The fried chicken culture in Korea is dynamic and inventive. But sometimes innovation can go a step too far. Riding on the recent trend of fried chicken sprinkled with various flavored powders such as cheese and garlic, major Korean chicken chain Mexicana Chicken has rolled out an entirely new bandwagon by introducing fruit-flavored chicken.
It is being dubbed “stoplight chicken,” because of the yellow, green and red powders that provide the fruit flavors. The yellow chicken tastes like banana, the green, melon, and the red, strawberry.
Mexicana Chicken’s ambitious experiment has become a target of mockery by foodie netizens.
After the stoplight chicken was introduced early this month – with an 18,000 won ($15.51) per box price tag – bloggers and the so-called Meokbang BJ [live streamers who film themselves eating] labeled it “Chitan,” a portmanteu of the English words “chicken” and “Satan.” With tongue firmly in cheek, they claimed its taste was “devilish.”
Some bloggers who tried the dish accused Mexicana Chicken of food heresy, of intentionally ruining a beloved national snack among Koreans, fried chicken.
One blogger nicknamed Sina uploaded a critique of the chicken, saying that she or he had to wash off the flavored powder.
“It was finally OK after I washed off the powder and put it in the microwave to warm it up. It was not crunchy anymore, but it was bearable,” the blogger said.
Major Meokbang BJs like Shoogi and Banzz, both of whom have more than 180,000 followers, gave up halfway through a box of stoplight chicken.
According to Mexicana Chicken, the unlikely combination of fried chicken and fruit flavors was first conceived when fruit-flavored soju like Soonhari Chum-Churum caused a nationwide sensation among drinkers early this year.
“We thought combining fruit with chicken would be a nice idea, like orange chicken on western restaurant menus,” said an official from the company’s PR team.
Perversely, the withering online buzz is boosting sales.
“The initial response to the chicken was very negative, but gradually, people started to order it out of curiosity,” said the official. Sales rose 30 percent compared to when it first came out.
“We never expected this much of an issue, the official said. “But utilizing the craze for fruit flavors, we will continue to develop various recipes.”