Fried chicken. Is there any other food that is more quintessentially ‘Murikan? Actually, I’ll have to stop you right there. Fried chicken actually has its roots in Scotland where they coated their chicken and made it so much tastier than the boiled and baked versions of the poultry dish down south in England. They carry on the tradition even today of consuming everything fried including Mars bars and cookies. There is also evidence that West African cuisine utilized fried chicken for ceremonial meals. Ergo, when both European immigrants from Scotland and African slaves arrived in the American South, the culinary traditions of both groups became woven into the fabric of the multi-colored patchwork that is our country’s food history. However, what many people wouldn’t associate with fried chicken is Korea. In fact, during my time in the Land of the Morning Calm, I sampled some of their fried delights that were an extra-greazy reminder of home in an otherwise kimchi-laden environment. However, Yeowoosai in Chicago’s Koreatown manages to combine both American and Korean cuisine with a sports bar atmosphere that conveniently has a noraebang (or karaoke) attached.
It’s located in a small strip mall, but little did I know that my tastebuds and my world were about to be rocked into submission. It was quite empty when we went, but I’m sure it gets quite bumping on the weekend. We didn’t look at the menu since Janice ordered for me since she gets the same thing every time she goes there: the 닭디겜 (daktigem or popcorn chicken). We also got 김치볶음밥 (kimchi bokkeumbap or kimchi fried rice). However, they do offer plenty of Korean classics like 비빔밥 (bibimbap or a rice bowl with meat and veggies), 김치찌개 (kimchi jjigae or kimchi soup), and 갈비 and 불고기 (galbi or grilled ribs and bulgogi or marinated beef). The entire time we were waiting, Janice was building up this food, but I didn’t believe how good it really was going to be. It’s not like I haven’t seen popcorn chicken or fried rice before. How severely mistaken I was. First the popcorn chicken came out. It was literally the size of a wash basin and my potential food baby was lying in it. It was served with a side of “yellow sauce” and a pickled jalapeno and radish mix. This was hands-down the best popcorn chicken I’ve ever tried in my life. From the smooth, buttery, yet light breading to the juicy all white meat nuggets that were quickly filling my stomach, I couldn’t get enough. Then when I dipped them into the yellow sauce which I figured must be some type of mayonnaise and horseradish concoction with a hint of pepper, a dash of crack, and a soupçon of meth mixed in (seriously though, no drugs were involved in the making of this delicious meal), it finally happened. I was and still am addicted to Yeowoosai’s popcorn chicken and yellow sauce complete with meat sweats and shakes. As for the jalapeno and radish salad, I thought it was a refreshing, cool, tangy, and slightly spicy way to cleanse your palate between mouthfuls of chicken. Then there was the kimchi fried rice. We just got the original with Spam and eggs. Why put Spam in a meal when you have a choice not to? Why not use beef, chicken, or pork? Well, Spam in Korean cuisine is actually a carry over from the Korean War period where food was scarce, but the American military ate Spam. So, that’s what the local populace scavenged from the GI army bases to make meals. While South Korea has made great advances since then, Spam still is seen as a luxury gift. This often bewilders Americans and other Westerners when Korean shoppers are clamoring to buy Spam giftsets for loved ones at Christmas and Chuseok or Thanksgiving Day. The American armed forces has also made Spam popular in other places like the Philippines and Hawaii. Hooray for spreading terrible quasi-meat around the world! Anyway, the fried rice. Once again, portion-wise it was gigantic like the popcorn chicken and for a great price. It was also a quality choice. Compared to the kimchi fried rice back in the Motherland, it was even better. It was rich, spicy, but not too spicy. The pieces of kimchi thrown in provided a texture contrast that popped up now and then between spoonfuls. I was having multiple moments of being overwhelmed by the large amount of mind-blowingly amazing food in front of me, but eventually my wild ride came to an end as I threw in the towel..er napkin and woosahed .
Long story short, go to Yeowoosai if you want to try a Korean sports bar with plenty of dishes your average ajumma (Korean old woman) would recognize. Plus, these huge and reasonably priced portions of food will leave both your wallet and stomach stuffed. Not a bad deal at all.