The Korean Invasion Continues With Smoper Chicken
Dubbed as “Korea’s Jollibee,” Smoper Chicken has 800 outlets in the land of the morning calm. That’s like being Korea’s national fast food chain—not a small feat for a fried chicken joint.
Its location in One McKinley Place Podium at Bonifacio Global City makes it the first branch outside Korea and in the Philippines. Visit it any given day and you’ll likely see Koreans, in groups, enjoying a basket of fried chicken in this new shop. It’s also not surprising to see mostly young professionals grabbing a bite and taking a break from the offices located nearby because Smoper Chicken exudes an unassuming, no-fuss vibe that is both comfortable and familiar.
Like any trusty Korean joint, they offer Japchae (P150) and Bulgogi (P150), which can be ordered as a combo (Japchae and Bulgogi Tandem, P195).
Japchae and Bulgogi TandemThe stir-fried noodles are springy, with the sesame oil coating each strand without overpowering it with grease. The vegetables are crunchy, each bite lending a subtle sweetness to the dish. This Japchae—which literally means a “mixture of vegetables”—is best eaten with their Bulgogi (your choice of chicken or beef, but I highly recommend the latter), which are very tender strips of marinated lean meat cooked with onions. As I fork through the strips, steam escapes and the pleasant smell of smoky beef broth invades my nostrils. Ah, what a comforting aroma, indeed.
Beef BulgogiNevertheless, the headliner is the fried chicken—freshly-cooked, crispy and succulent—in all its golden brown glory. I get to taste all the parts: Breast (P175/ 3pcs), Thighs (P175/ 3pcs), Drumstick (P175/ 3 pcs) and Wings (P175/ 6 pcs). These are regular servings, but for bigger groups, the Large (5 pieces) and the Family (8 pieces) servings are available, as well.
Breast (no glaze)
Wings (no glaze)For every order of chicken, you get your choice of sauce. There’s the Original, which is made of smoked peppers (hence, the name Smoper) and tastes like kimchi, with a kind of spiciness that plays lightly with your tongue. For those who want to up the ante, the Spicy sauce is a more intense version of the Original. A favorite of mine is the Curry sauce, which is just a tad spicy but gives out a strong flavor. Lastly, the choice of most customers is the Soy-Garlic sauce—a delicate interplay of the sweet and salty.
Different kinds of saucesSmoper Chicken serves its fried chicken dipped and basted in your choice of sauce. The result is addictive, prompting you to order additional sauce, so you can roll your chicken in it and just revel in its juicy meat. You can even mix and match the sauces with different chicken parts, soy-garlic for the thigh or curry for the breast—it’s up to you to find your mix.
Personally, I don’t need a side dish to enjoy their fried chicken but for those who cannot miss their carbs, Smoper Chicken offers combo meals, which give you a choice of either rice or fries to enjoy with your chicken.
However, some folks seem to be content with just fried Chicken Skin (P75). Artery-clogging and delicious at the same time, it’s a crunchy, cholesterol-charged appetizer that is also spectacular with steaming japonica rice.
Chicken SkinA surprising find in Smoper Chicken is their Fish Sticks (P165/4pcs), which are well worth their price. These four fillet fish fingers, when paired with japonica rice or fries, can be quite filling already. Well-cooked and steaming in its own thin and crispy batter, the fish retains its moist flakiness and flavor.
Fish SticksFor dessert, they have a curious-sounding icy treat called Patbingsoo (P150), which looks like the Pinoy halo-halo, but has chocolate raisins, fruit cocktail, nata de coco, apple slices, red bean paste, cherries, all of which are topped with vanilla ice cream. The combination of these ingredients surprisingly works, with the red bean paste holding everything together. I see this becoming a hit among groups of friends this coming summer because the serving is good enough for two to three appetites.
With chocolate raisins and red bean pasteUnder the radar, but definitely gaining ground, Smoper Chicken is that gem of a fast food joint that you and your friends would make appointments for. Soon, they will offer an all-you-can-eat promo called Merienda Fiesta, which gives you a 50% off discount on your japchae for every order of 5 pieces of drumsticks or 10 pieces of wings. Those who can’t get enough of the experience can even bring Smoper Chicken to their parties or potlucks, just call ahead and order for pick-up at this number: (02) 846-3424.
Call it Korean invasion or globalization of food, I’d call it the hearty eater’s undying love for good old fried chicken.