Hard to beat when it comes to the crunch

Bonchon’s interior looks more like a bar than a fast food joint
Bonchon’s interior looks more like a bar than a fast food joint. Stella Anastasia

Hard to beat when it comes to the crunch

New chain eatery Bonchon dishes up ultra-crispy South Korean-style fried chicken in a glossy, upmarket setting

South Koreans love their fried chicken ultra-crispy with a thin, almost paper-like crust and tender, juicy flesh inside. And once you’ve tried it at Bonchon – a South Korean-style chain that opened its first restaurant in Phnom Penh a week ago – you’ll see why.

The new eatery on Sothearos Boulevard is an upmarket place with the air-con set to “fridge”. Dimly lit and done up in glossy black with red highlights, stone feature walls and a fully stocked bar at one end, you might be forgiven for thinking you had wandered into a bar or club rather than a fried chicken joint.

The food also isn’t exactly fast. In order to get the desired crispy effect, the drumsticks, chicken strips and wings are deep-fried twice, like double-cooked chips, before being basted with either a hot or soy garlic sauce. They’re also cooked to order, so take about 20 minutes to arrive. During the soft opening period, some diners have reported even longer delays.

The prices are slightly higher than other chain restaurants too. The chicken comes in small ($5), medium ($8) or large ($13) sets. A small only includes three drumsticks or six little pieces of chicken.

Crispy chicken pieces and kimchi coleslaw
Crispy chicken pieces and kimchi coleslaw. Stella Anastasia

But it’s well worth the wait and cost. The glossy, glazed skin is almost shell-like around the juicy flesh, producing an almost cartoonish CRUNCH when you bite into it. The combination of textures is just fantastic and the taste is delicious too; the soy garlic chicken is good, but it’s the hot sauce variety that packs a real flavour punch. It’s still a bit oily, but small radish cubes help cut through and it doesn’t leave you feeling queasy like some other fried chicken.

Sides include small dishes of standard or kimchi coleslaw while other non-chicken menu items include salads, fries and fun-sounding Korean dishes like japchae (stir-fried glass noodles), Tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), bibimbap (mixed rice and vegetable pot) and soondubu (soft kimchi soup), all for about $6 or $7.

To wash it all down, alcoholic drinks such as soju bombs ($4) margaritas ($4) and mai thais ($4) are also available from the bar. However, the recommended liquid accompaniment is beer.

Whether you’re looking to a have a boozy dinner with mates or a special occasion with family, Bonchon offers a delicious alternative to certain other vendors of nobbly, thick-crusted, southern fried chicken – in a much more stylish setting. And once you chomp through a plate of South Korean-style fried poultry, you may find it hard to stomach any other kind.

Bonchon is located at the Phnom Penh Centre, Sothearos Boulevard.

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