Korean fried chicken can be easily found most anywhere in Seoul.
So when Kim San -- who was racking up experience at a Michelin-starred restaurant at the time -- was offered a chance to take a stab at an already saturated, highly competitive market, one might wonder why he didn’t hesitate.
Perhaps it was because he had been waiting for a moment like this, building up experience at prominent restaurants known for their cerebral eats, all the while dreaming of taking his skills and parlaying them into the creation of wallet friendly, mass market fare.
When that moment finally arrived, he jumped on board, taking on the role of manager of what was to become Hyodo Chicken, now a two-store operation in Seoul’s Nonhyeon-dong.
With the chef of the restaurant where Kim had been working acting as an adviser, Kim and the team came up with what would become their signature dishes from the get-go -- their soy sauce-based pepper chicken and their spicy noodles with dried pollack.
While Hyodo is technically a fried chicken shop, the noodles are as addictive as the chicken.
1) Hyodo’s chewy spicy noodles with dried pollack (back) acts as the perfect foil to crisp, piping hot chicken, including Hyodo’s popular soy sauce-based chicken (front). (Photo credit: Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
“We wanted it to be like a neighborhood pub,” said Kim, 30, explaining why a spicy noodle dish, which represents their riff off of the classic moon snail salad, a familiar fixture of many Korean pubs, was added to the menu.
Instead of moon snails, dried pollack, which adds an umami kick, was added to a mouthwatering sauce that features 23 ingredients and takes three days to make, Kim said.
That cool slurp of fiery, chewy, nutty noodles slick with sesame seed oil acts as the perfect foil to all that crisp, piping hot chicken, including Hyodo’s popular soy sauce-based chicken, which marries an uber-crisp, crackly crust with a sweet, sticky sauce, slightly fiery peppers and small, crunchy anchovies.
“The anchovies adds an even crispier texture to the dish and the peppers bite through the grease,” Kim said.
Like the sauce for the noodles, the sauce for this chicken is a labor of love.
“It takes two days to make this sauce,” said Kim.
What 48 hours translates to on the palate is a deep, salty, sweet, sticky, umami glaze-like concoction that coats every piece of crunchy, juicy chicken.
The chicken itself, said Kim, is brined for about a day before getting dipped into a dry batter and then getting twice-fried to a shattering crispness.
There are also two other variations of fried chicken on the menu and regulars will know that Hyodo has also collaborated in pop-ups with Ahn, a Seoul-based Vietnamese restaurant, and Fritz Coffee Co. to bring fried chicken lovers variations of their favorite dish.
“We are always looking to do pop-ups,” said Kim, revealing that Hyodo is currently doing a three-month pop-up at Brewery 304.
Now, nearly a year and a half later and two stores deep into business, when asked why Kim felt like he could rise to the challenge of surviving, even thriving, in the highly competitive “chimaek” -- chicken and beer -- market, he answered, “The amount of effort and care we put into our food, it creates flavors that you can’t get anywhere else, so people keep coming back for more.”
2) Hyodo Chicken first opened its doors in May 2018 in Seoul’s Nonhyeon-dong (Photo credit: Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Fried chicken costs 17,000 won to 20,000 won, spicy noodles with dried pollack costs 20,000 won, draft beer costs 5,000 won to 7,000 won First Store
101-120 Hanjin Rosehill Apartment Arcade, 105-4, Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Open 6 p.m. to midnight Mondays through Fridays, 5 p.m. to midnight Saturdays, closed SundaysSecond Store
2F, 99-19, Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Open 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Fridays, 5 p.m. to midnight Saturdays, closed Sundays
By Jean Oh (firstname.lastname@example.org)