Tag Archives: Korean Food

Don Chicken R.I.P.

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When you are an American expat abroad, your perspectives of food change with the things you experience first hand. This is natural — you get exposed to things you normally wouldn’t see back in The States. For example, Americans like to think we own fried chicken, that we created it, and we do it best. It’s just not debatable. In fact, I would challenge somebody to walk into a dive bar in Georgia, Mississippi, or Appalachia where people have been drinking all night; tell those guys that Koreans can do fried chicken just as well as their grandmothers. It’s not going to end well.

But the truth is: chicken is a robust part of Korean culinary culture — at least internationally, and especially internationally in China. Yeah, KFC is a fried chicken phenomenon in China, but so are the Korean versions of that fast food staple. It’s more than that, actually. There is a Korean chain throughout China that focused more on baking chicken then frying it, and it was pretty damn awesome. I am speaking, of course, about Don Chicken.

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Don Chicken did a few dishes really well. One was baked chicken and cheese. It was beautiful simplicity — you had baked chicken smothered in cheese. That’s it. That’s all. The chicken was so tender and so juicy. Only, it seems a lot of people, myself included, didn’t seem to fully latch onto Don Chicken’s Xinbei presence. It was on a side street near Wanda Plaza and Hohai University. The place now looks like this.

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At first glance, this can be a gut and remodel situation. A lot of Starbucks went through that over the last year. Monkey King in Wujin went through that a few years ago. Only, this really does not look like that. Look at the marquee. The name Don Chicken has been removed. Trully, though, I am at a loss about why this place could not put butts into seats behind tables. It’s in between Wanda and a university. The foot traffic here is fairly large. However, every time I went here, the tables were constantly empty. If it can’t get traffic in this location, I am hard pressed to say where in Changzhou it could.

And now, it seems gone.

This Can’t Be Korean Pizza

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I once puzzled over a friend’s Wechat food pictures. He had posted some snapshots of oven baked chicken at Don Chicken in Xinbei, but that wasn’t what attracted my attention. Actually, it was something on the periphery — bisected by the edge of the photo. It looked like pizza, and and it looked like it was crammed with toppings. So, I asked, and my friend simply replied, “Korean Pizza.”

So, any time the word “Pizza” is mentioned to me, my brain goes into spastic overdrive with all the question words of “Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How.” I blame New Jersey for this mental imbalance where the word “Pizza” is concerned. I have eaten at Don Chicken before and found their food quite good. So, I opted to try. And?

And, I didn’t like it. At all. First of all, its just a doughy pancake fried in oil. The menu listed two options: kimchee and green onion with seafood. I opted for the seafood. All that entailed was a few tiny shrimp mixed into fried green onion shoots. Omelette style egg took the place of cheese as a topping — if you are to follow through with the pizza comparison. And the result? A profound meh!

I didn’t hate it, but I found no reason to order it again. Don Chicken does so much better with its signature chicken dishes. This “Green Onion and Seafood Pancake” is just downright not worth the time as a singular lunch item. I say this as somebody who enjoys Don Chicken. However, this particular menu item is rather mediocre and easy to live without.

Cheesy Baked Chicken

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Sometimes, simplicity is best, and all you need for a good meal is just two ingredients. Cheese and chicken sometimes go perfectly together. In New Jersey, for example, something magical happens when you put tomato sauce and mozzarella on a breaded and pan-fried cutlet. Then, there is always cordon blue, which is essentially just Swiss cheese and ham inside a breaded cutlet that’s been folded over. There is a place in Xinbei that has simplified this even more.

Don Chicken on Chaohu Road 巢湖路 serves baked chicken with cheese on top. It’s that simple. The chicken was cooked perfectly so that it was both tender and juicy. The cheese, on the other hand, tasted like a bland mozzarella, but it was good none the less. My only complaint was that the waiting time between ordering and eating seemed a bit long. However, as my first dish at this place, it was good enough to lead to a return visit. Don Chicken is a Korean chain with spicier items and some Korean specialties on the menu, and if you go there at night, they have Tiger beer on tap. My university students might find the place a bit pricey; the plate cost 55 RMB. The menu is in Chinese, Korean, and English with illustrative photos.

For me, personally, the location is extremely convenient. I can walk there, because Chaohu Road runs from Hohai University’s west gate to Wanda Plaza. As such, the place is getting added to my rotation of convenient places to eat in Changzhou. Hopefully, next time, the wait time for food will be a little bit better.

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