Move over, bulgogi, you are so last decade. A hot new Korean food wave has hit town! Behold the new KFC–Korean fried chicken.
Although a recent phenomenon in Singapore, Korean fried chicken has long been a popular appetizer and accompaniment to beer in Korea. Its evolution began a few decades ago when Western fast-food joints experimented with localised versions of fried chicken. Tender meat, super crispy skin, and a lip-smacking (typically spicy) glaze, it has proved to be a winning formula since its introduction in Singapore.
Riding on this wave of popularity, several Korean fried chicken specialists have set up shop within the last 12 months. We checked out five, and rated them based on their spicy-flavoured chicken. Who sizzled, and who fizzled? Read on to find out!
#B4-06A, ION Orchard
Opening hours: Daily:11am–10pm
Price: from $7.95 for 6 pieces (flavours: spicy, soy garlic, teriyaki)
Opened by four friends, hence “4 Fingers”, BonChon brings a whole new meaning to “finger-licking good!” First of all, we were blown away by how the skin (not batter) was amazingly crispy. It felt so ethereally light, and best of all, stayed crisp even when we did a take-away.
We also liked how they didn’t overdo the glaze; it merely hugged the skin in a light and even layer. At first, it tasted mildly spicy, and even slightly sweet, but you get the full kick of the chilli later.
Only wings and drummettes were available. Both were tender, moist, and flavourful, but the meat was rather skinny. You’ll have to eat quite a few to fill up. This is the perfect party food or beer grub, but it’s so addictive we’ll happily eat this any time of the day!
#03-42, Stall 12, Kopitiam, Jurong Point Shopping Centre
Opening hours: Daily:10am-10pm
Price: from $5.80 for 2 pieces (flavours: original, mild spicy, curry)
Of all the joints in this review, Chicken Up is the least “Korean”, because they didn’t smother their fried chicken with any sauces. In fact, it looked and tasted identical to KFC’s Crispy formula.
However, Chicken Up deserves a big thumbs-up for near faultless execution. The birds they used were very fresh, and the meat was beautifully tender and succulent. Even the breast meat was relatively moist and flavourful.
We were also mighty impressed with the crispy batter, which was thin, fragrant, and delicate. Incredibly, it didn’t feel greasy at all. However, the chili powder was boringly simple, and wasn’t evenly spread out over the chicken. But overall, Chicken Up scored for excellent quality and value for money.
#B1-04/05, Cathay Cineleisure Orchard
Opening hours: Sun-Thurs & PH: 11am-10.30pm; Fri-Sat & eve of PH: 11am-11.30pm
Price: from $13.90++ for 2 pieces of chicken and 2 side dishes (flavours: Original, Hot Hot Drum)
Warning: Only seasoned chili fiends should attempt this, for the Hot Hot Drum chili glaze will set your mouth on fire! We’re not suggesting they should dumb down the spiciness, but perhaps it’s a good idea to have more complex flavours rather than just mind-numbing heat.
That said, we really enjoyed the supremely juicy and tender meat of the two chicken drums. The batter was also very crunchy. Although quite thick, it shattered easily. This is supposedly a healthier version of fried chicken, as BBQ Chicken claims to use extra virgin olive oil to cook their chicken. But we’re curious how they do it as olive oil is generally not used for deep-frying due to its low smoking point.
Maybe this explains why BBQ Chicken is comparatively more expensive than the rest, since olive oil is many times pricier than other oils. Just be prepared to pay a bit more for fried chicken with less guilt.
57 Tras Street, #01-01
Opening hours: 11am-4am
Price: from $15+ for half a chicken (flavours: original, garlic soy, hot & spicy, sweet & spicy)
Kko Kko Nara serves up the most authentic version of Korean fried chicken, complete with side dishes of refreshing pickled radish and coleslaw. We sampled the yang nyum sweet & spicy sauce, a piquant blend of nicely balanced and complex flavours that complemented the fried chicken pieces.
Because this was half a bird, we got a mixture of both white and dark meat. The dark meat parts were definitely more tender than the whites, but on the whole, the chicken was a little over-cooked and on the dry side. The batter was rather hard, but remained crunchy despite the heavy sauce.
19 Lorong Kilat, #01-02
Opening hours: Mon-Sat: 12pm-2.30pm; 5pm-12am; Sun: 5pm-12am
Price: from $13+ for half a chicken, bone-in or boneless (flavours: original, volcano yum yum, soy garlic, yum yum spicy sweet)
We sampled the yum yum spicy sweet version. Well, we detected sweet and sour flavours, but where’s the spicy part? In fact, there was an overpowering garlic taste that dominated the sauce, which also got too cloying after a while.
As for the chicken, it was sufficiently tender. We recommend ordering it bone-in, because there are more moist dark meat parts, rather than the dry boneless white meat pieces.
The batter had a nice crunch, but was too heavy and not evenly spread out. Together with the sauce, it all got very overwhelming after a while. If we could offer our humble suggestion to the good folks at Woori Nara: Less is more.