Everyone knows that buffalo wings originated in the United States and are one of the quintessential American foods.
But what many people don’t know is that the best buffalo wings aren’t found in their namesake town in New York. No, the best buffalo wings come from a country nearly 7,000 miles away: South Korea.
But you don’t need to book a trip halfway around the world to experience these delicacies. You just need to head to Annandale, Virginia and make a trip to Bon Chon Chicken.
Annandale is a small suburb 13 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. In the past two decades, Annandale has seen an influx of Korean immigrants and as a result, an explosion of Korean restaurants. On the outskirts of the town, at the intersection of Little River Turnpike and Old Columbia Pike, sits a tiny strip mall, Willow Run Center. There are just five stores in the shopping center, one of which cooks the most amazing wings in the country.
Bon Chon Chicken began in Pusan, South Korea as a small restaurant specializing in just one thing, fried chicken wings. In 2006, it came to the United States, first to New York, then immediately after to Annandale.
The restaurant is very small, consisting of an “L” shaped bar with 12 stools, seven booths along the walls, and five small tables in the middle. The décor is simple, with dark wood paneling and clashing beige linoleum floors. Of course none of that matters, for no one comes for the accommodations. They come for the only thing on the menu: Wings.
Choosing what to eat at Bon Chon is simple. Pick one of the two styles of wings: spicy or soy-glazed. Then pick a size. A small has 12 wings, a large has 20. That’s it. Those are your only menu options. There is no picking your sides; all orders come with pickled radishes and coleslaw, (the Korean equivalent of blue cheese and celery).
Then wait. The wings take a long time. They are twice-fried, which means an order can take up to 45 minutes. But waiting only increases anticipation, and these wings are worth the wait.
The first thing diners will notice is the size. The wings are enormous, in some cases twice as large as typical wings. And they don’t appear to be sauced. There is no sloppy red liquid dumped on top of them, but they aren’t plain. Instead, the sauce is cooked into the crust of the wing. It’s a marvelous cooking technique and a proprietary secret.
And it’s perfect — no time is wasted spent licking sticky fingers or wiping down with moist napkins. Yet the skin is just as flavorful as any saucy competitor. In fact, the wings are tastier than any rival. The spicy wings have two different layers of heat: an initial burst and a more subtle, longer lasting burn. Neither is too strong, and it doesn’t detract from the overall flavor of the wing. The soy-glazed wings are also scrumptious, with a lovely salty tang.
The skin, even with the saucing technique, remains crisp. It crackles with each bite, snapping off in delicious pieces to chew. The chicken inside is still juicy and succulent, making these Korean-style birds the perfect combination that wing connoisseurs constantly search for but rarely find.