When you think of fried chicken, you probably don’t immediately think of South Korea.
Instead, you’re likely picturing a brand seasoned with 11 top-secret herbs and spices and adorned with a certain twinkly-eyed, white-haired colonel.
But then again, it’s not something the South Korean people expected to take on either, until the dish turned up with the arrival of US troops in the 1940s.
Stationed there as a historic war split the country into two factions, the American soldiers fancied a taste of home and set up stalls selling their favourite fried snack.
Later in 1975, inspired after studying in the US, Yu Seok-ho returned to set up the first Korean fried chicken franchise in Seoul. And in 1982, the dish was finally given its signature sweet and spicy twist and the wave began to catch on, with more than 50,000 restaurants across the country to date.
The popular dish has even made it over to our shores, too, at Acacia Restaurant and Barbeque, and we’re more than excited to try it – along with the rest of the menu.
Located in the Ain Al Fayda area at the foot of Jebel Hafeet, the restaurant offers authentic Korean fare, with options including bibimbap, kimchi soup and pajeon pancakes.
The bulgogi – marinated beef barbecue served with rice and lettuce wraps – is tender and delicious, with caramelised onions and sweet and salty ssamjang dipping sauce adding a hit of umami flavour.
The dolsot bibimbap, cooked in a stone bowl, tastes exactly as it should, with the crispy rice topped with egg and pickled vegetables, while the kimchi soup is not for the faint-hearted with its hefty dose of heat.
And finally, the star of the show: the yangnyeom Korean fried chicken. With an irresistibly sticky sweet and spicy glaze and added crunch from peanuts, we can’t get enough of it, despite the decent hit of spice from the gochujang chilli paste.
Crunchy and moreish, we have no doubt as to why a dish so synonymous with America became a hit in its own right some 7,000 miles away.
With authentic cuisine, smiling staff and chefs who know how to handle some heat, Acacia Restaurant and Barbeque is a great stop for those craving flavours straight from Seoul.
Need to know
Location: Acacia Restaurant and Barbeque, opposite One to One Hotel, Ain Al Fayda
We say: Finger-lickin’ chicken – and the rest is great, too
Cost: AED 200 for two
Opening times: Daily 11am–11pm
Contact: 03 783 8840, facebook.com/acaciarestaurant.bbq
WORDS Camille Hogg