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Today I'm going to be talking about my favorite Korean food — fried chicken. I'm going to go over why fried chicken is so popular in Korea, which brands are the best, and what to order. Brought to you by your very own fried chicken lover who gets fried chicken at least once a week.
Why is fried chicken so popular in Korea?
There are currently 87,000 fried chicken stores operating in Korea as of February 2019. To give you a sense of how big that number actually is, know that there are a total of 44,000 Subways and 37,000 McDonalds globally.
The real reason fried chicken gained so much popularity behind the invention of the seasoned spicy chicken. Normal fried chicken can be pretty oily, so it was pretty hit-or-miss among people.
But then in the 1980s, radio commercials started advertising this new seasoned chicken, and those who tried it made sure to pass on the news of its syrupy, crispy goodness. The rest is history. Seasoned fried chicken is now one of the most popular eating-out foods of all time.
Another reason fried chicken became so popular is the 2002 World Cup.
During the World Cup, Chicken brands started pushing the idea that Chimaek (Chicken-maekju, or beer in Korean) was the way to go when watching soccer. It became an instant fad all over the country. That year, the Korean team made the quarter-finals and the popularity of the chicken soared with the people's spirits.
Thanks to this clever marketing, fried chicken is still a staple when watching soccer. If you're trying to order while a game is on, the wait time will definitely be longer than usual.
TOP5 Most Popular Chicken Chains in Korea
Korean Chicken Chains ranked by number of stores + most popular orders and prices
(As of 2018 @ Fair Trade Commission)
# of Franchises
|1||BBQ||1,659||Gold Olive Chicken||￦18,000|
|4||Nene Chicken||1,167||Snowing Chicken||￦17,000|
|5||KyoChon Chicken||1,006||Original Soy||￦15,000|
By number of stores, the ranking goes from BBQ, BHC, Pericana, Nene Chicken, and then KyoChon Chicken.
Starting from the top, let's dive into the brand and their popular menu items.
#1 Most Popular Chicken Brand in Korea : BBQ
BBQ is a chain that first opened in 1995. The letters in BBQ actually stands for "Best of Best Quality." (Try asking a Korean friend what they think the letters stand for, they'll probably be clueless )
As the most representative chicken brands in Korea, it has maintained its first place ranking since 2015. Its popularity has been recently declining, however, because of its hiked prices and delivery fees. A chicken from BBQ will cost you a whole 20,000 KRW.
A lot of Koreans including myself aren't happy with the prices, but their chicken's so good that we just keep coming back
BBQ's Most Popular Order : Gold Olive Chicken
BBQ's most popular menu item is the Gold Olive Chicken. It's made with its namesake, high quality extra-virgin olive oil. They use a special powder that gives the chicken its unique BBQ flavor. Crispy on the outside and juicy soft on the inside. So good.
You really can't say that you've officially tried Korean fried chicken before you've tried this piece from BBQ.
#2 Most Popular Chicken Brand in Korea : BHC
BHC opened in 1997 with the name Byeol Hana Chicken (One Star Chicken). They changed the name to BHC in 2000. They were soaring in popularity with their unique menu items until the whole Bird Influenza shock, which is when BBQ acquired the company. Now, it's operated by the Citi Group private equity fund by US stakeholders.
BHC is known for its wide variety of new menu items. Some examples are the Prinkle chicken (fried chicken with special powder seasoning and comes with a special sauce), Matcho King (a soy sauce based chicken with a generous topping of spicy peppers), Curry Queen (fried chicken with curry flavoring), and Chireka (strongly flavored with garlic). They often come out with new menu items, each one usually being a great success.
BHC's Most Popular Order : Prinkle
BHC's most popular order is the Prinkle. It has a cheddar cheese, garlic, and onion seasoning sprinkled on top a freshly fried chicken.
Eating alone is good, but the real flavor comes from the cheese and yogurt sauce that comes with your order, which is when it transforms into the wonderfully sweet and salty snack that stole our hearts. If you like cheese, I highly recommend ordering the Prinkle.
You can now get your BHC Chicken delivered right in front of where you stay in Korea
#3 Most Popular Chicken Brand in Korea : Pericana
Pericana started in Daejeon City in 1982. This is the brand that truly brought the seasoned chicken to the masses, and one of the few remaining "original" chicken brands.
Pericana brings out new menu items every now and then, but nothing has really surpassed its basic fried chicken and seasoned fried chicken orders. They do those two basics very well, however, and because it's one of the older brands, they have a lot of loyal customers.
Pericana's Most Popular Order : Seasoned Fried Chicken
Pericana is one of the companies that claim to be the first to invent the infamous seasoned fried chicken.
A bite of Pericana's seasoned fried chicken order backs that claim; they've definitely got it down to a science. It's nothing super unique, but their garlic, pepper paste, and ketchup proportions are close to perfect and they all come together to make a very well-rounded seasoning flavor. I personally go for Pericana when I'm craving some good seasoned chicken.
#4 Most Popular Chicken Brand in Korea : Nene Chicken
A brand that started in 1995, Nene Chicken has a pretty plain menu. Its consistent popularity stems from three factors.
1) The clean cut packaging. Your order comes in what looks like a pizza box with your chicken, pickles, and coke all in a neat little set up. Now, a lot of brands have the same set up, but the real deal is Nene Chicken.
2) Picking the right spokesperson. The celebrities chosen to market their products can really determine the profits for the brands. Jaeseok Yoo is a superb choice as he is somewhat of a national treasure. He has been the face of Nene's brand for over 10 years, based on Jaeseok's father and the founder's close personal relationship.
3) The Snowing Chicken! I'll talk about this one in more detail below.
Nene Chicken's Most Popular Order : Snowing Chicken
The Snowing Chicken is just fried chicken with special cheese powder sprinkled on top, like snow. The combination of the rich cheese seasoning and the crispiness of the fried chicken is simply amazing. The seasoning can be a little too much for some though, so it can be a hit-or-miss. Available flavors are cheese, vegetable, and spicy.
The new spicy flavor is pictured above. BHC's Prinkle and Nene's Snowing are often compared, so try them out for yourself and see what's better!
You can now get your NENE Chicken delivered right in front of where you stay in Korea
#5 Most Popular Chicken Brand in Korea : KyoChon Chicken
Founded in 1991, KyoChon is famous for its soy sauce chicken. Orders like seasoned fried chicken and Snowing Chicken are mostly popular among the younger customers, but the soy sauce chicken is famous across all ages. Some say that KyoChon has way smaller portions compared to the other brands, but it really only seems that way because the fried layer is thin and they stack the pieces together tightly in the box.
This is my favorite brand. Love you KyoChon!
KyoChon's Most Popular Order : Original Soy
Soy sauce chicken has become popular over the years and now you'll see that most brands will have some variation of it. But nothing can compare to KyoChon.
I personally love soy chicken so I've tried almost every brand, but KyoChon still wins. The chicken is fried to a crisp, and then the garlic-based soy sauce is carefully applied to each piece with a brush. Soy chicken is great because unlike other flavors, you don't need to eat it hot for it to be delicious. If you only have one chance to eat chicken in Korea, I'd recommend KyoChon.
The Editor's Recommended Order : Soy Original + Red Original Half and Half
My favorite chicken menu overall is KyoChon's Red Original. The Soy Original is of course delicious, but the Red really trumps it. The sauce is made with Korea red spicy peppers, garlic, and honey, and just absolutely melts in your mouth. If you're a fan of spicy, please make sure you try the Red Original from KyoChon.
TIP : You make a half-and-half order of Soy Original and Red Original. That way, you can try both of KyoChon's flavors!
You can now get your Kyochon Chicken delivered right in front of where you stay in Korea
+ Editor's Recommended Chicken Brand : Really Good Home Fried
Like the name, this brand's chicken is really good. The batter is thin and crispy, and the chicken has a light spicy kick to it.
But the real reason I'm recommending this brand is the price. With delivery, an order will cost you 15,000 KRW, which is cheaper than any of the brands introduced above. If you're willing to pick up from the store yourself, then the price comes down to 11,000 KRW. Good chicken doesn't have to be expensive!
Q. Who are the real fathers of Korean fried chicken and seasoned fried chicken?
The Father of Korean Fried Chicken : Lims Chicken
The crispy fried chicken that we know and love has a relatively short history. Lims Chicken, started in 1977 from Shinsegae Department Store, is the real inventor of the Korean fried chicken.
Lims Chicken became immensely popular soon after its invention, but they failed to catch up with the shifting preferences towards seasoned fried chicken later on. Now, there are 50 stores across the country, standing their ground with the title "the first Korean fried chicken."
The Father of Seasoned Fried Chicken: Mexican Chicken
The father of Korean fried chicken has long been settled as Lims Chicken, but the father of the seasoned fried chicken has long been up for debate. The debate went all the way up to the Supreme Court, where they concluded that Mexican Chicken is the real father of the seasoned fried chicken.
Mexican Chicken has 382 stores across Korea as of 2018, and has been maintaining its 15th place in rankings every year. If you'd like to try the original seasoned fried chicken, give Mexican Chicken a go!
This has been an overview of Korean chicken brands, brought to you by a true chicken lover. If you're in Korea, make sure to try some real Korean fried chicken!
Until next time
The above was a post on Korean Chicken Brands. If you have any further inquiries, please shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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