Dining in Korea is an entire body experience that illuminates all senses in incredible ways. From fiery to cooling, to comforting and unique the Korean cuisine is bursting with different flavors. Going out dinner is an experience unlike any other country I have visited. Every restaurant specializes in a particular type of food, and for the most part, does that one food well.
My parents came to visit recently, and my mother is, sadly, not very open to trying new foods. She eats the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day, and, unlike me, doesn’t travel to eat! It made things a tad difficult when we went out for meals, as at every restaurant we went to, all she said was, “I’ll just have some chicken!”
I had to explain to her, many (many) times, that you can’t just get chicken at any restaurant in Korea! If you want chicken, you have to go to a chicken restaurant!
I started to pay close attention to the restaurants that serve chicken around me. I also talked to my Korean friends about the the different kinds of chicken dishes around the country.
Here are 7 different chicken dishes you must try in Korea.
Chuncheon Dak Galbi (춘천 닭갈비)
*Pronounce It– [choon-chon-dak-gahl-bee]*
Chuncheon Dakgalbi is my favorite of all chicken dishes in Korea! It originates from Chuncheon in Gangwon Province, but found all over. It’s made at the table in front of you in a giant pan. Chunks of marinated diced chicken, scallions, potato, tteok (rice cakes), and gochujang (red pepper paste) are stir fried together.
The dish is inexpensive and super tasty, and you can add things to it like noodles, or cheese. After the meal, if you have any room, order some rice to stir fry with the remaining sauce and vegetables in the pan!
The name dak galbi throws you off a bit, as it is not actually chicken rib meat. The meat in Chuncheon dakgalbi is boneless thigh meat.
The best place to eat this kind of chicken dish is straight from the source in Chuncheon. Eating this dish here was so fresh and tasty, the trip (an hour from Seoul) was well worth it.
Break it down: Chuncheon 춘천 = city in Gangwon Province; dak 닭 = chicken; galbi 갈비 = ribs
Sutbul Dak Galbi (숯불 닭갈비)
*Pronounce It– [soot-ball-dahk-gal-bee]*
This is another form of chicken barbecue. It differs from Chuncheon dakgalbi as its cooked on a wire grill over charcoal. The chicken, made with little marinade, just a few seasonings top the chicken as it sits over the charcoal. Eat both thigh and breast meat with the skin on. The chicken is smoky and tender, and served with rice cakes, garlic, onions, and lettuce to wrap it all up.
Break it down: sutbul 숯불 =charcoal; dak 닭 = chicken; galbi 갈비 = ribs
Fried Chicken (치킨)
*Pronounce it — [chee-kin]*
Fried chicken joints in Korea are different from their American counterparts. The fried chicken in Korea, fried two times, results in extra crispy skin on the outside and tender meat on the inside. It’s served with radish, dipping sauce, and beer. In fact, eating fried chicken and drinking beer in Korea has a celebrity name: Chimaek (chicken + maekju).
There are many options for sauces, both wet and dry, including sweet sauce, soy sauce, spicy sauce, garlic sauce, or plain old crispy chicken. My favorite option at a chicken joint is to get ban ban (반 반) which means half and half, of plain fried chicken and chicken with spicy sauce.
One plate is enough for two people and costs anywhere from 12,000-20,000. Eat it with tongs, and dump the bones into the empty bucket.
There are so many fried chicken restaurants in Korea, I have yet to eat at one I didn’t like. My favorites are Ho Chicken and BHC Chicken.
Dakgangjeong is a specialized version of fried chicken, popular at the Jungang Market in Sokcho (a beach city on the Northeast coast). It’s fried chicken, but made of much smaller bites (think popcorn chicken) coated in a sweet and spicy sauce. It’s made fresh every day, and served cold. It’s sweet, spicy and crispy, and the lines at the vendors in the market prove how delicious it is!
Andong Jjimdak (안동찜닭)
*Pronounced — [an-dong-jim-dahk]*
Seasoned and simmered chicken is what you get with Andong Jjimdak. Jjimdak is from the city of Andong in Gyeongsangbuk province in the central southeastern part of the country. Chicken and vegetables (potatoes, carrots and onions) simmer together in a soy sauce broth. The noodles, with sauce and tender chicken, make for a slightly spicy, excellent meal.
Jjimdak restaurants serve big pans of the chicken dish; small is good for 2-3 people, medium 3-5 and large for 6-8. They cost between 20,000-40,000 won.
Break it down: Andong 안동 = region in Gyeongsangbuk-do province; jjim 찜 = steamed dish ; dak 닭 = chicken
*Pronounce it — [dahk-doh-ri-tahng]*
Dakdoritang is like jjimdak, though cheaper, and in my opinion, better! Made with spicy red pepper paste (gochuchang), potatoes, carrots and onions this is a slow cooked chicken dish. The potatoes soak in the sauce as the chicken slowly cooks to perfect tenderness. The whole chicken is in the stew, so expect meat on the bone and possibly some feet!
There aren’t any specific dakdoritang restaurants, as it is primarily a home cooked meal. Be on the look out for this dish at places that already serve chicken dishes. It is also known as dakbokkuemtang (mixed chicken stew).
Break it down: dak 닭= chicken; dori 도리= bird (in Japanese) ; tang 탕 = stew
*Pronounce it — [sahm-gey-tahng]*
The last thing I crave on a hot summer day is a steaming bowl of soup, but that is exactly what people in Korea eat! On the hottest days of the year, you will find lines queued up antsy to get into a samgyetang restaurant to “cool down” and get some energy!
This hot ginseng chicken dish is an energizing and revitalizing soup, and is most frequently eaten when you are sick, trying to not get sick, or on a hot summer day. I know the latter seems strange, but the energizing effect of the soup is supposed to recharge you! (I haven’t eaten it on a hot day yet, so I can’t confirm or deny this!)
The whole chicken is stuffed and boiled with ginseng, dates, various medicinal herbs and glutinous rice. Using young chickens means the meat is tender. The soup is flavorful and energizing.
Break it down: insam 인삼 = ginseng; gye 계 = chicken; tang 탕 = soup/stew
What is your favorite Korean Chicken Dish?