What Is Chimaek? Read About Koreans' Favorite Combo

What Is Chimaek? Read About Koreans' Favorite Combo

A rainy day, a baseball game, a k-drama date night. No matter the occasion, anytime is chimaek time. But you're probably wondering: what is chimaek? Well, Seoulmates, we're here to answer your question. Keep on reading to learn more about Koreans' favorite combo!

KFC: An Intro to Korean Fried Chicken 

The word "chimaek" (치맥) is a combination of "chicken" and the Korean word for beer, "maekju" (맥주). And the term chimaek also refers to beer and chicken served together. 

You can get several types of seasonings for fried chicken. The spiciest, and one of the most popular, is yangnyeom (양념 치킨), tossed in a gochujang-based sauce.

Yangyeom chicken in a takeout box

Image Credits: Chicko Chicken Kingsway via Instagram

Dakgangjeong (닭강정) is both sweeter and stickier, thanks to the extra syrup in the sauce. It also has sesame seeds that pop out against the red chicken skin.

Dakgangjeong on a plate and in between chopsticks

Image Credits: Ancilla dHian via Instagram

If you like scallions, this next one's for you. Padak (파닭) comes with green scallions, whether it's a little sprinkling or a heaping amount. 

Padak (fried chicken with scallions)

Image Credits: Alyly Bach via Instagram

Some people order their chicken half seasoned, half plain (banban, 반반). It's a great option if you're unused to spice or are splitting the order with a non-spicy eater. You can also order chicken based on cuts: a whole chicken (tongdak, 통닭), or boneless (sunsal chicken, 순살 치킨).

Banban chicken

Image Credits: Leonard Loh via Instagram

Since the 1970's, fried chicken restaurants have popped up all over Korea and even opened locations in other countries. The three biggest are: bb.q Chicken,

bbq Chicken

Image Credits: bb.q Chicken US via Instagram


Chicken and fries in takeout boxes with Bonchon logo

Image Credits: Bonchon Chicken via Instagram

And BHC Chicken. You'll also find countless family-owned shops and stalls selling fried chicken.

Fried chicken in a pink takeout box on a pink bench with flowers and BHC logo

Image Credits: BHC via Instagram

Lend Me Your Beers

Like pajeon and tteokbokki, fried chicken is a type of anju (안주) or food eaten with alcohol, in this case beer. If you're looking for more mainstream drinks, then we have a list of Korean beer brands you should try.

HiteJinro beer bottles lined up

Image Credits: Sojuman via Flickr

We'll start with the three biggest domestic brands: HiteJinro (which also produces most of the world's soju), 

OB beer bottle and glass of beer

Image Credits: Shin OGATA via Flickr

Oriental Brewery, or OB for short,

Lotte Liquor bottle and cans

Image Credits: korealiquor via Instagram

and Lotte Liquor, part of Lotte Chilsung.

7Brau beer bottle and glass with chicken wings in an apartment

Image Credits: Young Kim via Instagram

Craft beers are also becoming more popular in Korea. One of the biggest startups is 7Bräu, coming out with several famous beers including Gompyo Wheat Beer, their collaboration with flour company Gompyo (shown above). 

A box and eight pack of Magpie craft beer

Image Credits: 아름 via Instagram

Jeju Island's Magpie Brewing Co. is another big name in the craft brewing game, with three locations and a slew of both regular and seasonal beers. Besides domestic beers, Koreans also enjoy imported brands including Heineken, Budweiser, and Hoegaarden.

Chimaek in K-dramas 

We have a lot to thank k-dramas for, especially the yummy dishes they've introduced to us. Chimaek has appeared in many popular k-dramas, but there were a few shows that stood out. 

Warning: Some mild spoilers ahead!

My Love from the Star (2013-2014) 

A Hallyu sensation, My Love from the Star made its cast, fashion, music, and food famous worldwide. The biggest celebrity (apart from Jun Ji-hyun's Cheon Song-yi)? Chimaek. The combo is one of the lead's favorite meals, and she eats it several times throughout the k-drama. 

Security cam footage of woman setting down bucket of fried chicken

Image Credits: SBS via Kocowa TV on YouTube

The show was so successful that it sparked a chimaek craze. It was an especially big hit in China, with people lining up to buy fried chicken from their local restaurants.

Two women eating chicken and beer

Image Credits: SBS via Kocowa TV on YouTube

Even if we don't eat fried chicken as much as Song-yi, we can relate to her love for this simple yet satisfying dish. Snow or no, we feel like chimaek!

A woman eating a chicken leg

Image Credits: SBS via TheKoreaTimes

Crash Landing on You (2019-2020) 

Another smash hit, Crash Landing on You features romance, espionage, and lots of delicious food in both North and South Korea. One dish that pops up in both places is, of course, chimaek.

While trying to return home, Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye-jin) catches the first snow with Ri Jyeong-hyeok (Hyun Bin) in Pyongyang. They enjoy the moment along with a big helping of fried chicken and beer.

Later, when Jeong-hyeok's soldiers are sent to Seoul on an important mission, they discover the wonders of the South's fried chicken. To earn money, the men decide to get jobs delivering the chicken. (And hopefully some free food!)

Crash Landing on You showed how food can bring people from opposite sides of the border together. Whether it's North Korean soldiers or South Korean chaebols, a good order of maekju and chicken can form long-lasting friendships, even if you're unlikely to see each other in the near future.

Yoon Se-ri with coworkers at fried chicken restaurant

Image Credits: tvN via Asows TV! on YouTube

Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo (2016-2017) 

What's the easiest way to eat fried chicken every day? By working at a restaurant, of course! Protagonist Kim Bok-joo's father (Ahn Gil-kang) owns a fried chicken restaurant, where she both hangs out with her friends and serves customers. 

Kim Bok-joo and family outside fried chicken restaurant

Image Credits: MBC via KoreabyMe

Besides the usual clientele, Bok-joo Chicken also attracts some stellar guests, as shown in this memorable cameo.

While Bok-joo (Lee Sung-kyung) isn't always happy about her workload, she does enjoy the chicken on the house, which she shares with her best friends. And she always looks forward to unwinding and filling up on an order (or three!) of chimaek.

Three female college students eating fried chicken and drinking beer

Image Credits: MBC via KoreabyMe

My Roommate Is a Gumiho (2021)

If you thought Song-yi was a chimaek fanatic, then wait until you meet Lee Dam (Lee Hye-ri). She indulges in fried chicken and beer, both by herself and with her friends.

When gumiho Shin Woo-yeo (Jang Ki-yong) moves in with Dam after she swallows one of his fox beads, he gives her some conditions. Two of them are no drinking and no chicken, which she's not happy about! (Chicken blood is a talisman against gumihos.) 

Dam isn't going to let Woo-yeo's rules stop her, even if the consequences are painful. As shown in this next scene, you can't get between her and chimaek.

The separation doesn't last long, though, and soon Dam is able to enjoy her precious chimaek once again!

Where Can I Buy Chimaek? 

We've named some popular KFC (Korean fried chicken) franchises, but there are other places where you can have chimaek. First, there are smaller restaurants and pubs if you're looking for a night out.

A woman and a man sitting across from each other at table with fried chicken and beer

Image Credits: CJ Entertainment via A Single Paragraph

For something extra cozy or a very late supper, we recommend pojangmachas or pochas (포장마차). These covered street restaurants serve alcohol and all kinds of anju and are perfect for heart-to-heart sessions over chimaek.

Korean pojangmacha at night

Image Credits: Image via Koreatown LA

You can't go wrong with Korean street markets, either. Fried chicken can be found at stalls or in alleys, like Sokcho Market's Dakgangjeong Alley made up entirely of fried chicken shops.

An assortment of Korean fried chicken at street market

Image Credits: SAHACHAT via iStock

The most famous chicken street, however, is Suwon Chicken Street. Most of the stores cook the chicken differently, roasting or frying them in a pot instead of a pan. This unique method and the generous serving sizes make this street a must-visit destination. 

Suwon Chicken Street map

Image Credits: Gilzilla via Instagram

And if you're in Daegu, check out Daegu Chicken Gizzard Alley (formerly Daegu Pyeonghwa Market). While chicken gizzards might sound odd, they're popular with locals and tourists who are looking for something different. Give this variation a try!

An alley with fried chicken shops

Image Credits: Image via Korea Tourism Organization

Where Can I Eat Chimaek? 

We've named places where you can eat out. But what if you're ordering takeout? What's the best spot for a chimaek picnic?

Exhibit A: Baseball stadiums. Pick up a box of chicken and a can or two of beer and go cheer on your home team. Remember to be respectful to the players and other fans, and don't forget to clean up after yourself.

Korean fried chicken in takeout boxes and Cass beer before baseball green

Image Credits: Image via Bat Flips and Nerds

Exhibit B: Chimaek Festivals. There are a few hosted in Korea, but the biggest one is the Daegu Chimaek Festival. Held this year from August 30 to September 3, you'll find live music and lots of tasty chicken and beer to try.

Fireworks over large screen and fried chicken

Image Credits: Image via Korea Tourism Organization

Exhibit C: the Han River. Did you know that many Koreans get fried chicken delivered to their picnic sites? That's right, you can order a box of juicy chicken legs to go with your chilled beer by the Hangang. Give your favorite chicken restaurant a call the next time you're stumped on picnic food.

Two people holding cans of beer with takeout chicken container

Image Credits: Image via VisitSeoul.net

Seoulbox: Bringing the Korean Picnic to You!

Not all our Seoulmates can make it to Korea. So, we bring Korea to them through our Seoulboxes. And this month's theme is special: Han River Picnic!

Han River Picnic Seoulbox (May 2023)

Image Credits: Seoulbox via Instagram

Inside this box, you'll find snacks and treats inspired by traditional Korean foods and flavors. One of these snacks is Ppushur Ppushur Yangyum Chicken, ramen noodles with fried chicken seasoning. Sprinkle the seasoning packet over the noodles and shake before eating! (Beer not included.)

A yellow and orange bag with ramen noodles, chili sauce, and fried chicken wings

Image Credits: Courtesy of SSG

Are you interested in ordering a box? Then head on over to our website and choose from our Seoulbox Signature or V snack boxes. Pay and wait for your picnic adventure to begin!

Chimaek is a comforting, fun, and iconic piece of Korean culture. We hope you've been inspired to order in some chicken and beer the next time you need to relax or celebrate. Enjoy! (맛있게 드세요)

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