leave your inhibitions at the door
I LOVE fried chicken.
While I’m not an expert on fried chicken by any stretch, I’ve had some absolutely terrific chicken over the years. One of my favorites has always been Harold’s Chicken Shack in Chicago. It’s a Chicago-only chain with locations in the absolute worst neighborhoods. In most of them, you are talking to the order-taker through bulletproof glass with a little revolving door to exchange both the money and the chicken. No joke. I’ve also had some great fried chicken in the Carolinas and Louisiana. But the best I’ve ever had was right here in Ann Arbor.
A few months ago my friend and fellow blogger Oliver, aka The Winegetter, turned me onto Seoul Street. It’s a fast food restaurant that occupies the tiniest space near North Campus, sandwiched between a Qdoba and some “gourmet” burger joint. There are only 2-3 tables inside, and a couple others outdoors for warmer months.
Ollie is straight from Germany but he spent quite a bit of time in South Korea, so he’s quite familiar with the cuisine. I personally am almost completely ignorant when it comes to Korean food, so he offered to give me some lessons. Joining us for lunch that day was his vivacious wife, Nina.
What We Ate
We started off with a bang – Kimchee Fries. These are a monster mound of fries topped with caramelized kimchee, onions, cheese, scallions, sour cream, and spicy mayo.
It was about as rich as it sounded, but surprisingly not overly heavy. Definitely not to be missed.
Looking at the menu, and being the Mexican food nut, I had to try the Korean tacos. These were on corn tortillas with cabbage, lettuce, and your choice of chicken, bulgogi, Spam, and tofu. As tempted as I was to go for the Spam, we did chicken and bulgogi.
They were certainly interesting. But in this case, Mexico wins.
But the real story here is the fried chicken, which you can get either with a soy garlic or hot & spicy glaze.
You’ll notice there isn’t a lot of breading on it, but it was still the crispiest chicken ever. The secret is that it’s double-fried. I think the first time around seals in the juices and the second frying makes the skin super crisp. Whatever the science is behind it, it works.
The hot & spicy glaze is definitely the way to go. It’s not overly hot and has a touch of sweetness to balance things out. On a subsequent visit I tried the soy garlic and found it good, but a little salty for my taste. You’d think that with all the sauce, it would eventually get soggy. It didn’t. In fact, I took a piece home for Boom Boom in a styrofoam container. Even though it got to her an hour and a half after it got out of the fryer, it still was crunchy. She was a little hesitant to try it but her eyes lit up at the first bite. I was expecting her to just sample it and give the rest to me, but she scarfed it down in a minute.
A couple notes, though. First, the chicken only comes in wings, drumsticks, thighs, and boneless strips. If you were hoping for a big honking breast, you’re outta luck. Also, it’s cooked to order which means it takes 20-25 minutes to come to you. You’ll want to do like we did – order a couple other items and have them bring out the food as it’s ready. If fried chicken isn’t your thing, they have bibimbop, fried rice, Army Base stew, and other Korean specialties. But, really, the chicken is king here.
Fried chicken’s reputation has taken a beating over the past decade or so due to concerns about fat. Any breading on the chicken soaks up the oil and, assuming the skin is still on, the total fat content goes through the roof. But as I mentioned a few weeks ago, recent studies have shown that fat is probably not the demon that it’s been made out to be.
I’m sure there’s going to be more and more debate on the fat issue. In the meantime, I’m sure the occasional indulgence is not going to hurt. If you do decide to splurge on some fried chicken, definitely check out Seoul Street. I know I will soon.
Like, as soon as I get off this God-forsaken lemonade cleanse.
Are you a fried chicken fan? Any good places you recommend? Ever had Korean-style fried chicken?