Recently, a new chicken restaurant opened up here in the village. Unlike the 16 thousand OTHER chicken restaurants that exist in this tiny village, Okkudak advertises oven baked chicken, rather than the ubiquitous 양념 치킨 (yangnyeom chikin) – which is fried, tasty but oh-so-bad for you! Being the health conscious people that we are, we leapt at the chance to try this seemingly healthier option. Cut off a bit of naughty and that means you can eat it more regularly, right? Score.
The restaurant, while a large chain in Korea, is nonetheless quite an aesthetically glamorous addition to the Deoksin dining scene and is always packed – an unusual sight in this sleepy little hamlet. But crowds usually mean something is being done right so off we went one night to sample the goodness.
The first time we dined there we were greeted on the street by staff giving away free samples of their original style chicken. We were going there to eat anyway but made the most of the free samples before heading in. Yum. The samples definitely bode well for what lay beyond and gave us an idea of what to order. Unfortunately, this first visit was during the Dark Time of Camera Loss. Lucky for you, we have the power of the internet so we’ve nicked some photos from the Okkudak website.
Which is a fabulous thing really. Because otherwise you might not believe what we’re about to tell you. First off, we placed our order – sucked right in by the deliciousness of the product we’d sampled outside, we chose the original “crunch” chicken without hesitation. Given a choice of seven different dipping sauces, again a real point of difference in Korea, we knew we were onto a winner.
Now in most chicken joints in Korea there isn’t a menu of sides – you basically just get chicken and a pack of pickles which can sometime feel a bit, well, boring. Loving the fact that this menu also featured a couple of salads, we eagerly ordered the one entitled “Yoghurt Chicken Salad”. Thoughts of delightfully juicy, yoghurt marinated chicken pieces, perhaps with a yoghurty tzatziki-like sauce flooded our brains. Obviously, we had temporarily forgotten that we were in Korea…
Our crunch chicken arrived at the table first up and looked much like this picture.
Crispy, delicious, moist and tender chook, served with little pots of our chosen mustardy sauce and chili sauce.
And then, IT happened. Our salad arrived. Yes, it looked just like the picture – assuming those lumps on top were the yoghurt sauce or maybe some mashed potato we dug in…
It was, in fact, ICE CREAM. Yes, you read that right. Pure, shockingly intensely flavoured vanilla ice cream. Vanilla ice cream atop a pile of fresh salad vegetables (with yoghurt dressing) and crispy skin chicken smothered in chilli sauce. WTF?!
Now just before you start wondering whether Korea has discovered some new taste sensation that we waygooks are not privy too, let us just assure you that NO, it doesn’t work and there is no need for any of you ever to try it, just to see. Seriously. By now you will know our commitment to all things food related, especially when it comes to relating our adventures back to you. But when we discussed the possibility of purchasing this same salad again on a future visit just so we could take photos for you, even we baulked at the idea.
It definitely provided us with a laugh though and the tastiness of the original chicken was enough to have us promising a return visit before long. There were other menu items we were dying to try.
The next time we tried Okkudak chicken was at the end of a long school week. H-J had had an awesome day at school…classes were going well, kids were being studious and/or hilarious – basically all the ESL planets were aligning for her that day. UNTIL, her last class of the day, a class of middle schoolers. Not the easiest bunch at the best of times (ahh teenagers, bless!), H-J’s boss decided in her infinite wisdom that it would be a great idea to pop on a movie for the kids to watch in one of the classrooms. All the kids, that is, except the middle schoolers who were shoved in the direction of their classroom, regardless of what everyone else was up to. The other children whooped and screamed as they watched a gory looking Korean horror movie, and the middle schoolers whinged, complained and refused to cooperate as they were forced through the day’s lesson…And you know what, H-J could hardly blame them. She wouldn’t have minded watching the movie herself…
The 50 minutes eventually passed and with that the school week was over. But a beer was most definitely needed. H-J stopped in to buy a couple of 500ml (S)Hites from the local and sat down to sip quietly, play music and wait for Dan to come home from his school.
Dan gets home and already H-J is the full litre down and loving it. Now instead of staying home and eating leftovers, Dan suggests hitting Okkudak – so off we go! Upon getting there, H-J goes to order a coke but Dan declines and says he’ll have a beer…and instead of just ordering us a casual beer each, he proceeds to order a 1700cc jug which is nearly two litres.
We take photos of everything, even out empty plates because (a) we’ve drunk too much beer and (b) because our new DSLR is so fucking awesome.
Its at this point we notice that the guys at the table next to us are waving and smiling and taking photos of US. They are saying “China, China” and it turns out they are from China and speak no English. Now we speak even less Chinese than we do Korean so we all end up speaking in one word Korean sentences and making a lot of drunken hand gestures. Soon, they invite us over to their table and then we end up drinking their 1700cc jug with them…and THEN Dan orders ANOTHER JUG at which point we are decidedly all shitfaced and rowdy (and the Koreans are all staring at us judgingly, haha).
The Chinese guys keep taking photos of us – we get that a lot so didn’t really think too much of it – but then H-J informs Dan in fluent English that the guy she is sitting beside has his hand on her leg. Not to alarm him but just to inform him that perhaps things aren’t quite as they seem and maybe these guys aren’t hanging out with us just cause they want a drink with fellow expats.
At this point, we casually drop in the conversation that we are in fact married. Thank goodness we actually know the word for ‘husband’ in Korean. H-J goes to the toilet, comes back and POOF, the Chinese men have disappeared, never to be seen again…
By now, we’re in the mindset that Okkudak Chicken is some kind of magical ‘through the mirror’ kinda joint that provides surprises and a story with each visit. Plus, we are dying to work our way through more the menu so back we go for yet another visit, camera in hand, to see what intrigue we can attract.
Its always an interesting sign when a second table is dragged over to join the one you’re already at. We figured this meant we were either in for another group of revellers or more space for gluttony. It was number two.
In an attempt to work our way through the side dishes page, we opted this time for the 고구마 & 단호박 (sweet potato & pumpkin) which came in an oozey cheesy delicious slop.
The crunch chicken that was so good on our very visit is calling out to us but we decide to lively things up a bit and order a set. The picture on the menu shows a strange looking combo of chicken and wiggly things, so we order that to be accompanied by some honey mustard dipping sauce.
What arrives is a plate with fried potato chunks and some uber-processed meat products. We’re loathe to call these things ‘sausage’ so shall adopt the Korean word instead – sausagEE.
The chicken was just as amazing this time around. The accompanying wasabi-mayo, however, reminded us of a certain overly sweet, strange concoction that we were served way back in our early days in Seoul, with Crap Salad – of course, now we’re starting to think a waterfallsandcaribous recipe book of items collected from our travels might be in order! Luckily, the chilli sauce and the second pot of honey mustard saved our confused palates.
We ate and ate and ate, all the while we were waiting for something odd to happen – a random glance from a stranger, an unexpected lump of ice cream somewhere unwarranted….something? Anything? Nope, not a thing this time round, just a damn good dinner of fine chicken products with associated accompaniments. Having ordered far too much even for our two tables, we eventually conceded defeat and got a box of our remaining chicken to go. Goodbye to Okkudak for now. Thanks for the good times!And for those of you who want one more look at that ice cream salad, here’s a picture taken from the Okkudak Calendar, featuring Yoo Ah In, a Korean actor who digs his chook.
Note: Thanks to Okkudak and their fabulous website for all the photos of your products. In the event that any executive of the company is reading this and is wowed by our blog, amused by our findings and thankful for the free advertising, please feel free to shower us in gifts of chicken and a copy of your AWESOME calendar so that we may forever have a reminder of the ‘yoghurt’ chicken salad.