Beyond the towering commercial buildings in one of Singapore’s busiest districts lies a row of bustling shophouses, just a stone’s throw away from the nearest MRT station. As I trotted down the stretch of shops that led to my destination, I saw restaurants, convenience stores and bridal boutiques with Hangul characters prominently displayed on their shopfront. Ashamed, it was then I realised that my head had been in the clouds for most of my life.
There is a little Koreatown at Tanjong Pagar that I didn’t know of!
Crowds typically centered around the food establishments along Tanjong Pagar Road like 2D1N Soju Bang (known for its Korean BBQ) in the past. But lately, people have been flocking to its neighbour Chicken Up instead because of all the media attention it had received for its soy fried chicken. Regarded as one of the best places for soy fried chicken in Singapore, it has become so popular that the waiting time to get seated especially on weekends can be in the hours. Even so, everyone else in line appeared to be unfazed by the long wait when boyfriend and I were there last month for a dinner get-together with a few of his ex-colleagues. People were either milling around or chatting heartily with one another to kill time.
But not for us. Despite helping ourselves to the free flow of iced water at the outdoor waiting area for the past two hours, we still couldn’t keep our hunger at bay. We spotted many uncleared tables near the entrance which could suggest the shortage of manpower faced by the restaurant. Perhaps that also explains why the waiting list wasn’t moving along as fast as it’s supposed to be.
The long and dreading wait aside, the food there was pretty damn good! Those food critics really weren’t lying when they say that it’s better than most Korean-style fast-food restaurants (yes, even 4Fingers) out there.
All Sojus (cocktails) are meant for sharing hence they are served in jugs. This was a friend’s order but I managed to take a small sip. Personally, I’m not a fan of traditional Soju (dislike it as much as Vodka because they pretty much taste the same to me, equally awful) but this didn’t leave me grimacing in disgust. Probably due to the fact that it was blended with real watermelon juice, the overall taste wasn’t as strong and repulsive. It was a refreshing combination with a hint of sweetness.
Whoever came up with this fusion food is a pure genius. It never once crossed my mind that Kimchi would complement so well with fries. To top it off, it also comes with cheese! All the flavours combined to leave a unique yet delicious and memorable aftertaste (I’m almost salivating as I’m typing this). The fries would be soggy after awhile because of the cheese and Kimchi but trust me, that’s when the fries get tastier. If you’re a huge Kimchi lover, you have to order this when you’re at Chicken Up.
I didn’t really scrutinise the menu because we left our orders to the discretion of someone in our group who had dined there before. But I presumed there were at least 2 different flavours for their fried chicken like any other Korean restaurants. To my surprise, they actually serve conventional fried chicken as well. Although the batter was crispier, thicker and better than normal standards, the overall taste was just mediocre and the smell wasn’t as aromatic as the other flavours. Also, if you’re intending to order this and the other flavours as well, do not, I repeat, do not eat the flavoured ones (Soya and Spicy) before this or it will taste absolutely bland and insipid and you will lose all interest in finishing the basket of deep-fried chicken.
This highly sought-after fried chicken was the highlight of the meal and also what propelled Chicken Up to the top of food critics’ list. The consistency of the seasoning was commendable – every part of the batter was moist with Korean soy sauce while still maintaining its crispiness. Just look at those glistening golden hued skin that was fried to perfection. Rivulets of the oil flavoured with soy sauce transferred to the tender flesh as I sank my teeth into it, making the entire piece of chicken ever juicier. It was the best soy fried chicken I’ve had in my life.
Another hot favourite that night was the spicy fried chicken laced with chopped scallion, sesame seeds and piquant sweet chilli sauce which heavenly smell wafted into my nose with every bite. Mmmm.. it was so finger-lickin’ good! The level of spiciness is subjective. I have relatively high tolerance for spicy food (so much so that I could finish a cup of 70g Samyang Buldak Bokkeum Myun on my own without water hehe) so I didn’t really find the chicken spicy (like maybe a 3 on the scale of 1-10). My boyfriend on the other hand had to down a full cup of water after eating 1 or 2 pieces to cool his tongue.
Just moments before we footed the bill, one of the service staff handed us a bowl of juicy watermelon balls freshly carved from the fruit. Initially, we thought they had given it to the wrong table but then we realised it was indeed for us, free-of-charge, perhaps as a little form of compensation for the long wait. We were pleasantly surprised by the restaurant’s kind gesture 🙂 If I’m not wrong, the watermelon balls are the same ones found on the Watermelon Bingsu.
Apart from this Tanjong Pagar outlet, Chicken Up can also be found at Tampines, Bugis, Jurong East (opening soon-yay!) and my alma mater, Singapore Polytechnic. -_- Dammit, first Llao Llao, now this. Good things seem to come to Singapore Poly only after I graduated from that school. Lucky juniors!
But anyway, I’m glad there are outlets elsewhere because I find the Tanjong Pagar outlet rather inconvenient as a non-driver and the crowd there can be really crazy at times (though I’m not sure if it’s the same for other outlets ‘coz I haven’t been to any yet). If you’re planning to walk from Tanjong Pagar MRT station, it will take you about 10 to 15 minutes – ideal if you like walking as a workout but a terrible idea if you’re starving.
And that’s about it, guys!
Thanks for reading 🙂