Less than a year ago, I was living in Houston and excited to try a buzzed-about new fried chicken restaurant in Koreatown: Choong Man Chicken. Though the chain started in South Korea in 2009, its first North American locations were in the DC area. Back in Houston, articles from Virginia publications about the crispy chicken adorned the walls. Basically, I thought of Choong Man as a Virginia thing. I bragged to my friends that I was moving to Choong Man Country when I embarked to my new hometown in May.
But this week, as I was missing dining with my friends in Houston, I decided to recreate one of our favorite meals here in NoVA. Time for some Choong Man. I got my meal from the Ashburn location, but you can also find the chicken in Annandale, Centreville, Chantilly, Fairfax, Lorton and Manassas. That’s an astounding rate of expansion when you consider that the first Choong Man in the U.S. (in DC) opened only three years ago.
But there’s a reason for that success. It’s great stuff that stands out from the pack with unusual recipes. There are the creamy Snow Onions, raw slices of onion topped in a coleslaw-like white sauce draped atop the chicken. There’s also tikkudak chicken, cooked in an oven rather than fried, resulting in a hint of smoke. But I like to stick to the classic Korean fried chicken, with an uncommon flavor.
My go-to is original wings or tenders (I went with tenders this time) in curry sauce. The first time I tried it, I was expecting something akin to a creamy Japanese curry, but the sauce at Choong Man is its own animal. The best Korean wing sauces combine a significant sweetness that doesn’t overwhelm the kick of heat. The sauce does this ably, but adds the earthy aroma of curry. It’s the reason I favor Choong Man, other than its thinner, more crisp jacket, compared to other chains like BonChon. But since I’m new to the area, there are many purveyors of KFC yet to explore. I’m salivating just thinking of the crunchy, juicy research still ahead of me. // Multiple locations
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