When the cherry blossom is out and the weather is warming up after the long winter, the Han River park is bustling with young couples strolling around or having picnics. We also went out for a stroll hoping to savour the fragrance of the blooms. But all I could smell was chicken. Fried chicken.
Chimaek chicken and beer is so popular these days. There’s even a chimaek festival held in Daegu at the end of July. The word Chimaek is a combo of chi (chicken), and maek (maekju Korean for beer).
A fried chicken franchise is never very far away in Korea and the number of stores is growing all the time! Chicken can be delivered to absolutely anywhere. And it’s a must at sporting events like baseball and football where sellers stand outside selling boxes of ready-to-go fried chicken. The lift in our apartment often smells of chicken too, so I know what our neighbours are eating.
Seoul has become a city of apartments, coffee shops, cosmetic stores, and chicken and beer restaurants! For several years now, opening a chicken and beer franchise has been a popular new career choice for middle aged salarymen forced to leave their desk jobs.
DRAMA FANS FROM CHINA LOVE CHIMAEK
pictures: Yonhap News Chinese tourists arrive to enjoy chimaek
Dramas such as My Love from The Star (SBS 2014) have helped to make chimaek popular abroad too, especially in China. The main characters in this romance eat chimaek together so fried chicken has become a dish that also represents romance. Who knew?
Last month 6,000 Chinese tourists arrived in ONE tour group. The group, all employees of the Aolan International Beauty Group, arrived on 150 planes with the plan to visit filming locations of the drama and eat chimaek. To accommodate everyone, organisers had to set up 750 tables and call 50 chimaek shops to provide the chicken! This is a record breaker for the largest tour group to come here. But even larger groups are on their way this spring and summer!
THE BEST CHIMAEK IN TOWN
Setting up a chimaek franchise is popular, but it means that there’s just too much competition and shops are opening and closing all the time. So where is the best chicken and beer in Seoul? There’s a mind-boggling number of restaurants to choose from. In terms of sales, Kyochon Chicken, is top followed by 비비큐 BBQ which has the most stores nationwide with over 1684 (that was in 2014 so maybe more now).The biggest rising brand is Mom’s Touch which has seen over a 40% rise in its number of stores over 2 years.
As well as the large chains there are lots of small chains and one-off restaurants with their own versions of chimaek. It’s fun to try new places and you won’t have to walk far before stumbling over a chicken shop. But I like craft beer so I choose places not only for the chicken but also for the beer. Many chimaek restaurants only sell the 2 usual Korean lagers – Cass and Hite, which I’m not fond of. These days Kloud beer may be on sale too. (Kloud is the best of the 3 in my opinion)
Our favourite chain of chimaek restaurants is 생활맥주 Daily Beer which now has 40 shops around the city. They serve a range of craft beers and several different chicken dishes. But we always have the same thing – Angry Bird, spicy fried chicken (16,000 won) (above). It’s served with a spicy sauce dip and radish cubes. I’ve also tried the cajun chicken salad which is a tasty, lighter option. And the fried potatoes are also good – thin cut french fries or thick potato wedges.
The chain’s moto is ‘save water, drink beer‘ (I want the T-shirt). The cheapest beer is the perfectly decent OB Premium Pilsner for 3,500 won and this is served in a pyrex jug. (Mr. Kim is not happy about that though and would prefer a proper glass) I usually have a pale ale (6,500 won) which is quite bitter and fruity. Craft beers are great.
The only downside with this chain is that they don’t deliver, so I have to put my going out pants on if I want to eat fried chicken…