We will soon be able to travel to South Korea. But as we wait, why not nosh on one of the country's most-loved dishes? From Singapore chimaek pioneer Kko Kko Na Ra to trendy chain Chir Chir, these fried chicken spots dish up excellent renditions of Korea’s classic comfort food

No, we don’t mean KFC from the colonel. Though later to the game than its US counterpart, the Korean fried chicken craze took hold alongside the K-wave in the past decade, and has since firmly embedded itself as the cuisine of choice for cheat days, celebrations and as a solid pick-me-up. Spend your calories on the good stuff, with flavours ranging from the classic sweet and spicy to new-age reinventions like honey, curry and cheese.

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1. Oven & Fried Chicken

Conceived by two of the most popular chicken restaurants in Korea, Okkudak and Ssaldak, subsidiary brand Oven & Fried Chicken (OFC) burst onto the Singapore scene in 2014 with a unique trio of tender roasted chook, crispy chicken fried without oil, and chicken fried in rice flour instead of the typical wheat flour (for extra crunch). 

The roast options come with unique choices such as chicken stir fried with welsh onions, or with rice cakes in a Louisiana Jambalaya or spicy sauce. The crispy chicken selection boasts two flavours: the peppery original or a homemade sweet and spicy Korean mix. Somewhat confusingly, there’s also a section on yang nyeom chicken, where the chook’s further stir fried in one of four types of sauces: soy, padi garlic, Jambalaya, or the sweet and spicy. OFC’s original outlet is at Telok Ayer, but there are also its Tanjong Katong and Bukit Timah locations.

Tatler tip: Feeling adventurous? Try the “ladies’ best choice” of Yogurt Salad Chicken—fried chicken cutlet, salad with yoghurt dressing, and two scoops of ice cream. Lovers of the ice-cream-and-fries combo will understand the appeal.

Oven & Fried Chicken | 182 Telok Ayer Street, S(068630) | 6222 5959

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2. Kko Kko Na Ra

With its boast as Singapore’s first to bring in Korean fried chicken in 2008, the grand dame of KFC promises an authentic recipe supplied by owner Eon Lee, whose mother lived in Jeon La Do, a notable culinary province in Korean. 

Of particular note is their signature garlic soy sauce chicken wings and drumlets, marinated in a sauce of hand-crushed garlic and other (secret) imported ingredients. But these days, the menu’s expanded to encompass more flavours, from classics like sweet & spicy and honey, to modern takes like cheese and mala. Purists, look away now: for extra oomph, dunk your chook in a trio of sauces: mala, yangnyum and cream cheese garlic.

In addition to its many claims, the joint is supposedly the first to introduce the iconic pairing of chimaek (fried chicken and cold beer) to the republic, so pop a couple of bottles of Hite on your tab to do as they would in Seoul. 

Tatler tip: Not a beer fan? Try their soju cocktails, with enticing names like “Spring in Jeju” and “Winter in Seoraksan”, or the watermelon, cucumber and lemon soju options. We’ve also heard good things about the makgeolli (rice wine) and baek seju (rice wine with 10 herbs).

Kko Kko Na Ra | 68 Tanjong Pagar Road S(088489) | 6224 8186

3. Gayageum Korean Family Restaurant

Named after a zither-like string instrument, this joint, hidden in the basement of Bukit Timah Shopping Centre, bills itself as an authentic Korean family restaurant. What this means is most of the menu is dedicated to mains, including the classics: ginseng chicken soup, army stew, Korean BBQ and more. Yet Gayageum’s reputation for tasty, affordable Korean fried chicken has spread wide enough to land it on many a list of top spots in Singapore, including this one. The bird here comes done in your choice of four methods: fried, fried (boneless), fried in sauce, and fried and flavoured. Whichever of the latter three you pick, there are only the same four flavours: sweet, spicy, soy and spicy soy. Extra points for the homey interior, which gives off strong family-run vibes.

Tatler tip: Gayageum offers set menus for between two to five diners; consider Set A, the only one that includes fried boneless chicken, plus seafood and soybean paste soup, grilled saba, and rice. Complimentary delivery for orders above $70 to within 5km of the restaurant.

Gayageum Korean Family Restaurant | 170 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Bukit Timah Shopping Centre #B2-14 S(588179) | 6463 8011

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4. Twins Korean Restaurant

Run by the eponymous Park twins, Sungjae and Woojae, the fine-looking duo promise only fresh chicken, never frozen—and marinated with homemade sauces, not store-bought—at their Korean street food concept. The chefs and brothers honed their skill in the kitchens of upscale joints Ku De Ta (now known as Ce La Vi) and Fullerton Bay; their Singapore eatery is said to boast a star-studded clientele. 

The bestseller here is the soy garlic KFC. Other flavours are original, cheese, and sweet and spicy; the options: whole, half, boneless, and wing. There are also rarer finds like kkanpungki (spicy garlic fried chicken stir-fried with vegetables and a sweet, sour, spicy sauce) and dakgangjeong boneless chicken and rice cakes glazed with sweet, spicy sauce). Kids can nibble on popcorn chicken in onion, soy garlic or cheese flavours.

Tatler tip: A guaranteed crowd-pleaser is the cheese chicken galbi: chook and rice cakes are tossed with fiery gochujang before being heaped on a heated pan with melty cheese, diced peppers, and kimchi. 

Twins | 7 Craig Road, S(089667) | 9006 3875

5. Chir Chir Fusion Chicken Factory

This Seoul casual restaurant chain is named after the sizzling sound of chicken being deep fried in hot oil (mmm, delicious).

Established in Singapore in 2015, the KFC here comes both roasted and fried with a trendy twist. We spy Sour Cream & Onion Chicken (chicken tenders, sweet onion seasoning, onion slivers, parsley, onion sauce), K-urry Chicken (fried chook, sweet potato cubes, curry seasoning, curry leaves, sliced almonds), Honey Butter Chicken (boneless chicken chunks, potato wedges, rice cakes, honey butter sauce) and Nacho Chicken (Tex-Mex chicken tenders, tortilla chips, chicken chilli cheese fries). 

The modern twist extends to the rest of the menu, with such options as sweet potato pizza, beef mala jjamppong, honey mustard cheese egg roll, and rose tteokbokki (rice cakes, tomato cream sauce, cocktail chicken sausages). Outlets at Bugis Junction, 313 Somerset and JEM.

Tatler tip: Chir Chir’s not Halal-certified due to the sale of alcohol, but the chicken itself is reportedly sourced from a Halal-certified supplier, and none of the dishes contains pork or lard.

Chir Chir Fusion Chicken Factory | 313@somerset, #B3-04/05/06 S(238895) | 6509 8364

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