Holdak promises 'real' Korean fried chicken
MANILA, Philippines – There’s a new player in the growing Korean-style fried chicken segment in Manila and this time, it promises to be the real thing.
Holdak, which promotes itself as “the real Korean fried chicken,” started in 2003 as a small family-owned restaurant in Busan and has since evolved into a chain of fast casual restaurants in Korea with branches in Seoul, Daejeon and Chungnam, as well in China and Japan.
The other restaurants serving Korean fried chicken in the Philippines originated elsewhere. Bonchon, for instance, started in the United States, while 4 Fingers first opened in Singapore.
It was in Beijing, China where Filipino entrepreneur Carl Tan had his first taste of Holdak. Tan, now the president of Holdak Philippines Inc., told a select group of food writers recently that he was studying in China at the time and it became his dream to bring Holdak to the Philippines.
That wish finally came true this year when he opened Holdak’s first Philippine branch at the SM Mezza Residences in Sta. Mesa last January.
Asked why he chose the non-mall location, Tan pointed out that the area has several schools, including the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center, as well as the SM Centerpoint mall. Students can easily afford the meals at Holdak with a two-piece chicken with rice priced at only P99.
The restaurant’s bright interiors also have a youthful vibe, with its orange and white color scheme, a mural of Seoul’s busy Myeongdong shopping district and lighting fixtures made to look like streetlamps.
Four chicken sauces
Customers can choose between four special sauces for its crispy fried chicken, which are made from boneless thigh filets, said to be the juicier part of the chicken.
Yang-nyam (pictured above) is the original Korean-style fried chicken recipe sauce with the chicken sprinkled with sesame seeds. The flavor is a balanced mix of sweet, sour and salty.
But for those who want their chicken with a little more kick, the yang-nyam also comes in a spicy version topped with whole dried red chilis and chili flakes.
Jack Daniels is Holdak’s version of the popular Jack Daniels sauce, popularized by the American chain TGIFriday’s. Holdak’s Jack Daniels fried chicken is topped with caramelized onions which added to the sweetness of the dish.
The best of Holdak’s sauces is the Padak, which Tan said is also the most popular with its customers. The Padak’s freshly sliced spring onions and a light zesty modern Asian flavor lift the dish above the run-of-the-mill fast-food fare.
Holdak’s lineup of extras also veers from the usual. The fries, for instance, are flavored with curry powder. The coleslaw is mixed with sesame dressing, which is best paired with the spicy yang-nyam. One can also order the pajeon or Korean pancakes.
A surprise addition is the ramen. Make no mistake, this isn’t the noodle dish served in specialized ramen restaurants in the metro but more at par with the instant variety – not when it’s priced at less than P100 for a small bowl. But the familiar taste of Holdak’s ramen has a comforting feel and by all means order the cheese ramen, which has bits of melted cheese mixed in.
Dessert at Holdak is limited to ready-made Korean treats such as Melona ice cream, Samanco ice cream waffle shaped like a fish and Snow iced coffee.
So far, Tan said delivery is limited to the Sta. Mesa area but there are plans to open more Holdak outlets in other areas of the metro.
Aurora Boulevard corner Araneta Avenue,