A Fuku representative told Business Insider that the team, led by Chef Stephanie Abrams, has been working on perfecting this recipe for more than a year. The new recipe is inspired by the original, which features a dark meat chicken thigh brined in habanero puree.
Popeyes' classic chicken sandwich is half the price of Fuku's at $3.99 and $8.50 respectively, but if you're looking for a quality sandwich more than you're looking for a cheap snack, Fuku's is well worth the extra $4.
If not, Popeyes is a fine option that would leave you feeling full, regardless.
Fuku has been consistently selling out of its 50 white meat sandwiches per day during the trial week. If the trial period goes well, the chain may add it to the menu in its Rockefeller Center location set to open in 2020.
Here's the breakdown of this fried chicken sandwich showdown.
There are three Fuku restaurants in Manhattan and more outposts dotted around the US, but the white meat spicy fried chicken sandwich trial was happening only at the Wall Street location from December 9 through 13.
Being a fried chicken sandwich connoisseur myself, I had to go try it. I decided to pit it against the trendy, reigning fast-food sandwich champ: the Popeyes classic fried chicken sandwich.
My Fuku sandwich cost $8.50 while my Popeye's classic fried chicken sandwich cost $3.99.
Both sandwiches came in partially-foil packets ...
... but the Fuku packet had a paper layer on the inside and foil on the outside, while Popeyes' was the reverse.
When I took the Popeyes sandwich out of the packet, it was noticeably soggier than the Fuku sandwich. I saw that the heat had created condensation on the inside of the bag, which may have caused some problems for the sandwich.
At first glance, both sandwiches looked like they were deliciously overflowing with fried chicken. Fuku's definitely had more chicken that was hanging off the bun, but Popeyes' was still pretty well-stuffed.
The sheer size of the Fuku sandwich was shocking in the best way.
There was almost as much chicken hanging off the potato bun as there was between it.
Popeyes' sandwich had some chicken peeking out of the boundaries of its brioche bun, too, but not nearly as much. That wasn't necessarily a bad thing, though.
Fuku's sandwich comes with a double dose of a sauce the restaurant has dubbed Fuku mayo — a combination of mayonnaise and kimchi. Both sides of the Popeyes bun are slathered in classic mayo.
The Fuku mayo was the better sauce by far. It had a sweet heat to it that nestled itself into all the nooks, crannies, and folds of the chicken's layer of batter.
Both sandwiches had a bed of pickles placed underneath the chicken. The Fuku sandwich had three crinkle-cut pickle chips placed in a triangle formation. This ensured a taste of pickle in every bite.
There were two slightly thicker, even-cut pickle chips on the Popeyes sandwich. The placement looked a little less meticulous than Fuku, and there were parts of the bun that were missing that acidic crunch.
Then it was time to put the full flavors to the test. On first-bite of the Fuku sandwich, I got a mouthful of crunchy breading — no chicken.
It was a little frustrating for some bites to be exclusively crunch, but the breading was so flavorful and held its texture so well that these chicken-less bites didn't ruin the sandwich for me.
When I finally did get to the chicken, I was thoroughly impressed. The meat was thick, juicy, and steaming hot.
Each bite of between-the-bun chicken was perfectly complimented by the subtle heat of the Fuku mayo and acidic pickles, and it was all wrapped so lovingly together by the tasty potato bun.
When I first bit into the Popeyes sandwich, I got a well-balanced bite of pickle, mayo, chicken, breading, and bun. But, the breading wasn't crunchy.
The chicken was warm, but the buttermilk coating was mushy within seconds of the cashier handing me the bag.
Another disappointing thing I noticed about the Popeyes sandwich is that there was little to no actual flavor. The Buttermilk was just kind of there and the chicken, while juicy, was bland.
Fuku's sandwich exploded with flavor from all directions. Most noticeably from the breading, which was visibly speckled with pepper, unlike the Popeyes breading.
There were also some bites of the Popeyes sandwich that exposed a chewy, eggy-looking binding between the breading and the chicken, which was slightly off-putting.
The parts of the Fuku breading that separated from the chicken revealed a clean break between the two components of the fried chicken piece.
While the Popeyes sandwich is a perfectly fine option and comes at an extremely attractive price ...
... the flavor, texture, longevity, and perceived quality of Fuku's new sandwich blew Popeyes' sandwich out of the water. While I think it's worth the extra $4 as a once-in-a-while treat, Fuku may want to consider lowering the price if they want loyal customers coming in multiple times per week.
While the Momofuku-concocted sandwich is off the menu, for now, Popeyes and the rest of the reigning fried chicken sandwich champions will have to watch their backs if it enters the market for good in the new year.