Korean fried chicken has wedged its well-deserved place in Australian dining with the same ferocity as its Nashville counterpart. The proof is in the numbers; KFC joints have hatched all over the country - Sydney’s Arisun and Chicken Institute have become mainstays just like Melbourne’s Gami and Bornga.
In South Korea, NeNe Chicken is one of the country’s popular food chains, with over 1,000 outlets across the country.
Translating to “Yes, Yes” in Korean, NeNe's popularity is threefold: there's the marinade that the chook sits in for 16 hours, imparting its signature pepperiness and extracting maximum moisture out of the bird; the batter mix, which – like the marinade – is flown straight from South Korea; and finally, the punch-in-the-face sauces.
“Our batter keeps the chicken very crunchy and also serves a secondary purpose: preventing oil from permeating into the chicken meat,” explains Richard Godwin, one of NeNe Australia’s founding partners.
Melbourne already got a taste of NeNe when it launched there in 2015 (it’s since opened four more Victorian outlets). There’s another five stores in WA and one in Brisbane. Sydney’s first outlet opened at Macquarie Centre recently and queues were just as outrageous.
What sets Korean fried chicken apart from its Southern US, Japanese and Taiwanese counterparts is its spices and sauces. The crunchy bird is painted a number of ways and sometimes finished with extras, like nuts or pickles.
At NeNe, punters can choose from garlic sauce, Bulgogi, Freaking Hot, and the NeNe special, Snowing Cheese. The powdered, parmesan-like cheese is dusted over the crisp, golden chicken pieces, creating a snow-like sheet.
“The local Sydney-Korean community was very happy to have snowing cheese available in Australia,” Godwin says. “It has a big following – it’s very popular.”
Like all successful franchise models, NeNe has adapted its menu for the Aussie market by introducing wraps, burgers and tacos to the fold. But Godwin says the chook is still prepared with all the authentic NeNe trimmings.
“It’s always a challenge – you need to keep the product authentic and adhere to its roots, but being too rigid isn’t good.”
The expansion will continue in 2018 with Darwin set to get their NeNe fix later this year.
NeNe Chicken Sydney is open Sun - Wed 11am - 8:30pm and Thur - Sat 11am - 9:30pm
Shop 3445, Macquarie Shopping Centre, Herring Rd & Waterloo Rd, North Ryde