Shake Shack Introduces a Korean-Inspired Chicken Sandwich with Gochujang

Are vaguely Asian flavors a new front in the chicken sandwich wars?

For whatever reason, fast food restaurants all over the country are still embroiled in a great "chicken sandwich war" that started in 2019 and shows no sign of stopping. But could 2021 introduce a new front to the totally-made-up conflict?

It could, at least if Shake Shack has its way. This week, Danny Meyer's New York-based burgers and fries empire announced a trio of menu items inspired by Gochujang, a spicy-sweet taste prevalent in Korean cuisine. The development was "inspired by our teams' work and travels in South Korea and the incredible food scene there," using a Korean kimchi slaw made in partnership with Portland, Oregon-based Choi's Kimchi Co.

Obviously, the Koren-Style Fried Chik'n is the star of the show. It starts with a crispy chicken breast that's slathered in a sweet-meets-spicy gochujang glaze and tossed with toasted sesame seeds before finding a space next to a white kimchi coleslaw between two buns.

shake shack korean chickn
Shake Shack

If you want to get a taste of gochujang without committing to the chicken sandwich, Shake Shack's other Korean-inspired menu items make it possible to take a dip (literally) without making the full gochujang plunge. Both their Korean Gochujang Chick'n Bites and Korean Gochujang Fries take these standard-issue Shack menu items and pair them with a spicy-sweet gochujang mayo sauce, making for an excellent option, Korean finger food-wise.

For those unfamiliar with Korean cuisine, gochujang is a fermented red chili paste that incorporates chili powder, barley malt powder, glutinous (sticky) rice, and fermented soybean. It's mix of sweet and heat makes it irresistible. Alongside kimchi, a preparation of salted and fermented vegetables like cabbage that often includes a range of other seasonings, it's perhaps the most well-known Korean culinary export.

Though Shake Shack's forays into the world of gochujang started in South Korea back in 2020, their arrival comes at a time when Asian-inspired flavors seem to be popping up on unexpected fast food menus. Recently, Zaxby's introduced a General Tso's sauce for its boneless wings, for example. Could it emerge as a way to stand out and offer something new in 2021? Only time will tell.

Speaking of time, the Shack's foray into Korean flavors won't last forever. You'll find them available at Shake Shacks nationwide through April 5, at which point we may be in a completely new food trend cycle. No matter what, though, the people deserve to taste some gochujang.

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