in February 2010, the duo has shown themselves as nothing but innovative. Boasting unique and frequently-changing menus, inventive fusions of flavors, sustainable packaging, green business practices and healthy food, Balance has won over a large customer base with “lifestyle food.”

Now, Balance has three locations, a BubbleTea room and a new venture on the horizon: Auspicious Fried Chicken + Dumplings.

Checks and balances

On Sunday, January 29, Balance will officially roll out their very first pop-up at their Maumee location. Offering a paired- down menu with bold flavors, Auspicious serves Korean-style fried chicken and dumplings. For those used to Balance’s quick and healthy cuisine, be ready for change.

The simple menu only offers fried chicken, with your choice of sauce, served with the dumpling and kimchi of the day.

Despite the fried food, the concept stays sustainable. Auspicious uses local, heritage chickens (I probably could have asked the name of the clucker who sacrificed himself for me, but I did not want to know) and makes extra crispy, gluten-free fried chicken using a polished method.

“We bring in a different fryer, since the one we use for Balance doesn’t take meat. Then we use a specific blend of oils for the flavors and cook it a few times— once all the way through to make it juicy, a second time to make the crust juicy and then we flip it in the wok to caramelize the sauces without getting the crust soggy.”

Currently, Auspicious offers two types of sauces: sweet and spicy.

Balance Grill's Fried Chicken

“Kale no. We love gluttony.”

“The sweet sauce is a traditional Korean, but we use tamari (not soy sauce) to keep it gluten free,” says PK. CJ adds crushed peanuts, explaining that the garnish “complements the nuttiness, and the sweet, glaze, and adds a little more texture.”

“Our spicy chicken is our play on Nashville- style chicken. What they do is take the oil from the fryer, cook it with chili peppers and powders until they get the oil hot, then drench the chicken,” explains PK. “We do the same method, but use the Bang Bang Sauce, which is made in-house with seven different peppers. That sauce is served cold in our stores and it now takes on a different flavor when heated.”

Needs… more… chicken…

So, how long until you can eat Korean- style fried on a daily basis? According to PK and CJ, stay tuned.

“Eventually, we are looking at either getting a spot in West Toledo, close to the university, or somewhere downtown,” says PK. “We’ll have to wait until it becomes a full- scale restaurant. For now, we want to polish the concept by doing it as a pop-up with customer interfacing to gain feedback.”

“We have other projects, but we’re putting a lot of love into this,” echoes CJ. “We have the recipe down and we’re trying new things. We love feedback.”

Until then, join the experiment.

Noon until they sell out, every Sunday. Balance’s Maumee Location, 514 The Boulevard, Maumee
419-893-9999 | eatauspicious.com

  • cshap

    I don’t understand….most people go vegetarian/vegan because it is an ethical imperative, and it doesn’t matter how deep you fry or how many spices you put on a dead carcass, it’s still a dead animal. Plus, I’ve had my fair share of vegan fried chick’n and it’s just as good as the dead animal version. (Also, let’s be clear that the animal did not “sacrifice him/herself for you, as much as that helps sooth your conscience. He/she was slaughtered so you could eat something you think is tasty).

    • Billreddy

      How funny