When Boise Weekly reached out to Ryeongmin Han about his new restaurant, Han's Chimaek, he made a request: that we explain the concept of chimaek, the Korean word that basically means "chicken and beer." We're happy to oblige.
Chimaek is more than a combination. In South Korea, it began as roasted chicken served with beer, probably influenced by the presence of the American military. Over time, Koreans started serving it with beer as a single menu item, and frying the chicken to their tastes.
The dish became so popular that it has become a staple of Korean drinking culture and the source of a new coinage—Chi-neunim, which roughly translates to "chicken god."
"That's a big thing in Korea," Han said.
He opened Han's Chimaek on April 30, having bought K-Fusion, a former Korean restaurant located at 1716 S. Broadway Ave., and converted the location to fit his own design. Chimaek as a foodstuff in Boise is relatively new. In 2019, Mr. Wok opened a Vons franchise, a wildly popular brand in Korea and the U.S. Han himself has opted to take a different tack, battering and frying chicken using his own recipe and serving it with house-made sauces, giving it a distinct character, though he said he dislikes comparing his chicken to the chimaeks of others.
"What people say about our food is that it's really juicy and fresh," he said. "It has its own character. It's not like any other fried chicken."
For many Koreans, chimaek is an end-of-night affair, and Han's hours and menu reflect that attitude toward the dish. The restaurant is open Mondays-Thursdays, 2 p.m.-midnight, and Fridays and Saturdays, noon-2 a.m. And he only serves fried chicken and beer: signature yangnyum, creamy onion boneless chicken thighs, signature fried chicken, Buffalo-style and soy chicken. An assortment of beers is also available.
A pandemic may not be an ideal time to open a restaurant, but Han has adapted by making food available for takeout or delivery to help ensure the safety of his customers, as well as offering a 10% COVID-19 discount.