The Wonderful World of Korean Fried Chicken
On Friday of last week, I found myself desperate to escape the constant buzz of my office after a long week of work and social interaction. The thought of escaping to a nearby Koreatown was my first inclination, but as I was searching for Korean restaurants to visit, I was surprised to see a little hole-in-the-wall Korean fried chicken place pop up within walking distance. Without hesitation, I headed out to take a look for myself.
A Perfect Balance Between East and West
It’s no secret that it’s sometimes difficult to convince someone to give Korean food a shot, for whatever ridiculous reason. However, even the most stubborn, picky person will fall in love with Korean fried chicken (I’m living proof!). After all, it’s quite difficult to mess up fried chicken.
This particular joint that I visited is known as Dak! Chicken, a tiny, hip little place sandwiched right at the middle of this town center and two chain restaurants. While more Westernized in the use of utensils and menu choices, the restaurant still has a distinctly Korean aura with Korean music playing on the loudspeakers and TV, and the offering of rice and kimchi as side dishes with the chicken. I find comfort in this kind of atmosphere, and the meal to accompany it was instantly refreshing.
What is it that makes Korean fried chicken so popular, though? On the surface it may seem nothing special, sort of like the chain fast food fried chicken restaurants that run rampant in the United States. In a way you sort of get the same thing at every one of these establishments, but what makes Korean fried chicken stand out from them is the distinctive Korean taste that’s added to a classic.
What makes Korean fried chicken better than any fried chicken or buffalo wings you’ve ever had is that they are often double fried but not overly battered, with your sauce of choice lathered over the top. Chicken often comes either in soy garlic or spicy versions, adding a twist to a classic favorite. This type of chicken also goes fantastically with beer, popularizing the idea of chicken and beer that we’re all familiar with.
Only recently has the general U.S. population begun to realize the true beauty of Korean fried chicken. Bonchon may be the only chain thus far that has set up more than a few restaurants across the country, even in some places in the midwest. More often than not, however, you’ll find a small, family run Korean chicken business in your city, especially if you’re not far from a notorious Koreatown.
These Korean food joints often also have other classic dishes offered alongside the chicken, such as tteokbokki, japchae, kimchi fried rice, etc. Rice, kimchi, or pickled radish is often also offered as a side to go along with the chicken, and almost every joint I’ve visited has an extensive collection of soju and other Korean alcoholic beverages.
For any of our readers who reside near the nation’s capital, a favorite small business of mine is Chi MC chicken. With only two locations, one right smack in the middle of the Koreatown of Annandale and another further west, it’s easy for this establishment to get overlooked by the other numerous chicken establishments. Truth be told you really can’t go wrong with any of these smaller restaurants, as they all have a different twist on how to serve their chicken.
If you’re not looking for it, chances are you won’t find it, but as soon as you open your eyes you’ll find yourself surrounded by Korean fried chicken establishments. So if you haven’t had the chance to try out this increasingly popular dish yet, what are you waiting for? Go find your nearest local joint and join in the Korean fried chicken hype!