The Secret Behind Fuku’s Chicken Sandwich — Now Available at Rockefeller Center
David Chang loves fried chicken. This much is abundantly clear from Netflix’s “Ugly Delicious” episode aptly titled “Fried Chicken.” In it, the host and restaurateur explores the universal food that is fried chicken, including taking a long, hard look at its origins in the cooking of enslaved African-Americans.
Chang, however, had a thing for fried chicken long before he set out to understand its history and roots in the country. All one has to do is look back to 2015 when the secret chicken sando (in Japan, a crustless white bread sandwich with fillings) first made its appearance at Momofuku Noodle Bar, Chang’s immensely popular East Village restaurant.
The sandwich was so popular, in fact, that it wasn’t enough to simply make it an official part of the Momofuku menu. No, it deserved a room of its own. And, ta da: Fuku was born. Its recently opened brick-and-mortar location at Rockefeller Center provides easy access to its piping hot spicy fried chicken sando and jalapeno-seasoned waffle fries.
Lunchtime in the City
In the heart of New York City — otherwise known as Rockefeller Center — and smack-dab in the center of this heart is where you’ll soon find the new Fuku. Alex Munoz-Suarez, Fuku’s CEO since 2019, says they’re excited to open in this “iconic” location. Munoz-Suarez, who has been with Chang’s company at large since 2017, points out that Rockefeller Center is “one of the top three things on anyone's list.” Along with catering to existing fans of Chang and his robust lexicon of flavor-bursting must-have food items, the prime location also lends itself to introducing “our food to people that are outside of New York and give them a little taste of what they can do,” according to Munoz-Suarez.
The plans were in place pre-pandemic and, as with so many things, were halted amid Covid-19 restrictions and closures. Now that New York City is seeing a resurgence of activity, the Fuku CEO says it’s a great time to open up shop.
“Being a part of Rockefeller Center’s new restaurant development and iconic seasonal celebrations is icing on the cake,” Munoz-Suarez says.
Initially, this Fuku location will be open Monday through Friday from 11 am to 6 pm, but the team hopes to expand to weekends as the city continues to open back up and visitors come to get their New York fix, including all the food that goes along with it.
Secret in the Brine
Rockefeller Center already has a wealth of fantastic dining options, ranging from Del Frisco’s Grille to the low-key but no less delicious Mediterranean hotspot Samesa. But thus far, it has nothing like Fuku — indeed, nothing to satisfy that which only a fried chicken sandwich can.
To be sure, this is no ordinary chicken sandwich. Munoz-Suarez won’t show his full hand, but he will share that the secret to Fuku’s sandwich is in the brine. And about that brine: “Our 24-hour proprietary habanero brine and breading recipe make Fuku’s chicken sandos extra spicy and incredibly juicy,” Munoz-Suarez reveals.
It is spicy. But it doesn’t have to be, promises Munoz-Suarez. Sandwich modifications, including substituting chicken tenders for the standard fried breast and opting for the mayo-ketchup knockout sauce instead of the aggressively spicy Fuku mayo, lead to a milder version of the classic.
Speaking of which, that classic? The secret menu sandwich originally devoured at Momofuku Noodle Bar? It was made from chicken thighs. Chang is a fan of dark meat, explains Munoz-Suarez, who also shares this fondness. This is a common refrain among chefs and food writers as well: The dark meat is where the flavor is. Interestingly, it is not the preferred choice in mainstream American dining culture, and it’s also not what any of the national fried chicken chains, such as Popeyes or Chick-fil-A, use, explains Munoz-Suarez.
And so, to meet the expectations of the majority of fried chicken sandwich folks, Fuku’s most popular menu item is made from white meat, or “what people expect when they bite into a sandwich,” in Munoz-Suarez’s words.
That said, if you’re like Chang, Munoz-Suarez (or this author), and if you get lucky enough to be one of a handful or so people popping by Fuku for lunch, you may still be able to get the original dark meat chicken sando. Munoz-Suarez can’t say for sure how many they’ll have on hand in a given day, but it could be close to 50. Just be ready to order with confidence, for this version will not be listed on the menu.
The Rockefeller Center location won’t serve any alcohol, but it will offer slushie drinks. As locals and tourists look for ways to quench their thirst in the dog days of summer, Fuku has a solution in its Fukulada, which is essentially a piña colada, sans alcohol.
Fuku at Rockefeller Center is open Monday through Friday from 11 am to 6 pm at 30 Rockefeller Plaza on the concourse level, between 49th and 50th streets and 5th and 6th avenues.