HOT, NEW AND CRISP! Koko’s Crispy Fried Chicken pairs American tradition with exotic flavors

While fried chicken is a much-loved staple of the American South, the ladies behind Koko’s Crispy Fried Chicken decided to dress theirs up with a variety of Asian inspired sauces. 

As co-owners and co-managers, Brielle Friday and Eva Zhang each bring their unique talents to the table. Friday, a native of South Texas, focuses on business operations, while Zhang, originally from Chaozhou, China, serves as chef. 

As chef Zhang is in charge of creating new recipes and adding menu items based on customer feedback.

“Unlike other places where the wings are served already coated with sauce or dry rubs, we make our chicken extra crispy with the sauces on the side for dipping,” Zhang said. 

“That way, customers aren’t committed to just one flavor, they can sample different sauces to find which ones are their favorites.”

The custom sauces, which range from mild to spicy and vary from sweet to tangy to salty, are made from scratch using Zhang’s recipes and ingredients imported from other countries to bring out authentic flavors.

“The sweet chili sauce is Thai, the Gochujang barbecue sauce is Korean, the hot chili and sweet orange sauces are Chinese, and the curry is Indian,” she explained. After much experimentation and thanks to customer feedback, some flavors were adapted for Coastal Bend tastes. 

“We replaced our curry cheese dry rub with a lemon pepper rub that people really like, and [we] recently added a sweet orange sauce, which is now highly in demand,” Zhang said. Currently in the works, per customer request, is a buttermilk ranch sauce recipe.

Koko’s Tender Rice Bowl is another top seller, which includes chicken tenders atop a bed of rice and Koko’s special house sauce, along with pickled radish and cabbage on the side. 

“At first we added that menu item just to diversify from only chicken, tenders and wings, but we never anticipated it would become our best seller,” said Friday.

Daily specials include Tuesday $1 bone-in wings, Wednesday $1 tenders, and Thursday $1 boneless wings. A selection of domestic and import beers are also available. 

Friday, a student at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) and currently  working as a real estate agent for NBA Realty, was only 21 when she and Zhang launched their business last year – an age when most people are still undecided with careers.

“It was challenging at first, having to navigate our first commercial lease and hunting for low cost deals on high quality commercial equipment. This was also the first time in my life having to set up a payroll system, navigate business taxes, and learn how to manage inventory, ” said Friday, who is now 22. 

“But I’ve learned so much about running a business, despite much trial and error.”

She credits her family members for their moral and physical support. 

“My dad, Dr. H. Swint Friday, a finance professor at TAMUCC, was a mentor for me and Eva, as he helped walk us through getting an LLC and a DBA,” she said.

“Both he and my brother Cortland put in hard work and completed a majority of the build-out and worked together to help us create a unique restaurant design and layout.”

For Zhang, being a business owner is both challenging and satisfying.

“Running a business is not as easy as working for someone, but I get to do what I love,” she said. 

“I’ve been cooking since I was eight and making food for my family gives me happiness and I want customers to feel that joy when they try our food.”

Since opening its doors in 2022, Koko’s Crispy Fried Chicken has steadily grown with additional staff hired. 

“In the future I would love to see us expand to a second store in Corpus Christi,” Friday said.  

“My biggest challenge working here is resisting the urge to eat everything we cook,” she said with a laugh.  

“I challenge others to take a bite of our Asian-style crispy chicken and support our women-owned local business.”

Koko’s Crispy Fried Chicken is located at 6418 S Staples St., Suite 118, Corpus Christi, TX 78413. For more information contact 361-257-1848 or visit their website, www.kokofriedchicken.com.

Article Photos by JANE KATHLEEN GREGORIO

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