The History of Korean Fried Chicken: From Street Food to Global Sensation

Origins of Korean Fried Chicken

origin of fried chicken

Korean fried chicken, known as “chikin” in Korea, has a rich and fascinating history. Its roots can be traced back to the Korean War in the 1950s when American soldiers stationed in Korea introduced fried chicken to the local population. The dish quickly gained popularity due to its crispy texture and flavorful taste, leading to the establishment of the first fried chicken restaurants in South Korea in the 1970s. Today, the love for Korean fried chicken has spread far and wide, reaching places like Abu Dhabi, where food enthusiasts enjoy this delectable dish. The introduction of Korean fried chicken in Abu Dhabi highlights the global appeal and adaptability of this beloved Korean culinary creation.

Evolution Over the Years

1970s: The Birth of a National Favorite

In the 1970s, South Korea experienced rapid economic growth, and with it came an increased demand for fast food. Fried chicken, which was relatively easy and quick to prepare, became a popular choice among Koreans. Early Korean fried chicken was heavily influenced by American recipes but soon began to incorporate unique Korean flavors and techniques. One of the first major innovations was the double-frying method, which resulted in an extra-crispy exterior while keeping the meat juicy and tender.

1980s-1990s: The Rise of Korean Fried Chicken Chains

The 1980s and 1990s saw the emergence of numerous Korean fried chicken chains, each bringing their own spin to the dish. Major brands like Kyochon, Bonchon, and BBQ Chicken started to dominate the market. These chains introduced a variety of flavors and sauces, from sweet and spicy yangnyeom sauce to garlic soy and honey butter. The trend of serving fried chicken with pickled radish and beer, known as “chimaek” , also became popular during this period.

Global Expansion

global expansion

Early 2000s: Introduction to International Markets

Korean fried chicken began its journey to international fame in the early 2000s. The Korean wave, or “Hallyu,” which includes K-pop, K-dramas, and Korean cuisine, played a significant role in promoting Korean culture worldwide. Korean fried chicken chains started to open branches in the United States, China, Japan, and Southeast Asia, introducing the world to this crispy delight.

Mid-2000s Onwards: Adapting to Local Palates

As Korean fried chicken gained popularity globally, it underwent further adaptations to suit local tastes. In the United States, for example, flavors like buffalo sauce and ranch dressing were added to the menu. In Japan, a lighter, less spicy version became popular, while in Southeast Asia, local spices and herbs were incorporated into the recipes.

From Classic Crunch to Sweet Heat: The Korean Fried Chicken Duo

The classic crispy style Korean fried chicken, known for its exceptionally crunchy exterior and juicy interior, is a beloved favorite among food enthusiasts. This traditional preparation uses a double-frying method to achieve its signature texture, making it irresistibly crisp. Complementing this classic is the yangnyeom-chicken, which features the same crispy chicken generously coated in a sweet and spicy sauce. The contrast between the crunchy skin and the rich, flavorful glaze of yangnyeom-chicken creates a delightful taste experience that perfectly showcases the innovation and deliciousness of Korean cuisine.

The Impact of Media and Pop Culture

Korean fried chicken’s global rise was significantly boosted by its frequent appearances in Korean dramas and movies. Scenes featuring characters enjoying chimaek became iconic, sparking curiosity and cravings among international audiences. Social media also played a crucial role, with food bloggers and influencers sharing their experiences and recipes, making Korean fried chicken a viral sensation.


From its humble beginnings as a street food influenced by American cuisine to becoming a global phenomenon, Korean fried chicken has indeed come a long way. Its success can be attributed to the perfect blend of crispy texture, flavorful sauces, and the innovative spirit of Korean chefs who continuously adapt and improve the dish. Today, Korean fried chicken is enjoyed by millions around the world, bridging cultures and bringing people together through its irresistible taste. Whether you’re in Seoul, New York, or Tokyo, a bite of Korean fried chicken is a delightful reminder of how food can transcend borders and create a global culinary sensation.

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