Volcano Chicken – Milwaukee Style
Back in the day, the King and I restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was possibly my wife and I’s favorite Thai restaurant. We have many dates there, before getting married, and it is just one of those restaurants where you go, and have to get a particular dish. I often compare the restaurant to going to a really awesome restaurant that is know for its chicken wings, but going in and ordering a salad. It just does not happen that way, especially at the King and I! Now don’t get me wrong, I really love Thai food, and it could possibly be one of my favorite cuisines, but going to the King and I, both my wife and I always ordered their Volcano Chicken.
Having moved outside of the city, we stopped dining at the King and I, and trust me, we miss it. We miss the flavor of the Volcano Chicken. Basically, in its simplest form, perfectly fried chicken pieces, laid over a bed of seared cabbage and carrots, with this secret sauce, ordered as hot as you could handle it, poured over the entire plate, and served with a side of rice.
Now, you should know me by now. When I find something that good, I have to figure out how to make it. I have made several attempts in the past, of which were ok, but it was not the sauce, so I proposed to my wife that I make it again, and make it how it should be made. As her eyes lit up, and my mouth began to water just thinking of it, I knew I had a flavor challenge ahead of me, but I was up for the challenge.
Ingredients (for chicken and batter):
- 4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, cut into cubes
- 1 tbs of salt
- 1 tbs of pepper
- 3 tbs of cold water
- 3/4 cup of cornstarch
- 1 1/2 tbs soy sauce
- 4 egg yolks, remove the whites
- Oil, for deep frying, approximately 3 cups
In a small bowl, add the soy sauce, water, and the egg yolks, and beat until well combined. To a larger bowl, add the cornstarch and salt and pepper. Slowly stir in the egg mixture to make your batter. Add your chicken cubes to the batter and make sure you mix well to get the batter all over the chicken cubes. Set aside and bring your oil to temperature in your deep fryer, approximately 350 degrees.
Ingredients (Volcano Sauce):
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 cup of water
- 1/2 cup of chicken stock
- 1 tbsp palm sugar
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp of honey
- 1 tbsp tamarind concentrate
- 1 tsp chili garlic sauce
- 1 Thai chili, chopped
- 2 whole chili
- Small head of green cabbage, rough chopped
- 4 large carrots, cleaned, peeled, and sliced on the diagonal
- Cooked Jasmine Rice
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
To your sauce pan, add all of the sauce ingredients, bringing to a boil. Once boiled, reduce the heat and cook until it reduces, approximately 25 minutes. Once reduced, remove from the heat and let cool. Now keep in mind this has a good heat to it, not too spicy. If you want more spice, I suggest adding chili flakes, or chili flakes that you can buy in the Asian marts that are in a oil.
Your oil should be ready. Drop in the chicken cubes, being careful to to overcrowd and cook until a light golden brown. This should only take about 5 minutes per batch. Remove from the oil, and let drain on paper towel, repeating the process until all chicken has been fried.
Next get your large skillet heated on a high heat. Add the olive oil, and toss in the cabbage and carrots. The goal is to let this mixture sear, and become somewhat blackened, but not burnt. The high heat brings out the sweetness of these vegetables, and builds a really killer flavor. Once seared on one side, approximately a few minutes, flip, and get a sear going on the other side.
You are now ready to plate. I like to get a small cup out, pack it with the rice, then flip over onto the plate. This adds some nice presentation to your plating. Add a bed of the cabbage and carrots onto the plate, top with chicken pieces, and spoon on the sauce over the chicken and vegetables, just enough to make things damp.
Dig in and enjoy. As this dish took about 45 minutes to cook overall, it was definitely worth it. We giggled, and agreed that I nailed the sauce. Sorry King and I.
I am just about ready to get something together for dinner and now I am hungry for this dish! I love Thai food and this recipe sounds like a winner!
Sounds awesome- will try making this week- will let u know how it goes! Btw- can u come to Toronto- there are some killer dishes in Chinatown that I need u to figure out 🙂
King & I’s Volcano chicken has a flaming sauce, did you forget, so you missed some kind of ingredient. It has to have some kind of alcohol in it to flame when it is lit. I will still try the recipe and see how it goes.
I use to live in Milwaukee and ate at ALL of the Volcano Chicken joints… King and I, Siam and Ee sane, etc. They were all good! Now I live in Minneapolis and no matter how hard I’ve tried, I couldn’t find a Thai restaurant that offers this dish. I think only a select few cities in the country offer this dish and Milwaukee is one of them along with some cities in Florida. I don’t know why Thai restaurants around the country don’t pick up on this dish because it is one of the staple Thai cuisines in Milwaukee and it’s insanely good. But until then I will give your recipe a try… or make a 6 hour drive to Milwaukee.
Val in NC
Thanks SO much for figuring this one out! It’s a LONG commute to Milwaukee from Charlotte, NC . . . and I just can’t get enough Volcano Chicken from The King and I!
Candace in Omaha
I used to live in Racine (30 minutes south of Milwaukee) and LOVED The King & I’s Volcano Chicken. You could even get it at a food stand at Summerfest. Yum! Since moving to Omaha, no Thai restaurant makes it. I used to think that it was unique to only certain group of Thai people who settled in SE Wisconsin! Thank you for posting this recipe. I cannot wait to try it!
I moved from Racine a couple of years ago (to WA) and no Volcano Chicken out here, either.
BUT, if you find reason to go back to Racine, they have their own excellent Volcano Chicken at “Sticky Rice” on downtown Main St.
Katie in Mke
I found this recipe by chance & really like Volcanic Chicken so I figured I would try it. Wow…. great job!!!! It was sooooo good. I’ll make this again. Totally worth the time.
Jeremy in PHX
Is this just a Milwaukee thing?! Well that makes more sense now. Since I moved to Phoenix 6 1/2 years ago I have searched high and low for this dish and when I ask, I just get strange looks. I miss it so!! As a matter of fact, EVERY single time I fly back to MKE I NEVER miss a trip for some Volcano Chicken (and Leon’s frozen custard for dessert). I think I’m going to give this recipe to my local Thai restaurant. Thanks!
You really did nail this one! I had this at the King and I the other night …and just had to have more! Thank you so much!
I worked at the downtown King and I when I was in high school and have eaten this dish all over Milwaukee as an adult. I am not sure I agree with MLA’s comment about the sauce having a “flaming” characteristic. The sauce was poured over the veggies/chicken just prior to serving tableside and would emit puffs of smoke and sizzle chaotically when it hit the hot iron skillet. Perhaps this is what MLA is thinking of (However, I believe the sauce recipe is missing rice vinegar to balance the sweetness of these ingredients)? I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. I live in volcano-chickenless Atlanta now and will be trying this recipe tonight. Hope it comes close enough to quell my craving. Thanks for the recipe.
Unbelievable. You have completely demystified the Volcano Chicken preparation and my husband is forever grateful. He was rather skeptical at first, but I followed the recipe exactly and was rewarded with a fabulous dinner featuring one of our all time favorites!!!
Oh my gosh.. Finding this just made my day!! My fiancÃ© took me on our first date at the King and I when we were in college at UWM. I ordered the Volcano Chicken and have never been able to bring myself to order anything else because it’s so amazing. We recently moved to NC and have been trying to find a Thai restaurant as good – no luck so far (However, my expectations going in of finding a comparable dish to The King and I’s Volcano Chicken may be skewing my judgment.). I will be making this tonight! Thank you for being ambitious and allowing the infamous Volcano Chicken to make it to my kitchen in NC! 🙂
Thanks Samantha! I think I got it very close to the King and I, and a number of folks have told me they make this a lot. Now you just have to find the sizzling fajita platter and serve it on the plate. I hope you enjoy!
Samantha, if youâ€™re still in NC I have a couple recommendations: Thai Cafe in Durham is fantastic and Suwanaâ€™s Thai Orchid in Asheville is pretty good. The only place Iâ€™ve ever had volcano chicken is at Thai Cafe so I donâ€™t know how it compares to the King and I, but I can assure you it is delicious! Seeing as my reply is 2 years after your comment, who knows if youâ€™re still in NC, and if you are you may be far from these cities, but I thought Iâ€™d mention those restuarants just in case…
Tried the recipe tonight… great flavor! We couldn’t find palm sugar. My sauce didn’t thicken as much as we would have liked.
Living just outside MKE (Waukesha), I have had the chance to eat the best Volcano Chicken (and Nam Sod) ever at Siam’s, back in the day. I believe it was on Juneau. They closed, and the owners were going to reopen over by the museum, but something happened in the family, and they ended up moving to Colorado. I believe the chef at Siam’s ended up at Thai Kitchen on N. Farwell (or Prospect) which has since moved to Oakland Ave. He brought (stole?) the VC recipe with him, thankfully. The King & I is decent, but I prefer Thai Kitchen, although it has been a few years since I have made it down there.
Thanks for the recipe, I will definitely be making this, as I don’t get downtown MKE very often anymore. I just need to find all the ingredients.
Thanks for this recipe! I had been trying to locate one when I stumbled upon yours! Who knew it was only a Milwaukee thing?! I made it! I did add a little white vinegar and while it was really good, it was even better the next day when the sauce had some time to meld! Thank you so much 🙂 I have also passed your page along onto others!
That’s awesome Valerie, thanks so much! My family and I just went out for some local Thai, and my wife is a total fan, so we had to order from Kim’s Thai in Milwaukee. Super legit. Something about that sauce, carrots, cabbage, etc. I love this dish. Thanks for passing along the site! All the best in 2017.
Sandra Van Engel
Thanks for demystifying the King and I recipe. I have been trying to do the same for a couple of years. Will certainly try yours. I had been using the Thai Sweet Chili Sauce but yours sounds wonderful. I miss all the Thai restaurants in Milwaukee…nothing like it in Western Nebraska since I moved here 12 years ago. Thanks so much.
Oh, I forgot to mention that I still have some King and I Volcano Seasoning that they mixed up and gave to a relative of mine. I would love it if someone could analyze it so we could recreate that as well. It’s over 12 years old but is still really good spice mix.
The King & I now sells volcano sauce in jars to take home! It’s sooo good on barbecue. I even used it for a salad dressing! I think it was about $6 for a pint.
What’s volcano seasoning? I asked about it and they didn’t know. Is it just the ground chili?
I used to work at the King and I 2 many moons ago. I still stop by the downtown location every once in a while, food is still great as always.
Without a doubt, Volcano Chicken was our most popular dish! Iâ€™ve seen people (myself included) eat just rice with the Volcano Sauce because it is just that delicious!
Lifeâ€™s a little busy these days, but if I ever get around to making Volcano Chicken using your recipe, I will let you know what I think!
Hi David – We were just there for dinner a few weeks ago and low and behold a majority of us ordered the Volcano chicken. I’ve eaten my share of Thai/Lao cuisine, and I don’t really relate this to Thai food (for whatever reasons), but gosh darn it the sauce and crispiness of the chicken is so addicting. We believe we came pretty close to the sauce but I’m sure there are some tweaks that someone would love to share. Hope you enjoy!
Hey Dax! You made my family’s day! We live North of Milwaukee and go to the King and I occasionally, but would like to have Volcano Chicken a little more often. We only make it there about twice a year. My hubby took our daughter there for a Daddy/Daughter date (She’s 25! LOL) last weekend, and they came home with a bottle of their sauce. I am going to use it along with the seared carrots and cabbage as you suggest. Shall I let you know how it turns out?
Sure, let me know Nancy! The sauce was the tricky part so you should hopefully have a great experience.