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Seoul Fried Chicken: Taking KFC to New Heights
Thursday February 25 , 2016
Seoul Fried Chicken opened its doors earlier this month, promising to spread the growing Korean fried chicken craze to Edmonton’s hungriest. The term KFC really means Korean fried chicken to me now. According to the eatery, “everyone loves fried chicken” and with their “seven ways ’til Sunday”, you can literally go every day and have a different flavour of their specialty chicken. Okay, except Sunday. They’re closed on Sundays.
The storefront is tucked away in the outer corner of the small shopping complex off of Whyte Avenue, a complex that I’ve always refer to as “the one where Dream Tea House” is. To Korean fare fans, Seoul Fried Chicken takes place of the old Lee House location. Given the demographics of the area, I’d say the eatery is right where it needs to be: fried chicken and beer for all. You might be thinking, “Hmm, Korean fried chicken? At the old Lee House? Related…?” My thoughts exactly friend. And you’re right: Chef Jake Lee is a part of the famous Lee family, their location now in Chinatown. Lee House is one of my favourite Korean eateries, so I’ve been hawking for Seoul Fried Chicken to open since I got a tip from my friend Lesley. A couple of friends and I tried visiting last Wednesday but due to unexpected construction, the front entrance had to be closed down for the night. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my friends so disappointed before. Thankfully, Nongbu Korean Eatery is just a block away and so our Korean food hankerings were at least satisfied and in the best possible way.
Seoul Fried Chicken
I returned on Saturday with Joe, and a second time on Monday with my friends to find it re-opened with a packed house. With mostly tables for two and a single table for six, it’s the one thing missing from Seoul Fried Chicken: seating. Since Lee House’s closure, they’ve cut the dining room almost in half in order to expand the small kitchen area. Definitely designed for some quick drinks and eats. But that’s enough talk, let’s dive into the food:
Seoul Fried Chicken SFC OG (5pc Chicken + Beer, order of House Fries)
SFC OG: Golden crispy, moist and seasoned to the bone. This really is the OG (original gangster). The batter is noticeably crispy and the meat tender and moist. As a base for all the chicken made at Seoul Fried Chicken, this is a must order on your first visit.
Seoul Fried Chicken SFC BBQ (10 piece)
SFC BBQ: Dad’s famous Korean spicy BBQ sauce. Between my friends and I, we all remember Lee House’s sauce to taste a bit different. Jake explained that although the sauce is the same, the technique is different: his dad wok-frying the chicken instead. Jake wanted a crispier chicken, with little potential to become soggy from sauce. Definitely accomplished that, a soggy piece of chicken not in sight while we were there although somehow not as memorable as his father’s. OG Mr. Lee takes this one, sorry Jake! Most notably, Seoul Fried Chicken’s BBQ sauce is quite gochujang-strong, whereas I prefer a spicy-sweet combination instead.
Cilantro Lime & Onion Lover (10pc each)
Onion Lover: Sweet hot mustard topped with shredded green onion. It sounds so deceivingly simple, the words “hot mustard” really throwing me off. This became one of our most memorable flavours and one of the best. The “hot mustard” is actually based of what Jake calls a “yellow wasabi”, only found in Korean markets. It’s also one of the most popular fried chicken flavours in Korea right now. I can see why. Addictively sweet and hot. I’m not even a mustard lover to begin with!
Cilantro Lime: SFC OG basted with cilantro lime chimichurri. Deliciously bright from the lime, I appreciated a different flavour profile on the menu! Something tells me that the word “chimichurri” on the menu would come from somebody who has a culinary background and not just “in the family business” kind of experience. Sure enough, Jake told us that he’s worked at XIX (Terwillegar) under Chef Andrew Fung before starting Seoul Fried Chicken.
Garlic Soy (5pc Chicken Set)
Garlic Soy: SFC OG basted with soy sauce and garlic. Basted is a loose terminology, it was doused in a soy glaze! Looking for something salty and messy to eat? This is your kind of fried chicken!
Golden Kari (5pc Chicken Set)
Golden Kari: SFC OG basted Japanese curry powder. Much like the Onion Lover, I would have thought this was my least favourite flavour from just looking at the menu. ‘Lo and behold, it ended up being one of my favourites! Japanese curry lovers, you’ll need to get this. Nay-sayers, get this too because I think it will surprise you in the best way possible!
Sad to say, they were out of cheese to make the G.P Cheese (Grated Grana Padano) so I couldn’t finish the entire menu. Close enough. Based on my hesitance on the Onion Lover and Golden Kari though, I would think that some how, one way or another, the G.P Cheese would actually work and can’t wait to try it.
Mac ‘N Cheese Pesto Salad
Sesame Potato Slaw
After the question, “how is it?”, you’re next question probably is, “how much is it?” I almost never talk about price on my posts, but Seoul Fried Chicken’s pricing is worth mentioning. I think it’s extremely reasonable. You can order Half Chicken(10 pieces, decent size pieces) for $13 to $14.50 depending on the flavour, or a Whole Chicken (20 pieces) for $23 to $27, which is enough to feed four people. Best deal of them all: the 5pc Chicken SET ($11) for your choice of single chicken flavour, any 1/2 order of salad, and your choice of house fries or corn fritter. Oh, and a can of pop. SAYWHAA? Sides not your thing? Then get the 5pc Chicken + Domestic Beer ($10.50). Pay the additional $0.75 and you can probably upgrade to import. Just saying’. Seeing that I drove for the visit, I opted to try the salads. The cold Mac n’ Cheese Pesto salad was creative and delicious, but the Sesame Potato Slaw has my vote: a shredded potato, cabbage, and yam slaw mixed with a black sesame dressing. That dressing is killer. House Fries appear to be fresh cut, done well (slightly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside) although nothing noteworthy.
And as if you’re not full enough (and I’m not writing enough), there’s dessert. The “Almost Famous” Walnut Red Bean Cake Pops is made fresh daily and in limited supply. Commonly eaten on the streets of Seoul, I remembered these to be deliciously hot, nutty, and slightly sweet from the red bean paste inside. Saturday’s visit gave us a soft, chewy dough with a delicious red bean paste with bites of walnuts. On my second visit, Jake told us that they had changed their recipe to make a firmer dough, a style more in tune with how it’s made back in Korea. I personally preferred the chewy texture but to each their own! The one thing I really had hoped for when I saw the machine behind the till was that it was made fresh to order! Unfortunately, when you order 10, 15, or 20 pieces ($5/7.25/9.25), the cakes are already made and in a bag. Sad face. But totally understandable because then it would take forever to make. The Vanilla Coconut Chia Pudding ($4) that I took home later to try was delicious, thick in consistency and full of coconut flavour. I don’t think desserts is really needed on the menu, but it’s there if you’ve got a strong hankering for it.
Phew. It’s been a whirlwind of a week and full of fried chicken! Take home notes: go with friends, try everything. If you can’t, then get the SFC OG and SFC BBQ to start. Because you have to. Then on your return visit, order the Onion Lover (even if you don’t love onions…) and give the Golden Kari a try. Two flavours that no other Korean fried chicken place is doing in Edmonton. Modern Korean is starting to become a thing in Edmonton and I’m all happy for it. Seoul Fried Chicken is one of the best, if not the best Korean fried chicken in town. Watch out for Chef Jake Lee, already thinking of different flavour profiles to feature on the menu. I would actually like to see him revamp or make his own spicy BBQ sauce rather than feature his father’s. Perhaps something more gochugaru-based (Korean chili flakes, rather than the gochujang paste), or even a doubanjiang-based sauce if we’re straying away from Korea (think Sichuan spicy). Super stoked about this place and really excited to see what else Chef Jake Lee comes up with! If you’re fried chicken lover (who isn’t?), check out Seoul Fried Chicken. Oh, and start a stamp card. Because you’ll be back.
Seoul Fried Chicken SFC BBQ (Half Chicken, 10pc)
Seoul Fried Chicken
7904b – 104 Street
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