As mentioned in a previous post, Koreans seem to be absolute masters at making chicken into mouth-watering, obesity promoting meals. It truly is difficult to find fried chicken in Korea that isn’t amazing. However, somewhere within this holy chicken land, I managed to find a more rudimentary, homemade styled fried chicken at Yangjae Chicken House (양재닭집) that didn’t seem to evolve with the modern Korean chicken. However, instead of being empty and on its twilight days, the restaurant was thriving with a full house of customers. I ended up going here for dinner with the Welt Bridge group. The restaurant is in an underground basement in a marketplace building.
I have to give fair warning that this place is not for the squeamish. The restaurant feels like a pre-industrialized establishment with butcher splatter guards acting as walls for some areas. While the tables and chairs appeared clean, the area itself may not give off the same feeling. I honestly felt a bit uncomfortable eating here, but I am probably the most severe germaphob you’ll ever come across. What was really interesting was the trip to the bathroom, which I posted about at the end.
What really grossed me out was seeing tons of raw chicken lying on the counter without any refrigeration. There were some red lights (UV lights maybe?) that I guess were supposed to stop any bacteria from growing, but I was still very grossed out. If it’s any consolation, I’m still alive after 1 week of eating more than half a chicken and the restaurant did seem to churn out the chickens really quickly. The counter was stacked 3 high with chicken when we came in and we left with only 2 remaining. They go through so many chickens that they probably think they don’t need it.
The menu is super simple. 13,000 won gets you a full fried chicken with everything but the head and feet. You can order beer, soju, and other soda in a glass bottle, just like Mexico.
They serve the chicken on a pretty large plate and it looks quite impressive. They pretty much include every part of the chicken (including the tail) which is why it looks so plentiful for a whole chicken. However, some pieces prove to be inedible and serve only as a source of batter in some cases.The batter is very different and quite primal compared to every other chicken place I’ve been to in Korea. It’s quite light and not very greasy at all. It’s almost flavorless to a point. I’m assuming it was battered very lightly in a relatively unseasoned mix.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any dark meat and was restricted to the white meat. I’m thinking the dark meat would’ve tasted a lot better. The white meat was relatively dry and stiff. The meat didn’t peel off the bone like in most places.
It comes with a spicy and tangy sauce, which helps combat the dryness and adds a little flavor to it. Since some of the pieces served aren’t traditionally used for consumption, you need to be careful of small bones in some areas. I also think part of the issue was the result of unsophisticated and indiscriminate cleaver work.
Despite all this, I found myself easily eating at least half a chicken. The crispy batter was still very good and had its own merits. I found its simplicity and crudeness somewhat charming.
Eating at Yangjae Chicken House is undoubtedly quite a unique experience. The building feels like a defiant remnant of times. The chicken, likewise holds more of a nostalgic flavor from back when times and cooking techniques were much more crude and simple. It stays true to itself and doesn’t change to appease a different kind of audience. It’s not on the top of my list for fried chicken, but it has its own charms which people continue to appreciate and keep coming back for more.
The bathrooms are shared with the other stores in the market and you need to go through this elaborate journey to find it. If anything this is a very interesting experience because you feel like you’re on a movie set of a horror movie/disaster movie.
The toilet is unisex and you can literally see the urinals on your way to the toilets. The wall divider is only about so tall and covers so much area, but it’s practically really easy to see passed it. Definitely the strangest bathroom adventure I’ve ever had in a restaurant. If this seems like something you would like to avoid, I recommend making sure you don’t have to go!