Skip to content
Olympic Korean Seoul chicken recipe

This award-winning recipe goes quite a ways back. It first landed on my radar via food-writer Arthur Schwartz, who led me to this recipe for this Asian-inspired chicken dish. It sounded so good and easy to make in a skillet, on the stovetop, and included everything I like – moist chicken thighs, a burst of chili powder, a bit of sweet-saltiness, and lots (and lots) of garlic. Count me in.

Olympic Korean Seoul chicken recipeOlympic Korean Seoul chicken recipe

When I first posted the recipe, a reader jumped up and noted that her mother was the inventor of it as part of a cooking contest in 1988, and she took the top prize in the contest. It may seem more Japanese to some, but with the overload of garlic, I think calling it Korean (or Korean-inspired) wouldn’t be far off. You’ll note the recipe calls for a ton of garlic, a whopping ten cloves, which I chopped up in my mini-chopper. The original recipe called for dried ground ginger (1/4 teaspoon), because perhaps fresh ginger was harder to find in those days, or maybe because it was easier.

Olympic Korean Seoul chicken recipe with garlic

The recipe uses skinless thighs, which helps the marinade absorb into the meat. I know people have made it successfully with boneless, skinless thighs, so that’s another possibility. Just be sure to reduce the cooking time as the boneless thighs will cook faster.

The skinned chicken thighs do tend to stick to the pan, which gives them a nice burnished quality, but keep an eye on them. And when you add the marinade, be sure to scrape up any tasty browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Olympic Korean Seoul chicken recipe

Olympic Seoul Chicken

I updated this prize-winning recipe with more zip from fresh ginger, and used Korean red pepper (gochugaru). You can use red pepper flakes or another red chili powder. (If you use cayenne, you might want to dial it down since that can be quite hot.) The original recipe uses white vinegar but I swapped that out with rice vinegar. If you don’t have a skillet large enough to saute eight chicken thighs in on batch, or use a Dutch oven or large casserole.
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) white or 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
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon teaspoons child powder, or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • optional: a handful of chopped green onions, including the dark green part, for garnish
  • Mix together the vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and minced ginger in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Heat enough oil in a large skillet until it just covers the bottom, about 2 tablespoons. When it’s hot and shimmering, saute the chicken thighs until well-browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and chili powder and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t burn.
  • Pour in the vinegar mixture, scrape the bottom of the pot to release any stuck on bits of garlic, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the thighs are cooked through. While the thighs are cooking, turn them a couple of times in the marinade.
  • Once they’re done, remove the cover, add the green onions, if you wish, and cook for another minute or so, until the sauce is slightly thickened.


Serve with rice, kimchi, cucumber salad, or any other accompaniments.

Related Recipes

Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Ribs

Kimchi Omelet

Smashed Asian Cucumber Salad (Woks of Life)


Teriyaki Chicken



    • Tucker

    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 :)

    • Charcuterista

    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?)

    • kayenne

    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.

    • David

    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…

    • Abra

    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).

    • Tai

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

    • michelle @ Us vs. Food

    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

    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.

    • David

    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

    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

    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

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

    • bionicgrrl

    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.

    • Linden

    Wow….!! Its delicious.

    • Sharon

    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.

    • matthew k.

    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.

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

    • melissa

    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!

    • Tai

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

    • David

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

    • jenmoocat

    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.

    • bluexmas

    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?

    • David

    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.

    • Ron

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

    • emily

    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

    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

    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.

    • Diane Brody

    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!


Get David's newsletter sent right to your Inbox!


Sign up for my newsletter and get my FREE guidebook to the best bakeries and pastry shops in Paris...