A Day Trip from Seoul.
About a half an hour by car, or an hour by bus, outside of Seoul is a place called Hwaseong. It is a district in one of the most populated provinces of South Korea, Gyeonggi-do. If you live in Seoul it sometimes feels like it is all Seoul since this metropolitan city is gigantic and spread out, but the real reason you would feel this way is because Gyeonggi-do is a province that surrounds Seoul; which is called a special city. Suwon-si or Suwon city is south of Seoul, and it is the capital of Gyeonggi-do. This area is famous for the Hwaesong Fortress a UNESCO World Heritage site that was built during the Joseon Dynasty. It is a beautiful and completely intact fortress that epitomizes the military architecture of the time period (late 18th century). It is worth the trip from Seoul, and I highly recommend a visit, however this post is not about the Fortress. This is about a little street tucked back away behind the Fortress, which if you like fried chicken is also well worth the visit.
I didn’t know it when I first moved to Korea from the States, but I now know that fried chicken is the go-to-feel-good-food in Korea. You can have a little chicken, a little beer, add some friends to the mix and you get chimaek.
The word comes from the first part of the word chicken—chi plus part of the word maekju (the Korean word for beer)—maek put them together and you get chimaek: chicken and beer.
To the South East side of the Fortress near the South Gate named Paldalmun (also known as Nammun), and near the canal you will find chicken street. When you visit the Hwaseong Fortress there is a point during your exploration, as you walk closer to the south end, when you begin to smell the fried chicken in the air.
There are literally chicken restaurants next to, across the street from, and on every corner, from each other.
This street is very popular and even on a slow day there are lines outside every restaurant.
The restaurant we went to was called Yongsung Tongdak, a chicken restaurant which has been making fried chicken for over 30 years. The chicken is fried in giant cauldrons called gamasots. Gamasots are a type of ancient Korean style of cooking pots that date back to the 1300’s.
We ordered right away as there were only two types of chicken to choose from, traditional fried chicken and a spicy marinated fried chicken, and of course we chose both. We ordered maekju (beer) and the server brought us some rice snacks and pickled radish.
They also brought us some fried chicken feet and fried gizzards as snacks. You dip the fried bits into a small dish of salt, incase your blood pressure isn’t high enough.
Soon our huge order of chicken arrived. It was served with a mustard dipping sauce, a salt dip, and sweet gochujang- a red chili dipping sauce very common in Korean cooking. The portion was huge, so we ended up taking a lot of it home. It was still delicious the next day.
The chicken was fantastic. This was probably the crispiest fried chicken I have ever eaten. Crispy and crunchy on the outside and very moist on the inside. The spicy chicken was spicy, but not so spicy that it was difficult to eat nor did it burn your lips. It had a smooth spice that lingered on your tongue and a slightly sweet aftertaste.
If you ever come to visit Seoul in South Korea, you must make a day trip to Hwaseong-si in which you should to visit the Hwaseong Fortress, but don’t eat before go because you need to add a trip to chicken street. It is easy to find, just follow your nose.