It all started with a casual message: ‘KFC crawl to find Sydney’s best Korean Fried Chicken. Who’s in?’

One thing led to another and before I knew it, six of us were driving all over Sydney on one fine sunny day to determine where we could find Sydney’s best Korean Fried Chicken! From Belfield to Strathfield, Eastwood and the city, all in the name of research, we spent over 12 hours eating fried chicken at five different restaurants.

Jenius KFC crawl - where is Sydney's best Korean Fried Chicken?

What is it?
One of the best snacks ever! Much like Colonel Sander’s Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises, there are restaurant chains devoted to serving just Korean Fried Chicken. What makes Korean Fried Chicken standout against any other type of fried chicken is the unbelievable crunch from the double frying process, and the tasty, tasty seasoning.

The spicy version is fried in a specially formulated batter mix then glazed in a sticky mixture of ginger, soy sauce, sugar and gochujang (Korean chilli paste).

Then there’s the plain super crispy version, or one tossed with a sweet soy sauce.

Traditionally, Korean Fried Chicken consisted of a whole small chicken cut into manageable pieces but as the size of chickens are nowadays much larger, most restaurants now only use the wing and small drumsticks.

Accompanying KFC is usually a dish of house-pickled radish/daikon cubes which offer a wonderful contrast between hot and cold, salty, sour and sweet.

The score card
The only way we could fairly judge Korean Fried Chicken was if we could taste all of them on the same day, so the taste would be fresh on our minds for comparison.

I designed a scorecard that broke down into:

  • Seasoning: Aromatics, flavour, saltiness,…
  • Moistness: Tender and not tough and dry
  • Crunch: Crispiness of the batter and first bite
  • Non-greasy: Tasty and not heavy or saturated with oil
  • Size of cuts: Consistency of sizes and manageable pieces that can be finished in a few bites
  • Accompaniments: Quality of the complimentary side dishes

Red Pepper, Strathfield - Korean fried chicken

First stop is in an unassuming Korean restaurant inside Strathfield Sports Club. The decor isn’t anything different from other sports clubs. There’s a TAB section, TVs screens, a bar and a bistro.

While the bistro serves both Western and Korean dishes, it’s the Korean fried chicken that we’re here for so we dive straight in.

We definitely feel like we’ve come to the right place as there’s two entire pages of Korean fried chicken dishes to choose from! How could there possibly be 11 types of Korean fried chicken? Well…

  1. Incredible gangjung (a traditional Korean bite-sized rice bookie made of puffed rice, honey, peanuts and sesame seeds)
  2. Soy sauce gangjung: Crispy fried chicken smothered in rich savoury soy sauce
  3. Hot & spicy gangjung: Incredible gangjung meets wioth tasty hot & spicy sauce
  4. Bulgogi gangjung: Authentic traditional Korean style savoury Bulgogi sauce
  5. Spring onion gangjung: Incredible chicken gangjung with an emphasis on freshness and fragrance of spring onion
  6. Soy sauce chicken: Perfect combination of garlic and soy sauce
  7. Spring onion chicken: Crispy fried chicken with specially-made wasabi taste sauce and sprinkled with spring onion
  8. Fried chicken: Premium crispy powder covered original fried chicken
  9. Black sesame chicken: Boneless drumstick with more crunch
  10. Sweet & spicy chicken: A deliciously different spicy sauce with a rich tomato fragrance
  11. Tender long chicken: With a focus on nutritious, premium breast fillets with dipping sauce

Red Pepper, Strathfield - Korean fried chicken with shallots and wasabi dressing

The intention was initially to try the original and the spicy version at all restaurants, but we cave in and try three types here.

The spring onion chicken ($32 whole serve) is unlike any KFC we’ve had before. The batter subtly reminds us of NaruOne but it’s the wasabi sauce that delights us. Despite it being a wet sauce, it doesn’t make the chicken soggy but merely lifts it in flavour. The wasabi kick isn’t overpowering either.

The hot & spicy gangjung ($32 whole serve) is piping hot and glazed perfectly. The chicken is deliciously moist and lightly fragrant, but it somewhat lacks the wow factor that makes you reach for a second piece.

Red Pepper, Strathfield - spicy Korean fried chicken

However, it’s the black sesame chicken ($32 whole serve) that steals the show! This barely needs the mustard or sweet chilli sauce it is served with. They’re bite-sized, they’re super crunchy, and the boneless drumstick meat is just so full of flavour. I also love the addition of sesame seeds through the batter.

Red pepper overall scored an average of –

Seasoning: 8.2 original / 6.6 chilli
Moistness: 7.6 original / 6.6 chilli
Crunch: 7.5 for both
Non-greasy: 8.3 original / 6.2 chilli
Size of cuts: 8 original / 7.8 chilli
Accompaniments: 6.6

Red Pepper Total: 7.4/10

Red Pepper, Strathfield - Korean fried chicken bites with sesame

Agreeing that we slightly over-ordered at our first stop, we’re a little wiser when we arrive at Jeans Chilli Chicken at Eastwood Hotel. Eastwood is just a short drive from Strathfield but Saturday traffic in Sydney can stretch any short drive into a nightmare.

We stroll in like seasoned pros. Another Korean restaurant, in yet another pub. Everything feels familiar.

Jeans chilli chicken, eastwood

Cautiously inspecting the menu, it occurs to us that Jeans’ house
specialty is chilli chicken; the BBQ type served on a hot plate, not the
chilli fried chicken that would fit our spicy Korean Fried Chicken
criteria. Menu photos of the EQ Honey Chicken ($32) look awfully similar though, so we wing it and order that.

Sticky and sweet, the glaze is definitely more honey-based than chilli. The batter is harsh against the chicken. I think just a minute less in the deep-fryer would have improved this dish.

Korean chilli fried chicken at Jeans chilli chicken

The ginseng fried chicken ($32) is much more exciting, although still a little dry. Normally not a big fan of ginseng, I surprisingly find this version rather pleasant. The bitter/sharp/earthy flavour isn’t as pungent and only just imparts a mustardy fragrance.

Jeans chilli chicken - ginseng fried chicken at Jeans chilli chicken

The fun thing about having Korean Fried Chicken at Jeans Chilli Chicken is the DIY rice balls which come complimentary with the chicken dishes. Bonus points for accompaniments there! In fact, in addition to the freshly pickled radish cubes, we’re also served a creamy pasta salad with chunks of apple!

They’re meant to charge more if you need staff to roll the rice balls, but seeing how clueless we are, the waitress jumps in to demonstrate before letting us do it on our own.

The proper technique is to cut up some chicken finely and knead it into the rice, seaweed and sesame seed mixture. Disposable gloves are readily available to keep this a less messy experience. I love the interactive nature of the rice balls. It makes a simple Korean fried chicken dish go such a long way. I reckon we could easily feed 3 – 4 with just one dish. Whoever said eating out was expensive?

 

Korean fried chicken crawl in Sydney - handmade rice balls at Jeans chilli chicken

Jeans Chilli Chicken overall scored an average of –

Seasoning: 6 original / 5.8 chilli
Moistness: 4 for both
Crunch: 7 for both
Non-greasy: 7.2 original / 5.4 chilli
Size of cuts: 6.2 for both
Accompaniments: 9.6

Jeans Chilli Chicken Total: 6.2/10

 

Korean fried chicken crawl Sydney - Beschico in Epping

After a coffee/cafe break, we drive to Epping and arrive during that blurry time slot where restaurants are just semi-open for late lunchers or early dinner eaters. Beschico is dim and uncomfortably warm at first, but we settle quite quickly into one of the booths and all is forgotten once the chicken is served!

Beschico is actually part of a successful restaurant chain in South Korea and there are signs of that in the fast-food style menu and serving plates. Everything is branded down to the wet towelette!

 

Half and half korean fried chicken at Beschico in Epping

Beschico’s original fried chicken is probably the closest to the
Kentucky Fried Chicken that we all know. It is more refined in flavour
and seasoning, and less oily, but the most similar in terms of texture
and appearance.

The spicy version isn’t too sweet (a good
thing!) and each bite hits those savoury notes well. Feedback all round
is that it isn’t spicy enough.

Our classic
& original combo
(chico hot half chicken and chico original half
chicken) set us back $34 which seems to be the average price of Korean
Fried Chicken nowadays. There feels like a lot of potential here. I mean, you don’t become a popular Korean fried chicken chain in Korea for no reason! So I’m keen to return to try the garlic soy sauce flavour.

Beschico overall scored an average of –

Seasoning: 6.6 original / 7.5 chilli
Moistness: 5.8 original / 6.5 chilli
Crunch: 8.3 for both
Non-greasy: 6.8 for both
Size of cuts: 6.3 for both
Accompaniments: 6.3

Beschico Total: 6.9/10

 

Outdoor dining, beers and Korean fried chicken at Arisun, Sydney

Seeing as Arisun don’t do half & half serves, I have to make the very tough decision of just ordering  one flavour instead of reviewing both.

Jugs of beer helps to break up our fried chicken diet.

Spicy korean fried chicken at Arisun

Arisun’s outdoor dining space is always buzzing. Service lacks here
but they make up for this with amazing Korean Fried Chicken! You’d think
that after having fried chicken all day, that we would be less excited
by another plate of KFC, but being reunited with Sun’s sweet and spicy fried chicken
($30) was a special moment! It’s the way the batter remains so utterly
crispy and the perfection of the sweet and spicy glaze that catches me
every time.

Arisun overall scored an average of –

Seasoning: 7.8
Moistness: 7.8
Crunch: 6.4
Non-greasy: 6.1
Size of cuts: 7.3
Accompaniments: 6.5

Arisun Total: 7/10

 

Mysterious Belfield restaurant, Pelicana - Korean fried chicken

The next stop takes us out of the city to the suburb of Belfield. Whoever I ask, even Belfield residents, never seem to have stepped past the frosted doors of Pelicana.

Pelicana opens late and a steady stream of phone orders keeps the owners busy. The doors are usually closed or left open just the slightest amount. I had to solve this mystery once and for all.

Half and half korean fried chicken, Pelicana, Belfield

As you can tell by the photos, the restaurant is shockingly bright inside. It’s almost like a casino inside – it could be any time of the day and it wouldn’t matter!

The blackboard menu is broken into two categories. There’s fried chicken, and sushi. We’re talking about big, hearty Korean sushi rolls, the Korean version of a sandwich from the deli!

But back onto the chicken… Suburbia prices are a nice surprise. For just $22, we get the special dinner for two which consists of 8 pieces of chicken (they happily let us have half spicy and half original), chips and 2 can soft drinks. Radishes are an extra $2 but that’s still a bargain in our eyes.

The chips are loaded with chicken salt, an indulgence that brings us back to our high school and uni days. The batter on the fried chicken is breadcrumbed versus the norm. We welcome the refreshing change of texture although it wouldn’t be my first preference.The spicy sauce tastes a little generic too. However, I probably should mention it is way past midnight by this stage! So for a
midnight snack, this Korean Fried Chicken is a pretty satisfying feed!

Pelicana overall scored an average of –

Seasoning: 5.8 original / 5.6 chilli
Moistness: 6.5 for both
Crunch: 5.8 original / 5.3 chilli
Non-greasy: 7 for both
Size of cuts: 6 for both
Accompaniments: 7

Pelicana Total: 6.2/10

Naruone, Korean fried chicken in Sydney

Admitting defeat after five consecutive Korean fried chicken restaurants, we sadly had to drop NaruOne from the KFC crawl as all of us had been there just a week prior.

Korean fried chicken with shallots at Naruone

It’s no secret that I’m a massive NaruOne fan, having eaten there on more occasions than I could ever photograph! Even after the KFC crawl, I still crave NaruOne’s fried chicken! On all levels of seasoning, moistness, crunch, non-greasiness, size of cuts and accompanies, their Korean Fried Chicken in my opinion just seems unbeatable.

Half and half Korean fried chicken at Naruone

A special thank you to my hubby (hehe, still getting used to it! #jenandzenwedding) and dear friends Sez, Dave, Bec & Jono for being crazy enough to join me on my KFC crawl! xx

Get your Korean Fried Chicken fix

Red Pepper
Strathfield Sports Club
4A Lyons Street, Strathfield, NSW
Phone: (02) 9701 0911
Web: strathfieldsportsclub.com.au/korean-chicken-menu

Red Pepper on Urbanspoon

Jeans Chilli Chicken
Eastwood Hotel
4A Lyons Street, Strathfield, NSW
Phone: (02) 9701 0911

Jeans Chilli Chicken on Urbanspoon

Beschico
41 Beecroft Road, Epping, NSW
Phone: (02) 9869 8188
Web: beschico.com.au

Beschico on Urbanspoon

Arisun
1 Dixon Street, Haymarket/Chinatown, NSW
Phone: (02) 9264 1588

Arisun on Urbanspoon

Pelicana
6 Burwood Road, Belfield, NSW
Phone: (02) 9742 3399

Pelicana Chicken on Urbanspoon

NaruOne
375 Pitt Street, Sydney, NSW
Phone: (02) 9261 2680

NaruOne Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Jennifer is the founding blogger of I Ate My Way Through (originally, Jenius.com.au). Growing up in the multicultural melting pot of Sydney’s Inner West as a second generation Australian (of Vietnamese refugee parents of Teochew Chinese ancestry), Jen has always had a deep curiosity about global cuisines, culinary heritage and the cultural assimilation of immigrants. For Jen and her family, food is always at the centre of all celebrations, life events and milestones. A lover of the finer things in life, as well as cheap eats, her blogging ethos is all about empowering and inspiring people to expand their culinary repertoire. When not running her two companies (she is also the Managing Director of The Bamboo Garden online marketing agency), Jen can be found exploring old-world charms at vintage markets and delving into local eats around the world. She has a weakness for fried chicken.
30 comments
westthings
westthings

Wow this is some serious commitment to fried chicken! Nice work guys! - Corinne

panda
panda

Have you tried Hello Kyochon at Homebush?? That's the best place ive been too. I'm wondering how that compares to naruone as i havent been there before. I just had Redpepper last night which didnt really compare (but they give more freebie sides hehe)

Jenius @ I Ate My Way Through
Jenius @ I Ate My Way Through moderator

@panda Wow! If Red Pepper didn't compare, I must give it a go! I personally haven't been, but it was on our list before it got culled. Thanks for the tip! Can't wait to try it!

Doyle Air
Doyle Air

Oh no you didn't!!!!! Seriously cruel I am in Dubai in the middle of the night salivating!!!!! Hahahahah Loved this post!

Kay
Kay

Dhamw that Cluckers in Lidcombe is not on the list! Have a try next time, its quite good!

Kay
Kay

@Jenius @ I Ate My Way Through  

Yes, they have Spring Onion, Sweet Chili, Soy and Hot and Spicy. I have yet to try all of them, but my go to is Sweet Chili. The chips there are also crunchy and fluffy on the inside. Eat in includes some pickled cubed radishes, goes well with the KFC!

Jenius @ I Ate My Way Through
Jenius @ I Ate My Way Through moderator

@Kay Thanks for the tip! I'll definitely check them out! Do you know if they do different types of KFC? Which would you recommend ordering?

Lisa
Lisa

I always get the Bulduk at Red Pepper, so I've never actually tried their fried chicken! Love the rice balls though!

matt @ planmb
matt @ planmb

hahah been visiting your blog for a while and must say this is by far my favourite post , love kfc!

@ChristineSalins (FoodWineTravel)
@ChristineSalins (FoodWineTravel)

Having been to Korea a few times, I'm looking forward to checking out some of these Korean restaurants in Sydney. Thanks for the post, Jen.

Jen
Jen

It's a slippery slope from there to becoming a Korean Fried Chicken addict!

Jen
Jen

Arisun's spicy one is hard to beat!

Jen
Jen

The rice balls are so unique, I've never had it anywhere else before! And yep, Red Pepper is such a hidden gem!

Jen
Jen

I've always been a bit suspicious of their Urbanspoon rating! I don't think their other dishes are that special but their fried chicken alone is worthy of boosting their score!

Jen
Jen

Hahaha, they do home delivery too!

Jen
Jen

Yep, I agree, they would be two of the best! If you ever find anything better, let me know!!

muppy
muppy

haha, i tried it for the first time the other week - the one in epping. very tasty :)

Vivian - vxdollface
Vivian - vxdollface

haha good work! naruone and red pepper are my go to places for kfc :) those diy riceballs look like fun!

Annie @ The Random Foodie
Annie @ The Random Foodie

drooling so badly after reading this post. i seriously gotta try Naruone but the Urbanspoon rating was putting me off for a while. the chicken looks so crispy tho. should check out Red Pepper as well.

milkteaxx
milkteaxx

i think i may of gone to heaven just reading about it! i live close to pelicana but i too have never stepped past those frosted glass doors!

Jen
Jen

NaruOne = perfection :)

Jen
Jen

Agree, there's so many more places I could try KFC at! Do you have a particular favourite that I should visit?

Jen
Jen

I made sure we were a group of 6 so the calories would be shared around... Hahahaha

Ramen Raff
Ramen Raff

I'm in love with NaruOne's KFC! Followed by Sun's sweet & spicy chicken.

Jen
Jen

Seeing as we didn't do NaruOne that same day, the scorecard wasn't filled in by the other attendees so I didn't want to include just my scores! But in my opinion, they get 9/10. It'd be 10/10 but there's always room for improvement! LOL! And yes, Red Pepper would be the second best. I think we were tough critics at the start so I'm almost inclined to skew their results a little closer to 8/10!

Simon Food Favourites
Simon Food Favourites

you don't seem to have a score for naurone on here? so was red pepper the best with a score of 7.4?

Tina @ bitemeshowme
Tina @ bitemeshowme

so. much. fried. chicken. LOVE IT! How you managed to try so much and not have any cholesterol issues is beyond me :P

Simon @ the heart of food
Simon @ the heart of food

Will you be looking to a part 2 of this series? Plenty of other places KFC places around, particularly around the city and Strathfield.

Sherrie @ Crystal Noir
Sherrie @ Crystal Noir

You sure did make your way around Sydney's KFC! I haven't tried the others yet, but I was amazed at NaruOne's fried chicken - sooo good!

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