If there’s one thing Koreans love, it’s fried chicken. Fried chicken places can be found on almost every block, just look for the hanguel 치킨. This hanguel phonetically sounds like chee-keen and is only used to signify fried chicken, so if you find it in the name of a shop it’s almost definitely going to be selling fried chicken.
If you’re somehow unable to find a fried chicken place, type 치킨 into Google Maps or Naver Maps and it should bring up every chicken seller in your area. Many are independent businesses, but just as many are major franchises.
Walking into one of these places can be quite intimidating, as often they’re small, dark and empty. Most people ring up for delivery (which you can do too) so often you’ll just find a kitchen and a cook in a tiny room. But don’t be too intimidated, these guys want your money, so they’ll be patient while you attempt to explain what you want. Don’t know what you want, or can’t read the menu? Forget about it. Daniel is here to help with ㅁ handy list of common items. I would say this list is good for most chicken places (inc KyoChon (교촌치킨), Boor (부어치킨), BHC, Toreore (또래오래), Hosigi (호식이치킨)).
Often chicken places have little magnetic menus to put on your fridge. If you find a good chicken place nearby, take their menu home and translate it, that way you’ll definitely know what you want each time you go in. It’s a pathetic way of living your life, but it’s better than starving.
<한마리> hanmari – one portion / one whole chicken
<두마리> doomari – two portions / two whole chickens
<반> ban – half portion
<순살> soonsal – boneless chicken
<윙> weeng / <날개> nal-gae – wings
<봉> bong – drumlettes
<다리> da-lee – legs
<텐더> tehn-daw – tenders
<콤보> kom-boh – combo, usually a mixture of chicken cuts (wings and drumlettes usually)
<국내산> gook-nae-san – domestic chicken (from Korea)
Usually menus are split up in some way, either by amount (look for doo <두> (2) and han <한> (1)) or by type of chicken. Set menus <> are common, which will often be two items separated by a plus symbol (+), so if you want two boxes of chicken go for one of these, usually a set menu also comes with a bottle of cola and a disgusting packet of pickled radish. The standard box of chicken is a whole chicken that has been cut into pieces and fried. If you’re not a fan of boney chicken, ensure you pick an item with <순살> in it.
Types of Chicken
<양념> yeung-nyam – fried chicken tossed in sweet sauce
<간장> ganjang / <소이> soh-ee – fried chicken in soy sauce
<후라이드> who-la-ee-duh – plain old fried chicken
<오리지날> oh-lee-jee-nal – original chicken (plain old fried chicken again)
<매운> mae-oon / <매콤한> mae-kom-han / <핫> hat – spicy chicken
<파닭> pa-dal – topped with raw onions
<마늘> ma-neul – garlicy
<크리스피> kuh-lee-suh-pee – crispy
<불닭> bool-dal – very spicy chicken
These are some common items found on fried chicken menus. Unfortunately it would be impossible to list every chicken item, as often chicken restaurants have their own names for their chicken which tell you nothing about the product itself. Think of it this way, if you’d never been to McDonalds before, would you even know what is in a Bigmac? When in doubt go for yeungnyam chicken, it’s the tastiest for sure.
Random Menu Terms
<소스> soh-suh – sauce
<맛> mat – flavor (eg. <매운맛> – mae-oon-mat – spicy flavor)
<콜라> koh-la – cola
<생맥> saeng-mak – draft beer
<맥주> mak-jew – beer
<세트> seh-tuh meh-nyoo – set menu
<시리즈> see-lee-juh – series (used to denote a category of chicken)
<만> man – only (eg. <다리만> – legs only)
<와> wah – with (eg. <날개와다리> – wings with legs)
How to Buy Korean Fried Chicken
Here’s a step by step run down of buying chicken in Korea directly from the chicken shop.
1. Walk into the shop. As I mentioned they’re usually tiny places, so you’ll be noticed immediately. Saying hello will be a great first step. Sometimes they’ll give you a little menu, sometimes they’ll point to a menu on the wall.
2. Decide what you want. The majority of the time, the menu will have pictures making this as easy as pointing. If it doesn’t you can do the classic travellers technique of picking something random. If you’re not that adventurous and know a little hanguel, you could use the food guide above to choose something. My suggestion is you just buy some <양념치킨> yeungnyam chicken (yeung-nyam chee-keen juseyo), it’s usually the tastiest and is available at pretty much every chicken place.
3. If you want to have your chicken delivered, hand your address over. I find its much easier to just write my address on a post-it and hand it over, that way there’s no miscommunication and it’s easy for them to know I want it delivered. If you choose a nearby chicken place, they’ll have no problems knowing where you live either.
4. Hand over your money and leave. If you don’t want your food delivered, take a seat and wait, it usually takes 15-20 minutes. Easy.
My level of Korean is pretty much 1/10, but I’ve managed to order Korean fried chicken multiple times. If in doubt, use the age old technique of shrugging while looking confused. You’ll look like a schmuck, but you’ll get your chicken eventually.
Photo by hermitsmoores on Flickr.