Yep, you’re probably wondering how I got here.  

It all started a few months ago, when I was looking into all the different chicken sandwiches that fast food places were putting out to capitalize on the “chicken sandwich wars.”  One of them happened to be Shake Shack, boasting a Korean-Fried Chicken (sorry, Chick’n) sandwich, as part of a limited-time Korean-themed menu, and I lamented not living near one.  I considered taking a road trip out to a nearby one, but crossing state lines during a pandemic just for a bunch of fast food isn’t the best idea, so I put it out of my mind.

Or so I thought.  In early March, a friend of mine asked me if I would accompany him and his sister (spoiler alert, literally any time I mention “my friends” on here I’m referring to these two) as they moved the last of his stuff out of his old apartment in Jersey City at the end of the month.  I agreed on, more or less, one condition: we take a detour to one of the Shack Shakes in one of the strip malls littering our escape route out of New Jersey.

Once the loading of the U-Haul was complete, one friend took off with it back to Syracuse to try to get back in time to return the truck, while the rest of us abandoned him to eat fast food in a New Jersey strip mall parking lot.  And if you would like to join us in such merrymaking, the Korean-inspired items will be available until April 5 (yes, I’m coming in a bit under the wire with this one). 

Also, I thought I remembered seeing something about a burger joining this lineup, but if it ever was real, it is no longer with us.

Korean-Style Fried Chick’n Sandwich

The glaze on the chicken seemed to be a mix of gochujang and honey, it was very sticky and just slightly sweeter than it was spicy.  It didn’t have much of the fermented funk I was expecting it to have, but in all honesty it’s been a while since I’ve had anything with gochujang in it so it’s possible my memory is playing tricks on me.  Regardless, it made an excellent glaze for the sandwich, not overpowering any of the other ingredients.

I remember being skeptical of the “white kimchi slaw” when I first heard about it, assuming that it was some whitewashed version more akin to just a regular coleslaw, but some deeper digging found that white kimchi is a perfectly normal variety, popularly eaten in spring and summer.  And, despite my skepticism, the kimchi did have a little bit of that kimchi funk to it, in addition to adding a much needed vegital crunch to the sandwich.

My sandwich was not-particularly-noticeably missing the dusting of sesame seeds directly on the chicken, something that I didn’t even notice until I was looking over the pictures the next day.  That little extra touch of nuttiness would have been welcome, but I don’t think I can really say that I missed them.

My only complaint is that at $7.79, it was a little small for the price, but I’m willing to overlook that since again, Shake Shack is a once-in-a-while treat for me. 

Korean Gochujang Chick’n Bites

The gochujang here comes in the form of a gochujang mayo, which honestly kind of tasted like pretty much any generic spicy mayo you can get anywhere.  I will point out that there were some streaks of plain mayo running throughout it, so I’m willing to accept that the person who mixed it up (presumably fresh/in-store) wasn’t as thorough as they should have been, and there could have been someone that day that got served a cup that was extra heavy on the gochujang.  

However, I gotta say, the chick’n bites themselves were a lot better than I was expecting them to be.  The breading on them was light and irregularly coated the chicken, obviously just breaded as opposed to most pre-frozen fast food nuggets.  If you find yourself near a Shake Shake sometime after the Korean menu is discontinued, you could probably get and order of the bites run to the nearest grocery store, get gochujang and mayo, sloppily mix them together in your car, and get a pretty good facsimile of this (and I mean that in a good way).

Korean Gochujang Fries

Surprisingly, the gochujang flavor seems to come out a little better when dipping fries in the gochujang mayo than with the bites.  There really isn’t anything else I can say about this one, it’s fries and gochujang mayo.  Would I have liked to see something more like a loaded fries, with drizzles of the gochujang mayo and the gochujang glaze from the sandwich, topped with the kimchi slaw? Sure, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in a Shake Shack where it wasn’t already incredibly busy, there’s no reason to make the employee’s lives hell even more than they already are.

Also, shoutout to Shake Shack for, when many of their competitors like Five Guys or In and Out are so obsessed with having “fresh” fries that just never get crispy, just giving us some crinkle cuts.

Black Sugar Vanilla Shake 

Finally! Something that doesn’t need to arbitrarily advertise how Korean it is in the name! And furthermore, I have a slightly better idea of what black sugar tastes like, having had a black sugar latte a couple months or so ago (as opposed to maybe having had gochujang wings somewhere, like, pre-pandemic).  

Maybe it’s just because the vanilla ice cream diluted it a bit, but I feel like some of the complexities of the black sugar syrup got a little lost here. It mostly tastes like a caramel shake, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I will also say, I’m not sure if it melted a little bit from just being the last thing I tasted or from the fact that they packaged it up in the same bag as the hot food, but the shake itself was a little on the thin side, which I actually kinda like as opposed to one so thick you hurt your jaw trying to suck it through a straw.  

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