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How Korean dramas introduced the world to ‘chimaek’

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If you are a K-drama fan, you must know about ‘chimaek’. It is a Korean slang word which mashes up chikin (fried chicken) and maekju (beer).

For Sarawakians, the last thing you would imagine to pair your beer with is fried chicken. However, South Korean have introduced the world that the pairing of Korean fried chicken and draft beer is actually a match made in heaven.

The history of ‘chimaek’

The origin story of ‘chimaek’ can be traced back to the time when South Koreans were introduced to fried chicken.

For that, the Koreans had to thank the Americans. It is believed that US troops during the Korean War stationed in South Korea introduced to the country the concept of frying chicken.

Before that, it was healthy food with the Koreans mainly cooking their chicken in broth and soup.

When cooking oil was introduced in South Korea in 1971, there was a rise of fried chicken consumption.

To chomp down the fried chicken, the Koreans opted for refreshing, cold beer. More stalls and restaurants started to sell beer alongside fried chicken.

While the world saw the rise of disco in the 70s, South Korea saw the birth of ‘chimaek’.

‘Chimaek’ from K-drama and beyond

The craze over ‘chimaek’ among Korean drama fans all started from the romantic comedy My Love from The Star.

Cheon Song-yi (Jun Ji-hyun), the heroine in the drama, casually commented, “A snowy day is just perfect for our chimaek time”.

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From there, fans went nuts over the pairing of fried chicken and beer.

Striking while the iron is hot, Korea’s major fried chicken restaurant Pelicana opened its first restaurant in Guangzhou barely months after the airing of My Love from the Star.

Chinese consumers were reportedly waiting an average of three hours in front of a Korean-brand chicken shop just to have their chicken fix.

If you are not a Korean drama fan, you might not understand the fuss. It was a just a scene from a drama of a beautiful actress craving for fried chicken and beer.

These fans nonetheless, contributed to their country’s economy.

For instance, Xinhua reported that China’s poultry industry which was weakened after the H7N9 avian flu pandemic was revived in 2014 following the chimaek trend.

The rave over ‘chimaek’ back then also caught the attention of politicians.

During the annual China-South Korea business forum in 2015, South Korean the president Park Geun-hye noted that the Chinese taste for fried chicken and beer-stemming from the airing of Korean drama, was a sign of cultural and economic integration between the two countries.

Since My Love from the Star, other dramas such as Crash Landing on You and The King: Eternal Monarch also featured salivating chimaek session in their plots.

The obsession over chimaek

Unlike the American fried chicken, Korean fried chicken is fried twice. Hence, they are crispier.

Additionally, there are all kinds of different sauces and toppings of Korean fried chicken. Each Korean fried chicken food chain even has its own signature taste and flavour.

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According to CNN Travel, chimaek fanatics call themselves “chideokhu”. It is a combination of the words “chicken” and “deokhu,” which means “maniac.”

Meanwhile, connoisseurs who can differentiate fried chicken between brands without consulting the delivery box are chimmeliers, a mishmash of “chimaek” and “sommelier.”

There is even a chicken-specific hallelujah: chillelujah!

It doesn’t matter if you are a Korean drama fan or not, if you love beer, a ‘chimaek’ session is definitely worth a try.

If you have given it a try, chillelujah!

Draft beer goes really well with these tender and crispy fried chicken.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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