The Olympic Seoul Chicken Recipe


Asian Ginger-Soy Sauce Chicken Recipe-2

I recently pulled up a great recipe that I’d tucked away from Arthur Schwartz for Olympic Seoul Chicken. New Yorkers will remember Arthur as the host of a popular radio program in the city for well over a decade and he’s knowledgeable about everything from traditional Neapolitan cooking, to where to get the best babka in the Big Apple.

He rightly points out that this recipe is probably more Japanese-inspired than Korean. But since the Olympics were held in Seoul when the recipe first appeared, guesses were that all-things Korean were in vogue at the time. The great thing about this recipe is that it can be cooked very quickly on the stovetop.

Korean Chicken

The skinned chicken thighs do tend to stick to the pan, but removing the skin ensures that the flavor of the marinade permeates the chicken. When you add the marinade, be sure to scrape up any tasty browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. If you don’t have a skillet large enough, brown them in two batches in a Dutch oven or large casserole.

Olympic Seoul Chicken
Serves 4 -6

Adapted from Arthur Schwartz, author of Arthur Schwartz’s New York City Food and Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking.

  • ¼ cup (60ml) rice vinegar (unseasoned)
  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) honey
  • 1-inch (3cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 8 chicken thighs, skinned
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced or grated
  • 1½ teaspoon chili powder (I used cochutgaru, but any will do)
  • a handful of chopped green onions, including the dark green part

1. Mix together the vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and ginger.

2. Heat enough oil in a large skillet until it just covers the bottom. When it’s hot and shimmering, saute the chicken thighs until well-browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the garlic and chili powder and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t burn.

3. Pour in the vinegar mixture, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until done. While the thighs are cooking, turn them a couple of times in the marinade.

4. Once they’re done, remove the cover, add the green onions, and cook for another minute or so, until the sauce is slightly thickened.

Serve with rice, kimchi, toasted nori, or any other accompaniments. Also good with a pile of steamed green beans drizzled with sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds sprinkled on top.

Related recipe: Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Ribs

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  • February 16, 2008 6:26am

    The chicken looks good, even if the name isn’t quite fitting.

  • February 16, 2008 8:49am

    i love the picture ! This perfectly white rice with the rich meat covered with sauce, such a nice contrast.

  • Tucker
    February 16, 2008 9:07am

    I saw you on Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie. What a wonderful life you have! :) I will try this recipe. I am going to spend some time reading your posts, this is my very first time reading anyone’s blog!
    I am a middle aged woman who LOVES to bake and cook. I have even made alittle ice cream, but I haven’t mastered yet.
    Have a wonderful day :)

  • Martin
    February 16, 2008 10:27am

    Do the 10 garlic cloves and the chili powder go in with the rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and ginger to be added after the thighs are browned? Can you tell I’m anxious to give this a try?

  • February 16, 2008 11:49am

    I’ve been thinking about trying kimchi ever since I read Jeffrey Steingarten’s essay about getting over his food prejudices by trying things repeatedly. A technique which has worked on my aversions to cantaloupe and coleslaw, by the way. But there is a serious dearth of Korean restaurants – by that I mean none – in my area, so I’m taking this recipe as a reason to hunt down some kimchi. (or make my own? you can do that?)

  • February 16, 2008 12:27pm

    this also sounds good with couscous… despite how un-asian that is. or some angel hair in garlic and olive oil. love the recipe! thanks!

    on a separate topic… lately, i’ve tried making flourless chocolate cake(idiot cake, accdg to you) and i wanted a flourless white chocolate cake. my own recipe calls for adding the sugar first, before the eggs, but the mixture seized, the butter oil separating, upon blending in the sugar. any thoughts about why this happened? i used a white chocolate compound, but the same brand dark chocolate compound i usually use works ok.

  • February 16, 2008 1:19pm

    Tucker: Welcome!

    Martin: Yup. Add them after the thighs are browned, before adding the vinegar mixture. It’s a great dish—I urge everyone to try it. (And super-easy, too.)

    Kayenne: White chocolate is totally different than dark and can’t, unfortunately, be swapped.

    Charcuterista: If you can make bacon, you can make kimchi. Click on link in post for my recipe. I have another one coming up soon too…

  • February 16, 2008 2:07pm

    This looks great. Asian flavors are so missing in la France profonde it could almost make one weep. But what are the little red flecks, as if there were a fresh red pepper in the sauce? Is that the cochutgaru (which Google refuses to recognize).

  • February 16, 2008 2:16pm

    I’m making this for dinner tonight. YOU ARE TOO COOL.

  • February 16, 2008 10:40pm

    i love the picture, and this seems simple enough to go into weeknight dinner rotation. yum.

    i wish i could eat more like a frenchwoman. i’m trying, i really am!

  • Veranda
    February 17, 2008 1:05am

    Yum…I am making this soon.

    David, can you define what you call chili powder? Here in Cali (very near your home town :) ), there are a multitude of things called “chili powder”. They rang from different varieties of chilis dried and ground, to a combination of spices (cumin, etc.) added to dried chili.

  • February 17, 2008 3:06am

    What wine did you serve to the Rothschilds with this course? Was that intimidating? I might have chosen a dry Austrian Riesling or just served mojitos in coconut shells to a avoid wine faux pas.

  • February 17, 2008 4:22am

    Veranda: The chili powder I mentioned that I used was Korean chili powder. But I’ve made this with regular, pure red chili powder, the kind they sell in supermarkets and the kind you can get in Mexican stores, and both work great.

    Kirstin: She brought a (very nice) bottle of red, but to me, this is more white wine kinda food. Or beer. Although I do like your idea of mojitos. Next time! : )

  • Maryann
    February 17, 2008 4:25pm

    Hi David! I am sitting here watching you on TV on PBS! Oh, isn’t this so cool! I am thrilled and the show is so much fun.It’s so true what you are saying about blogging. I feel I know you a little bit better now and it’s a nice feeling.

  • Gigi
    February 18, 2008 12:52am

    Making this tonight. You are winning the race of blogs of which I cook things off of. I think I’ve now cooked about 20% of your site. Delicious!

    You are a kitchen muse!

  • rosso
    February 18, 2008 2:07am

    It was a pleasure watching you on PBS yesterday David..this is my first visit here and I can tell I will enjoy it..

  • February 18, 2008 11:59pm

    Honey, soy sauce, garlic, red pepper… definitely Korean-inspired. There is a Korean dish called dak-kalbi (chicken-kalbi); kalbi I’m sure you know is Korean BBQed ribs. It looks like this is a take on dak-kalbi. Looks good. I would have a beer with this.

  • February 19, 2008 1:23am

    Wow….!! Its delicious.

  • Sharon
    February 19, 2008 9:22am

    Korean fried chicken basically uses this sauce/marinade as a topping over crispy fried chicken, sprinkled with sesame seeds and served with little cubes of white pickled radishes. It’s to die for.

  • February 19, 2008 7:11pm

    yum, I had this last week at a bar in LA’s Koreatown. very spicy but delicious. Now I know how to make it, thanks David (my grandma should be teaching me these recipes, not you! :D)

  • Sarah M.
    February 20, 2008 7:24pm

    Oh so tasty! Super quick (and cheap) to make – perfect dish for the hungry graduate student.

  • melissa
    February 21, 2008 1:19am

    I just made this and it was very good! Easy to make with really bold flavours. The sauce reminds me of a ‘Chili Crab’ dish we get here in Singapore (but Chili Crab is more ‘saucy’ and has eggs in the sauce to thicken it). Thanks David!

  • February 21, 2008 3:21pm

    So, I said I was going to make this, and I did. It was so good! Thanks for your always reliable recipes.

  • February 21, 2008 3:25pm

    Glad you’re all enjoying this recipe as much as I do. I’m thinking I might try a variation with prawns next!

  • jenmoocat
    February 21, 2008 6:44pm

    Made this last night!
    Quick and tasty and easy.
    Had it cold for breakfast as well.

    I think my sister would love it.
    However, she only eats fish.
    And, as I am not too experienced in cooking fish, can you give any pointers as to what fish would work for this? And if there would be any drastic changes to the steps?

    Thanks so much for your wonderful posts and recipes.

  • February 22, 2008 9:05pm

    I have visited here few months, and quite a shock to see you cook this. It is called Yangnyum Tongdak(sorry, no italics here). ‘Yangnyum’ means spice or spiced, and ‘Tong’ means whole, and Dak is chicken. The origin of the name is that the fried chicken once used to be just battered and fried pieces of chicken(whole means chop up one chicken, so you can have all the body parts when you buy ‘Tongdak’), but one day some started made sauce of glazing and toss chicken with it as people in US do their buffalo wings, and it got popular, so here it comes, Yangnyum Tongdak.

    As a Korean, I am sure there will be a lot of different recipes to cook chicken like that, but probably Korean chili paste(gochujang), soy sauce, and even Ketchup would be the main ingredients for the glazing, and maybe some corn syrup for shine and tackiness. So you can play with those ingredients next time…

    Oh by the way, could you cook kimchi?

  • February 23, 2008 5:25am

    jenmoocat: I would imagine any firm-fleshed fish, like swordfish or monkfish, would be great. I would shorten the browning time and just cook it just ’til it’s done, much less than 15 minutes.

    bluexmas: Yes, I make kimchi fried rice and tofu soup with chopped kimchi.

  • February 25, 2008 8:01am

    Made this last week but subbed some Vietnamese chili -garlic sauce for the chili powder. It was tasty! Thanks for the recipe David.

  • emily
    February 26, 2008 9:16am

    Hi David,

    I have enjoyed your site for a while now, but never posted. I made this chicken last night and followed it up with your mango sorbet for dessert. It was wonderful – thank you for the insipiration & recipes!

  • Andrea Cnudde
    March 18, 2008 11:57am

    I have to say, I love, love, love this chicken! I made it for the third time last night and thought I should let you know how great it is – so quick, simple and tasty! Thanks for the addition to my repertoire!

  • Jessica
    April 16, 2008 12:03pm

    I stumbled on your blog during my quest to find a Pinkberry-esq recipe and have been reading faithfully since. I saw this recipe and wanted to try it when I was finally ready to inaugurate my new house with a home cooked meal. It doesn’t matter that I’m Korean-American and can’t eat a dish without manipulating it…this recipe is FABULOUS!

    I do have to admit I did add a few things (korean chili paste, 2 heaping spoonfuls of korean chili powder!, and just a dash of sesame seed oil). I was also happy that my homemade dish actually looked like the picture posted with the recipe…that never happens.

  • April 7, 2010 4:56pm

    It’s great to see Olympic Seoul Chicken on your blog, and intriguing to see your speculations about its origins. See the true story revealed after more than two decades at my new recipephany blog (all about recipe epiphanies) ( It remains a blue-ribbon recipe, and I am proud to be the daughter of the originator!