Bulgogi, kimchi, bibimbap and kimbap: Korea has a multifaceted cuisine and one of the dishes known in it is chimaek. The term refers not only to a dish, but to deep-fried chicken served with beer. The name is a compound abbreviation of two terms: while the term chikin (치킨) alludes to fried chicken, the name maekju (맥주) stands for beer. These two words form the term chimaek, which means the special evening meal from Korea.
The Origin of Chimaek
Although there are many similar dishes to Chimaek internationally, the tradition of the Korean dish is long. There is evidence that a similar dish existed in what is now Korea as early as 600 years ago. According to this evidence, variants of deep-fried chicken were known in Korea in the 15th century. This is suggested by traditional cookbooks from Korea, which contain corresponding dishes.
However, the modern form of chimaek is attributed to the late section of the 20th century. Over the decades, the dish underwent an evolution: For example, a comparable roasted chicken was already known in the 1960s, and the now spicy deep-fried chicken from Korea probably fully unfolded as an established dish in the 1970s. As cooking oil gained popularity in Korea in the 1970s, new ways of serving the traditional dishes with chicken thus spread. And the presentation of deep-fried chicken with beer became a classic: chimaek.
How is chimaek different from traditional fried chicken?
Today, chimaek is a cultural phenomenon in Korea. Not only have numerous restaurants focused on the specialty, but there are festivals dedicated to the special dish. Statistics also indicate that there are approximately over 20,000 restaurants in Korea that focus on fried chicken. Chimaek is thus a cultural phenomenon that is much more than traditional fried chicken.
Chimaek was further cultivated in 2002 during the World Cup in Japan and Korea. By the early 2010s, the phenomenon had fully arrived in nearly every corner of Korean society. Today, chimaek stands for a kind of lifestyle: stopping in after work in the evening and enjoying a hearty chicken with beer – to celebrate the end of the day. This combination of chicken and beer is the essence of Chimaek, which differs from other similar fried chicken. And, of course, by the special Korean seasonings – whether with spicy or sweet sauce – that sets it apart from similar specialties on the Western market.
There are several varieties of Korean fried chicken that appeal to different culinary affinities. Traditionally known in Korea, for example, is the roasted chicken tongdank, which is considered an early form of the dish. A purist form of fried chicken is Huraideu-chikin, also abbreviated to Huraideu, the simple deep-fried chicken. The variants differ mainly in the different marinations: For example, the deep-fried yangnyeom chicken is known for its sweet and spicy marinade, the ganjang-chikin for its garlic flavor, and the padak for its addition of scallions. If you’re into honey and soy sauce, you can order the honey chikin. In addition, there are also filleted and half-seasoned and half-traditional deep-fried chicken. Korean chikin – also in the form of chimaek – has thus developed into a multi-faceted dish.
See: K-Pop / Korean dictionary
Has chimaek spread internationally?
Chimaek has become a Korean answer to American fried chicken in recent years. The special spicy dish with chicken and beer has thus attracted attention not only in the Asian culinary market, but also in parts of the Western culinary market. Chimaek is now a common phenomenon in China, for example. But Korean chicken has also been able to generate increased buzz in the Anglo-American market as an exotic alternative to fried chicken.
A summary overview of Chimaek
Chimaek is a form of fried chicken from Korea. As such, the dish benefits not only from special Korean flavors – whether with honey soy sauce or sweet and spicy marinade – but also from its combination with beer, which is usually served along with it. The dish is especially popular as an evening specialty – to wind down after work. Today, chimaek is a culinary phenomenon that reaches far beyond the Korean market.