Welcome to our second serving of Have You Eaten? For those who missed last month’s post the idea behind this new monthly food/snack/drink segment is to create a space in which we can discuss the dramas that featured the chosen food/drink of the month and made us crave it. Particularly memorable moments in dramas that featured it, recipes, personal anecdotes about cooking or eating it, pics, mukbang, reviews of store bought versions, basically whatever you can think of relating to it.
This month our focus snack Chimaek (치맥) comes in two parts, Korean Fried Chicken and Beer, a delicious and beloved combo. You might love them together or separately but there’s no denying when you see them in a drama, you often find yourself craving them too.
A Brief History of Chimaek
Let’s start by discussing the etymology of the portmanteau chimaek! If you’re from an English language background and you’ve spent any time attempting to learn Korean you’ve probably found that food/beverage names are the easiest as there are a bunch of English loan words and patterns in naming. When it comes to chimaek it’s a pretty obvious one to break down. This slang term takes the ‘chi’ from chikin (fried chicken) and the ‘maek’ from maekju (beer) to become chimaek. It first appeared around the time of the 2002 Soccer World Cup, a time considered to be “peak chimaek”.
While neither fried chicken nor beer originated in Korea, they’ve managed to turn the two into their own classic combination. It is believed that the dish spread from US soldier bases, slowly growing in popularity after cooking oil was introduced in the early 1970’s. The first restaurants appeared in the late 1970’s and the market continued to grow over time. As a result of the late 1990’s IMF crisis in Asia many individuals who lost their jobs opened fried chicken restaurants. The next major growth period was the previously mentioned 2002 Soccer World Cup by the end of which the number of fried chicken restaurants in Korea grew exponentially.
In 2013, wildly popular Korean drama, My Love From Another Star brought the craze to the world starting with China. In fact, the drama is credited with single-handedly saving the Chinese poultry industry after the avian flu had caused a severe decrease in people eating poultry.
There are currently more than 87,000 fried chicken restaurants in South Korea!
Korean Fried Chicken
Korean fried chicken is a little different to its original source as it has evolved to cater to the Korean palate. For more information on how it’s made here is a video from the company who first added seasoning sauce to the dish to make it easier and more delicious to devour.
There are a few different styles –
Then combine with different flavours (most commonly) –
Fried chicken – huraideu chikin (후라이드 치킨)
Seasoned chicken – yangnyeom chikin (양념 치킨) – a sweet and spicy gochujang based sauce
Soy sauce chicken – ganjang chikin (간장 치킨) – a sweet and salty ganjang based sauce
Scallion chicken – padak (파닭) – fried chicken topped with thinly sliced scallions (green onions)
Half-half – banban (반반) originally shortened from yangnyeom ban, huraideu ban now used to describe any combination of two flavours.
Which Dramas Have had Memorable Chimaek Scenes in Them for you?
Thinking of dramas with high quality chimaek scenes is a little tougher because they are literally everywhere so most of mine are more recent watches rather than being truly memorable moments so I’m looking forward to hearing those that stuck with you –
Many dramas have set out to teach us that eating compatibility is one of the most important things to consider in a relationship and you should only dine with those with agreeable palates. Cinderella and the Four Knights highlighted the importance of choosing a partner based on chicken limb preference and it is pure genius. Seriously everybody, update your online dating profiles today.
Radiant Office taught me that opening a chicken shop is an option many people consider when everything else falls apart. While The Sound of Your Heart highlighted the importance of using ethically sourced domestic chickens.
When it comes to eating, Let’s Eat taught me even if everything goes against you, eventually you will get your fried chicken moment, you might just have to wait a while. If you are really lucky you may come across a unicorn like Lee Soo Kyung who will let you eat all the drumsticks AND wings you can handle.
But usually what’s memorable is just me dying of envy over the product placement. Everyone’s current favourite Crash Landing on You taught me that if I ever find myself in Pyongyang it’s still possible to enjoy chimaek, just not BBQ Chicken brand chimaek.
Last but definitely not least is Man x Man which may be the ultimate chicken lover’s drama of all, featuring both types of KFC, Korean and Kentucky fried. Park Sung Woong really sold his addiction and in turn sent me loopy with cravings.
What’s Your go to Order? Have you had any Memorable Chimaek Moments?
Fortunately, thanks to my Queen Jun Ji Hyun, Korean Fried Chicken is fairly easy to source. Otherwise, I might have to consider deep frying my own and honestly that is an emergency call waiting to happen.
When it comes to ordering the fact that half ‘n half exists is such a blessing for all the indecisive people out there, including me. Apart from the Fried Chicken with Snow Cheese (aka Powdered Cheese Hell) I had at a music festival in Korea, which was a plate of mild food regrets, every flavour I’ve had has been amazing.
Sadly, though, despite being able to get perfectly fine Korean fried chicken, I can’t get the Korean fried chicken of my dreams, NeNe Chicken’s creamy onion chicken.
Here’s my chicken story (you may have heard it before):
The year was 2019, I was living my best life and travelling to the land where fried chicken dreams come true. During my stay my Weekly Binge friend and co-conspirator u/MerinoMedia was flying in to join me for a weekend of food, drama sight-seeing and more food. She’d told me to wait to eat fried chicken together and demanded we get Seventeen’s 네네치킨, I was happy to oblige. We took our chimaek to a drama hotspot, Ilsan Lake Park for a super late lunch picnic and it didn’t take more than a sip of beer (mostly because we gave up drinking it because it was in serious need of soju to make it drinkable) before we were serenading the locals with a beautiful rendition of Love is the Moment. As for the fried chicken we ordered half creamy onion half seasoned, all delicious. The creamy onion chicken was especially good, a combination that should be gross, but is somehow perfect. After Merry left me I ordered it once more before returning home and ate it for days (it’s even great for breakfast but the onions will stink out your life). When I found out that NeNe chicken did have franchises in Australia it was a real emotional roller-coaster, because for some tragic reason they don’t stock the best flavour here. I did try another company’s version while in Sydney but it just wasn’t the same. Alas. Will I ever have that recipe again?
What’s the Next Course?
Our March focus still needs to be decided! This month we will be voting between three different foods/drinks, banana milk, bibimbap (mixed rice), and tteokbokki (spicy stir fried rice cakes). PLEASE VOTE FOR YOUR FAVOURITE HERE. I’ll leave the vote open for a week and then make an announcement on the following weekend wrap up post. Our next post will be on the 29th of March.
Until then we’d love to hear your experiences whether they are limited to drooling over chimaek be it simply on screen or more in the comments below.
A big thank you to u/MerinoMedia and u/AlohaAlex who gave up their free time to read through my first draft (which was a low key hot mess) and increase the quality! Also to Merry for being my number 1 Korean fried chicken girl and to Aloha for making two of these gifs (the really good ones – for more see r/dramagifs). <333