Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Chicken Dude

Chicken Dude at work removing a spit of Chicken. His face remains hidden to protect the legend.

Among the survivors of a certain expensive English academy there are stories of a legendary street vendor known to them only as "Chicken Dude."

There are other vendors of Korean rotisserie chicken in Pyeongtaek, but this one is special. Unless you have access to a US Military base, it is not easy to procure a turkey for yourself in Korea. And even if you did, if you are an ESL teacher, you probably don't have an oven big enough to cook it. In five years we never did. So year after year Chicken Dude saved us poor expat castaways, men and women far from our native shores and foods, supplying our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with delectable poultry. 

But not just any delectable poultry. Other venders are good. It is true. It is hard for a rotisserie chicken not to be good. The skin is caramelized and crispy. The meat is tender and juicy. But Chicken Dude's chickens are also larger than most. And on top of that, they contain within their cavities a fine substitute for stuffing: Korean rice stuffing! Other rotisserie vendors in Pyeongtaek that I've tried don't do that.

There is no skimping on the stuffing either. The rice is so packed that removing the carcass produces a near perfect mold of the chicken's cavity. It doesn't taste like typical American stuffing, though. It is distinctly Korean in flavor. The rice is super sticky, and it tastes similar to samgyetang (삼계탕), a Korean chicken soup seasoned with traditional herbs like ginseng, garlic and dried jujubes. In fact, you can often find garlic cloves and jujubes, called daechu (대추) in Korean, inside the cavity along with the rice. 

Over the years we've turned to Chicken Dude for more than just holiday meals. He has supplied his fare share of meals prefaced by, "I'm hungry, but I'm too tired to go out and too lazy to cook." What could be more valuable to an ESL teacher than affirmations of post work laziness? 

Chicken Dude is waiting.
One chicken, han ma-li (1마리) in Korean, is enough to feed a really hungry teacher or two people with average hunger and extra side dishes like mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. Each chicken comes with a plastic box of pickled radish cubes, a packet of seasoned salt, and another packet of honey mustard sauce. The whole lot costs 7,000 won. Double the bird, du ma-li (2마리), and it costs 13,000 won. 

Chicken Dude can be found most evenings beside Dong-e Apartments (동이목련아파트). To get there from Pyeongtaek Station, take the 20 or 50 bus and hit the stop buzzer after you see the Paris Baguette Cafe on an intersection corner on your right. Cross the street and backtrack to the intersection. Chicken Dude's stand will be in font of Standard Chartered Bank and Tous Les Jours on the corner opposite Paris Baguette. 

(Language note: ma-li (마리) technically does not mean chicken. It is a counting word used to number animals, but in the context of a chicken vendor it is understood to refer to a chicken. It is akin to the word "sheet" in English as in, "a sheet of paper.") 

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