Yes, yes? No, maybe, not sure.
Amidst the meticulous, cultured and polished decorum of Northeast Asian cuisine lies an oddity of sorts. Against the thoughtful impression for aesthetics and balance, and the binding use of carefully crafted instruments to match the spruce lies a subculture which seeks to exploit the establishments by tearing down all this aristocratic affectation. The result of it all, is something its pioneers argue is resolutely original, although the evidence seeks to suggest that it’s adaptation, rather than true creation.
I’m talking about Korean fried chicken, of course.
What appears obvious is that fried chicken isn’t exactly classically Korean. It seems to have appeared into the Korean cuisine vernacular in the mid 1990s, and only began permeating the mainstream towards the late 1990s and early 2000s. Originally exclusive to the mainland and among overseas Korean diaspora, Korean fried chicken steadily gained popularity for its healthier cooking style. However, it wasn’t something that Korean pop culture, or “K Pop” wave meant to export. Instead, the craze for Korean fried chicken emanated out of New York, with Busan-based BonChon Chicken being responsible for its spread overseas. Nene Chicken however, seemed content with the home market, steadily growing into a chain with 920 outlets scattered across South Korea…until 2012, when it debuted its first international chain in Singapore.
2-piece Tenders, swicy sauce (below), 2-piece Original with swicy sauce by the side (top)
Now, there’s something to be said when Singapore-based Four Fingers had more international success than Nene Chicken. For a fastfood chain, Nene Chicken’s menu can be quite hard to navigate around. For one, it favors the large sharing portions, and lacks in set menu options. There are a myriad of sauces and spices that are available, but they are exclusive to the menu categories. The staff didn’t seem particularly helpful, knowledgeable, nor did they take the initiative to offer some suggestions and explanations even though we were clearly at a loss at what to choose.
I ordered the 2-piece original, which quite honestly, was quite troll. The meat was terrifyingly dry, and lacked so much flavor and seasoning that I was secretly hoping that grease might somehow ooze out (to give the chicken some flavor). Darren’s tenders in swicy (sweet and sour) sauce fared much better in terms of moisture and tenderness, but the swicy sauce had the taste of a tomato pasta sauce which did little to really shove this into what I might consider “good” Korean fried chicken.
Kko Kko Nara and Four Fingers are far better bets.