Ahmed Ikram describes his love affair with fried chicken and how Kokio lived up to the hype and then some.
If you come up and pull a gun on me (or a sharp stick) and tell me to choose between living a life without fried chicken or dying on the spot, I’ll honestly think about it for more than what common sense should allow.
I love fried chicken, just like I love many other things in life; cats, Trent Reznor, and trees. But with chicken, you need to think on a more spiritual level with me. Ever since I was but a wee little nipper, eating a fried chicken meal was more like an event; you have your three pieces in standard order, your slightly over/under-fried chips, your stale “bun” that you felt driven to eat, and a nice orange soda to compliment it all (try not to think of any stereotypes). It's an activity that is less about satisfying a base need than it is about warming up the soul, especially after a tough day.
So naturally, my fried chicken standards are high. So much so that my mouth won’t accept anything below a certain level of quality, that doesn't mean I'm a snob though (it's fried chicken after all), I just like to give credit where credit is due. I would go on adventures to find places where the chicken isn’t only a quick bite to eat on your way back from the office, but a meaningful and rewarding experience that you'd commit to memory, share with friends, and ultimately use to cultivate happiness.
And in my travels, I stumbled upon Kokio: A Korean fried chicken heaven tucked away in Maadi.
I’d learned about it from a dear friend of mine. She took me there once when I was in a rough spot in my life, and seeing as how we both shared an intense appreciation for all things fried and chicken, she decided to introduce me to this little place near her work. I decided to leave my comfort zone for crispier pastures.
Nestled in a discreet little street off of road 233 in Degla, Maadi, Kokio primarily serves their variations of fried chicken, but not just any fried chicken mind you, Korean fried chicken, which means the chicken isn’t just good, but it has culture. It’s so subtle that most people hardly see the place, but when you know what to look for, you’ll see the cute little lit sign themed after chicken (what else?) saying Kokio. And walking in is a whole other bucket of chicken.
You’re immediately greeted by the owner of the establishment, a polite and lovely Korean man who makes an effort to greet visitors as they come in, he’ll also often be the one taking your order, other times it’s his wife. The place has a lived-in feel to it, like it’s not just a restaurant but a cosy area where you can just sit, enjoy your time and pleasure your taste buds with some of their delicious offerings.
The aesthetic is very warm and inviting, you'll find one long table for larger gatherings and several small tables for a party of four. You'll find Polaroid pictures of patrons adorning the walls, giving the place a bit more warmth and cheer. You'll find some adorable Korean and Egyptian knick knacks strewn around the place, and more often than not, they play K-pop in the background, or my favourite sensual eating number, Careless Whisper. The restrooms also have a sign that says "Lovers" above them, which is just the best thing.
Their four main chicken options are 'original', 'spicy', 'soy', and 'garlic'. With all of them being nothing short of art; the crispiness is neither too rigid nor soft, and the meat itself is explosively juicy and tender, providing an almost perfect bite every time you manage to circumvent how hot it comes out. The soy chicken has a profound place in my heart, like if I had a kid, they'd take backseat to it. Though I don't know the process of how they make it, I assume the sauce is mixed with the batter and maybe the oil, because each bite of the chicken is just dripping with a light and tangy soy sauce flavour that is just... I need a moment.
They also have other options on their menu, including authentic Korean dishes such as Ddukbokki and Gimbap as well as Kimchi, there are also more outlandish options for the adventurous among you like fried pupa (look it up) and fried chicken feet (don't look it up).
Did we mention they serve alcohol? You can have your favourite local beer along with a nice serving (or three) of wings. And they also serve Soju; a traditional Korean rice liquor that, in my experience, tastes like less offensive Vodka, think rushing water but in the 20-30% range of ABV.
I like fried chicken. I also like sharing good food with people, and that's what I hope to do with you, dear reader. Go alone, go with friends, go with your mom (she deserves it), eat amazing chicken, have a drink or two (if your mom's OK with that) and just be happy.