[Seoul] The Fried Chicken Culture in Korea

Was visited by the ambition fairy in a dream last night and woke up filled with resolve to resuscitate this long-dead blog. In line with my ADD personality I doubt this attempt at revival will go very well, but one can always hope eh.

So… let’s start with a content-heavy subject. WITH AN OVERSEAS FOCUS. (AMBITION!!)

For a country that places extreme emphasis on external appearance, the South Korean fondness for carbs and fried chicken is unusual, to say the least. Since serving portions in most restaurants are meant for sharing, though, the health- and looks-conscious can get away with nibbling, leaving their less annoying companions to devour the rest of the dish. And then there are those who have effortlessly high metabolisms…. ugh hate.

Anyway. You’d be hard pressed to identify any neighborhood in Seoul without an eatery specializing in fried chicken. In areas with particularly high human traffic at night, namely Hongdae and Gangnam, I’d say you can’t go a block without seeing a fried chicken joint, sometimes even two.

Sure, fried chicken is common here in Singapore as well. But the South Korean love for consuming fried chicken extends beyond lunch and dinner – our feathered friends are commonly eaten as an anju, or the Korean term for a side dish accompanied by alcohol, during ee-cha (or Round 2), which takes place after dinner. Fried chicken and beer are also staples during baseball matches. Baseball’s a biiiig thing in South Korea.

Since the first time visitor to Seoul might be overwhelmed by signboards screaming “GOOBNE CHICKEN”, “NENE CHICKEN”, “KYOCHON CHICKEN”, “BBQ CHICKEN”, TWOTWO CHICKEN” etc., I’ve decided to collate my comments on all the fried chicken places I’ve tried in Seoul. Hope this is helpful!

In alphabetical order:

Boor Chicken (부어치킨)

Recommended.

Fried Chicken with Seasoning (양념치킨 or yangnyom chikin), 11000 won for 1 chicken.

This happens to be my first taste of authentic Korean fried chicken back in June 2010. We stumbled upon this eatery while wandering along the vicinity of the Chunggyecheon one night. Is that nostalgia I smell…

Being a seasoned (haaa) vet of Korean fried chicken, I usually avoid the yangnyom option on the menu, because 1. sauce makes the batter soggy, and 2. I don’t like sweet on savoury. Except for sweet and sour pork. And Thai chilli fish. But I digress.

I remember that the chicken we had from here was an exception to the yangnyom rule. It was sweet but still crispy, and the spices didn’t overwhelm. The marinade is concocted from a mix of 20 different herbs, and is marketed as being unique and, wait for this… nutritious for children. Right, in the same way french fries are vegetables. The chicken was definitely delicious though, so much so that we attempted to locate the restaurant again, but to no avail. I wasn’t as good at noting directions then. #humblebrag

The results of a quick Internet search reveal that their chicken-frying technique stems from an accumulation of 18 years’ work experience at KFC. Er okay. Exactly whose experience, it doesn’t say. I’m not quite sure how printing the KFC logo on all their flyers is not in contravention of any laws either. Oh well.

In any case, Boor is certainly worth trying if you happen to see an outlet. I haven’t actually seen any other Boor outlets around, but maybe I haven’t been looking hard enough. From what I can gather, they have 91 outlets in Seoul alone.

Their site can be found here (Korean only).

Ggo Ggo Day (꼬꼬데이)

Nothing special.

Fried Chicken (후라이드 치킨 or huraeedu chikin), 12000 won for 1 chicken.

Meh. Skin was crispy, but overall nothing memorable about this chicken.

The outlet we bought this from back in July 2010 was located in Sinseoldong. It’s since closed down, but the powers that be (i.e. the Internet) indicate the presence of another outlet in Cheongnyangni, if anyone cares.

Ggo Ggo Soonee (꼬꼬순이)

Recommended.

Half marinated chicken and half fried chicken (후 + 양념치킨 반마리 or hu + yangnyomchikin banmari), 16,000 won.

I hadn’t realised till working on this entry that there were 2 chicken places I’d visited with “Ggo Ggo” in their names. 3 actually, if you count Kko Kko Nara in Singapore. The phrase “Ggo Ggo” is the way a chicken’s clucking is represented in the Korean language. It’s a stretch, but certainly not one that goes as far as this. What can I say? Koreans love their onomatopoeia.

Anyway, this little eatery is run by a few friendly samchons (uncles) and eemos (aunties), all of whom were super sweet. One of the samchons gave the 4 of us a magnetic frog each that’s supposed to absorb some nasty rays emitted by your computer… I think. Despite the communication barrier he attempted to demonstrate to us the functions of the frog. Plus they threw in a complimentary Coke. Nice.

Great service aside, the chicken is very decent. As usual I regretted ordering the marinated chicken (so sweet, ugh), but the fried chicken was beautifully browned and crispy. I wouldn’t make a trip down specially to try this, but if you’re staying in the Hongdae area and are hit with a case of the midnight munchies, then why not? They’re open till the wee hours of the morning.

Hongdae outlet address

147-6 Donggyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Directions: Take Exit 3 out of Hongik University station (Line 2).  Walk towards the main road. Facing the main road, turn left and continue along that same path winding left till you see Ggo Ggo Soonee on, yes, your left. The walk should take you less than 5 minutes and you’ll cross 2 small roads along the way.

Their site can be found here (Korean only).

계열사 치킨 (Gyeyolsa Chikin, formerly “Cheers Chicken”)

Highly recommended.

100% Domestic Fried Chicken (후라이드 국내산 100% or huraeedu kooknaesan baekpuro), 20,000 won for 1 chicken and a few chunks of potato.

You’re looking at the best fried chicken in Seoul.

This chicken…. where to begin? The skin is so crispy it shatters as you take your first bite of the chicken, which is served scalding hot. Savour the satisfying crunch as you munch happily on the juicy chicken coated with delicious batter. Think Long John Silver’s level of crunchiness but without the kidney-busting levels of sodium. And the meat! The meat is so wonderfully tasty and tender, and God forbid any foreign chickens be served here (see the 100% domestic chicken claim). The accompanying potato chunks (served with skins on) are fragrant and crisp on the outside, and all mushy potato goodness on the inside.

There’s only one place to get this chicken, and its sited in the rather ulu neighbourhood of Buam-dong. To be fair, it’s only a 10 to 15-minute bus ride away from Gyeongbokgung station. However, unless you’re a Coffee Prince fan making a pilgrimage to Sanmootoongee cafe, the neighborhood is mostly residential/quietly artsy, with the occasional cafe doubling up as an art gallery or vice versa (my uncultured eyes find it hard to tell).

But TRUST ME, THIS CHICKEN IS WELL WORTH THE TRIP.

Address

258-3, Buam-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Directions: After emerging from Exit 3 of Gyeongbokgung station (Line 3), walk straight to the second bus stop you see. Take bus number 1020, 7212 or 7022 and alight at Buamdong Community Center (부암동주민센터).  The bus ride takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes. After alighting, walk straight up the hilly road until you see Cafe Stammtisch or Club Espresso. Take a left turn into the lane sandwiched between the two cafes and you’ll see 계열사 치킨 on your left after about 30 metres.

Onion Chicken (양파치킨)

Recommended.

Onion Chicken Half & Half Spicy Chicken (어니언 반반 치킨), 17,000 won.

I’d shamefully conflated this with 파닭 (pa dak, or “spring onion chicken”, which is supposed to look like this) and dragged my friends along to try it. After getting over my initial confusion as to why there wasn’t any green stuff covering the chicken, I actually enjoyed the chicken very much. Prior to deep frying, the chicken had been coated with a layer of breadcrumbs infused with onions and other spices. As always I found the marinated chicken way too sweet, but the onion chicken here is tasty and finger lickin’ good.

Hongdae outlet address

2F, 346-53, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul

Directions: Take a left turn into the lane immediately outside Exit 9 of Hongik University station (Line 2). After passing KFC on your left and Coffee Bean on your right, you’ll come to a three-pronged fork in the road. Take the middle lane veering right (you’ll see Cafe Davinci on your right as you walk along the lane), and you’ll see Onion Chicken fringing the next intersection, right above Coffee Cloud.

Oppa Dak (오븐에 빠진 닭)

Nothing special.

Baked chicken with fondue (퐁닭 퐁닭 or pongdak pongdak), 22,500 won.

This is the most enticing picture of the lot, isn’t it?

Oppa Dak has a witty name – it’s original name “오븐에 빠진 닭” translates into “Chicken that fell into the oven”, and can be shortened to the very catchy “오빠닭” or “Oppa chicken”.

As the name of the place suggests, this rapidly expanding chain of restaurants prides itself on serving oven-baked chicken, i.e. a healthier alternative to its deep-fried counterpart. I thought the chicken wasn’t bad at all; it was moist and tender, but understandably lacking in crispiness. It’s okay chicken, but I don’t get the crowds thronging this place. Then again, if I’m ordering liquid cheese, I don’t think I’d be concerned with turning to oven-baked chicken to cut calories. So it could just be me.

The sausages and potato cubes were lip-smackingly salty and I rather enjoyed them. The toasted baguette was very dry and out of place. Overall… it’s not half bad, but I don’t see a need to return. This one’s definitely for the health-conscious. In which case you wouldn’t even think about ordering the fondue set.

Hongdae outlet address (there are two outlets in Hongdae, but this one’s easier to locate)

164-32, Donggyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Directions: Upon emerging from Exit 9 of Hongik University station (Line 2), take a left turn into the first lane you see. KFC should be on your left. Walk straight, then take another left after completely passing Coffee Bean (you’ll see it on your right). Oppa Dak will be on your left.

Their site can be found here (Korean only).

Poulet Chicken (뿔레 치킨)

Highly recommended.

Carbonara poulet (까르보나라 뿔레), comes in a set with chips, some onion rings, and a very insincere pile of veggies for 21,000 won.

Orange du poulet (오렌지 두 뿔레), comes in same set as above, 19,000 won.

This place, located right next to Hongdae playground, is always, always crowded. There’s always a queue to be seated, but we beat it by batting our foreigner eyelashes and saying we don’t have a local number so we can’t wander off and wait till you ring us when there’s a seat, but we can’t possibly hang around and block your doorway either. Nah I kid, sort of. Wait obediently in line, it’s more than worth it.

The carbonara chicken is the undisputed star of the show in this restaurant. Like carbonara pasta, the heavy and creamy sauce that the chicken is generously doused in may not be for everyone. If you’re a fan of carbonara though, you’ll think this dish is genius. The chicken bits served here are heavily battered, boneless and bite-sized. The meat is succulent and complemented well by the flavorful carbonara.

The sheer idea of the dish is enough to alarm any person with some kind of a calorie conscience. Me? I’ve visited this place 3 more times since my Korean friends first brought us there in June 2011. Wipe that judgey look off your face, it’s not like I eat it everyday, right….

I honestly can’t remember what the orange chicken tastes like, but I don’t think it was great. I also don’t think it matters that it wasn’t great, because you’re really there for the carbonara. Just remember to bring a friend along, so you don’t die a lardball.

Address

364-1 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Directions: Take exit 9 out of Hongik University station (Line 2). Walk straight and turn left at the intersection. Walk all the way up the hill until you’re facing the main entrance of Hongik University. Turn right, cross the road and walk into the lane (not along the main road!) so the playground’s on your left and shops like Baskin Robbins and Tom’s Project are on your right. You should be able to see a huge orange signboard that says “뿔레치킨” in front of you.

Their site can be found here (Korean only, but with random English words).

Reggae Chicken (레게치킨)

Recommended.

Reggae chicken (레게치킨), 16,000 won for 1 chicken accompanied by potato slices and fried onion strips.

Reggae Chicken… It is with a heavy heart that I write about you.

I’ve visited this kooky Rastafarian establishment a total of 7 times. Twice in 2011, twice in 2012, and thrice this year. The first time I had this I thought I was biting into pure, unadulterated bliss. The next three times I returned to have my expectations exceeded, each time reliving the magic. And then something happened this year. Either my tastebuds became immune to whatever magical ingredient they incorporated into their formerly stellar batter, or the recipe for the batter was tweaked. For the worse.

Back in 2011 and 2012 this chicken was consumed in awe-filled, reverent silence. The batter was crumbly, slightly herby and incredibly tasty, the meat was juicy and the overall flavour of the chicken was further enhanced by their self-concocted dip that’s tangy with a mild kick of spice to boot. It was so good we suspected the green stuff atop the chicken was weed.

Earlier this year I’d thought something was amiss while eating the chicken, but attributed it to the fact that I’d ordered it to go, so the chicken was consumed soggy. And then my most recent 2 visits affirmed that Reggae Chicken was certainly no longer the best chicken I’d had in Seoul (a title that now goes to “계열사 치킨”), but was merely a bland shadow of its former glorious self. You can take cold comfort in the fact that if you dip the chicken in copious amounts of the greenish dip (which to be fair is still amazing), it’s still delicious. It’s just… lacklustre compared to what it used to be. Sigh. IT’S THE END OF AN ERA.

To give them the benefit of the doubt, I’ll probably return on my subsequent trips to Korea. If their recipe is being tweaked, I’m sure they’ll eventually figure out how to make it better, or at least the same as before, right?

Interior, Reggae Chicken.

Eating in Reggae Chicken is an experience of its own. The whole place is dimly lit and, depending on the day of the week you visit, you’ll be served by people with varying degrees of hippie-ness. I’ve seen a guy with cornrolls, and a girl with mussed up hair who looks perpetually stoned. Listening to the reggae music playing softly in the background whilst looking at posters of Bob Marley, you get the sense that the place was practically erected as a homage to the man (in case the name hadn’t made it clear enough). Also, unless your tolerance for dirty toilets is high, empty your bladders before you visit. You have been warned.

I’ve only been to the outlet in Hongdae, but I’ve seen a two-storey outlet in nearby Sangsu-dong.

Hongdae outlet address

147-19 Donggyo-dong, Mapo-Gu, Seoul, South Korea

Directions: You’ll see a little field on your right upon emerging from Exit 3 of Hongik University station (Line 2). Cross that field – there’s a path somewhere in the middle of it. You’ll see Reggae Chicken, which has a wooden exterior, on the other side of the field.

The Frypan (더후라이팬)

Highly recommended.

Chicken tender and drumstick set (곱빼기 후라이드 치킨 or gopbbaegi huraeedu chikin), served on a bed of chips for 25,800 won.
(Rice balls and corn chips obviously not part of set.)

The header on their site reads “여성들이 더 많은 치킨집”, which translates to “The chicken eatery with more ladies.” That they would choose a tagline which alienates half their potential clientele is quite amusing, but I don’t think you have to worry that your manlihood will be compromised by eating the chicken from The Frypan. I’ve eaten it and it’s plain ol’ fried chicken through and through.

The Frypan’s appeal to the fairer sex probably arose from the fact that it specializes in deboned chicken. You can choose from 1. chicken breast; 2. deboned drumsticks; or 3. a mixture of options 1 and 2. Because I’ve recently developed this gag reflex to any part of chicken that isn’t breast meat (yes, I’ve just made a statement that totally undermines my credibility as a reviewer of fried chicken), my companions kindly agreed to accommodate my needs and we settled on this half-and-half set. We ordered take-out so we could have a lunchtime picnic by the Han river. Ah, good times.

To their credit, the breast meat served at The Frypan is incredibly juicy and flavorful. It’s not too greasy, and the fact that the chicken is deboned makes it a much more convenient meal than a regular chicken served with bones would be. Perhaps the absence of any bone-gnawing would explain its popularity amongst ladies? I’m just guessing, though the way I wolfed down the chicken was far from elegant.

Price-wise this place is on the steep side, but servings are generous so no biggie.

The Frypan’s increasing popularity means a number of outlets have sprouted across Seoul. We visited their Yeouido outlet, but from what I recall from online reviews, their flagship outlet is located in Hongdae.

Yeouido outlet address

35-5, Yeouido-dong, Yongdeungpo-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Directions: After exiting from Exit 5 of Yeouido station (Lines 5 and 9), head towards the T-junction a couple metres away. Turn left at the junction (don’t cross any roads!) and keep walking. The Frypan should be on your left.

Their site can be found here (Korean only).

TwoTwo Chicken (투투 치킨)

Nothing special.

Fried Chicken (half serving), came as a set with the marinated chicken.

Yangnyom chicken, the other half of the set. Set cost 15,000 won back then.

Also last consumed in 2010. I’d planned to revisit this joint since then, but there’s just too much in Seoul to eat and only so many calories my jeans can hold.

The fried chicken here had this crackly exterior and moist interior. Definitely above average, but as you can tell it wasn’t memorable enough to warrant a return visit. Did not like the marinade as usual so no comments there. Unfortunately portion sizes were small for the price (which I’m sure has risen since) so I felt quite dissatisfied after the meal.

The mix-and-match option would be an attraction for finicky eaters who can’t decide between the original and the marinated versions. They also have other options like soy garlic and teriyaki chicken, both of which I haven’t tried.

We went to the Gangnam outlet, which is huge and easy to spot.

Gangnam outlet address

649-14, Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Directions: Walk straight after Exit 12 of Gangnam station (Line 2). Turn left at the intersection and the restaurant will be on your left.

There’s another outlet at Myeongdong, which you’ll pass if you’re making your way to the Namsan Tower cable car station from Myeongdong station.

Myeongdong outlet address

Daedong Building, 10-1 Namsan-dong 2-ga, Joong-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Directions: Turn left after exiting from Exit 3 of Myeongdong station (Line 4). Walk towards Pacific Hotel (or in the general direction towards Namsan Tower). The restaurant will be on your left.

Their site can be found here (Korean and English).

N.B.: This list will be updated as I try new places. If the blog remains alive, that is.

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Comments
2 Responses to “[Seoul] The Fried Chicken Culture in Korea”
  1. Thanks for the great compilation. My friends and I stayed around hongdae and so tried Ggo Ggo soonee above. We walked past the the shop without knowing but lucky to find it when we walk back to station. above shop name is coco soon.e. Chickens were really tasty especially with cass beer! Once out of station, walk to main road. Facing main road turn left. Shop is just 10m away at a corner of building. 🙂

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  1. […] and nowhere do you have a better example of quintessentially Korean fried chicken than at Gyeyolsa Chicken. Man I miss Seoul so […]



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