Origin of Korean Fried Chicken
South Korea is known for their fried chicken among other Asian nations and worldwide. Their unique history with the presence of the U.S. military is credited with how fried chicken has evolved as Koreans adapted the popular American dish. American fried chicken is typically dry with seasoning that is incorporated in a flour based batter. The result is a thick crust over the chicken that absorbs a lot of frying oil. Korean chicken on the other hand, is lighter as it is fried with a cornstarch coating which creates a thinner crust that crisps up more. Additionally, Koreans introduced a red, sweet and spicy sauce that wings and other chicken parts are tossed in.
The Rise and Growth of Korean Fried Chicken
What we know as Korean Fried Chicken today started appearing in the 1980s in Seoul. American companies such as Popeye’s and KFC entered South Korea’s market with sit-down restaurants designed to be a higher end experience for families. Then, the boom of Korean fried chicken was fueled by the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s as many working men were forced to look for other sources of income when they were laid off.
The first restaurant specializing in Korean fried chicken in Seoul was Lims Chicken, which was opened by the large department store Shinsegae in 1977. Kentucky Fried Chicken entered a bit later in 1984 and there was nothing stopping the growing fried chicken craze.
Eating Korean Fried Chicken
Korean fried chicken is just called chikin (치킨) to denote the American origins. Chicken is pronounced dak in Korean but refers to the animal chicken and not any specific prepared dish. The dry version of korean fried chicken is called fried chicken whereas the wet kind with red sauce is called seasoned chicken. It is common for orders of Korean fried chicken to come with pickled white radish called chikin mu which translates into chicken radish.
Koreans love eating fried chicken with beer and as a result, a specialized type of restaurant was born called chimaek restaurants. The word chimaek is the combination of chikin and maekju which are fried chicken and beer respectively. With a strong drinking culture and the salty, fatty way that fried chicken is, the coupling was simply natural to make.