Dak Galbi, spicy chicken and rice cakes of Chuncheon

spicy Korean chicken-galbi

There are two things in life that are almost impossible to bring back to their original status.
One; the soggy noodles in the soup
Two; a boyfriend who left you for another girl.

Some food brings memories. My friend got really mad at me when I told her this Philosophy of physical changes in life. She was mad at me because…., I compared her romance to the noodles.

This happened over some 20 years ago. My BFF at the time just broke up with her boyfriend. Well, more precisely.., she was dumped for another girl.

I told her to meet me at the train station.  We took a random train that was available to take off right away. The destination on the ticket was to Chuncheon city of east Korea. Neither I or she had been there before. My memory of the 2 hours of train ride to Chuncheon was gazing at the beautiful scenery outside of the window and comforting the heart broken, sobbing friend of mine.

We both were hungry when we arrived. We entered one narrow street and saw a sign “the Best Chicken Galbi in Chuncheon” in front of the door of one restaurant. The next door restaurant had a sign, “The original Chuncheon Chicken Galbi”. And the restaurant on the other side said, ” The genuine Chuncheon Chicken Galbi” and so on…  I was torn, but had to decide. ‘Eeni meeni miini moh…,’ My finger pointed the house with *the original* sign at last. We entered and ordered the famous chicken galbi of Chuncheon.

My expectation of Chicken Galbi (dak galbi) that I was used to came with a great surprise.

This Chunchen style chicken galbi brought a big taste sensation to me and my friend. The serving lady brought up a huge carbon steel griddle-like pan piled up with chicken and vegetables dressed up with spicy sauce, and placed it on top of the grill in the middle of the table. It was starting to sizzle loudly and the lady quickly tossed around to cook everything in it. Soon it was ready to eat.

… Oh, my lord! It was soooo good. So good that my miserable friend forgot about her agony of loosing her boyfriend for the moment.  So good and spicy that I was snipping the entire time with tissue. There was a unique flavor in the sauce that captured my tongue. It was the curry! Curry in Korean food? … interesting, isn’t it?

It was not easy to replicate the taste that I had enjoyed over 20 years ago but I think I came close enough. The quantity, when it comes to the food, is important in Korea and you will see that in this recipe. After finishing the dish many Koreans add noodles or rice to the pan and fry up to enjoy every last remains of the sauce. I couldn’t. My stomach was on the verge of explosion before I get to finish the whole thing.

There are several types of chicken galbi in Korea but perhaps this galbi from Chuncheon would be the most popular.

 

chicken galbi tutorial-2

Let’s make the sauce first. Left to right; rice wine, soy sauce, corn syrup (optional), sugar, Korean chili paste, ginger powder, curry powder, pepper, sesame oil,  garlic, and Korean chili flakes.

 

Combine all the sauce ingredients. The exotic taste adventure begins right here.

 

The best actor award in today’s post goes to “The Chicken!”. Use boneless, skinless thigh meat. Dice into bite size chunks.

 

Massage your chicken with 1/2 the sauce and set aside.

 

Here are the supporting crews. Rice cakes, onion, sweet potato, cabbage, and paella perilla leaves.

 

Soak your rice cake in hot water until ready to use. If using fresh ones, no need to soak.

 

Prepare your veggies. Cabbage, onion, sweet potato, and Paella perilla leaves called “kkatnip” in Korean.

 

Here are the Kkatnip; very fragrant pallela perilla leaves (smells like basil and mint combined). Very common in Korean cuisine. If you can’t find them, use sweet basil instead.

 

Grab this old time beauty, cast iron skillet!  If you don’t have it, use any pan you have. Use a large size pan for the recipe.

FYI, a well seasoned cast iron skillet is one of the greatest cookware. It bakes corn bread beautifully, your Korean pancakes will have crisp edges, and you can even bake a pizza inside with beautiful crust. Plus, it is affordable! The only down side? It is HEAVY!

 

Drizzle some oil…

 

Place the chicken,

 

Add the veggies and the rice cakes on top (use half the amount of Kkatnip at this time). Add the remaining sauce over and bring the pan to med-high heat.

 

When you hear the loud sizzling sound, start tossing around carefully. You may want to reduce the heat to medium.

 

Add a little water (2-4 Tbsp) to create some steam to cook everything.

 

When the chicken pieces are cooked through and the sweet potatoes are tender, add the rest of kkatnip.

 

Toss gently so that you don’t break the sweet potatoes. Looking gooooooood!

 

At last sprinkle some love and it is ready to eat.  Gosh! I want to shove my chopsticks in there now.

 

“You are right. He is the soggy noodle for me.”
My friend said after finishing the entire pan full of this chicken goodness that day.
“Yeah, he won’t taste the same,  you know what I mean…” I replied.

On the train back to Seoul that night, she fell asleep like a little baby the entire time.
It was a hard day for her.

Life offers many different tastes.
Even if it is spicy and bitter at the moment..,
it will be delicious in a long run.

Life meant to be delicious.

Have a fabulous weekend!

 

chicken-galbi-W2

Dak Galbi, spicy chicken of Chuncheon
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 lb (450g) boneless, skinless chicken thigh, diced
  • ½ lb (250g) Korean rice cake sticks
  • ¼-1/2 cabbage, diced
  • 8-10 perilla leaves, sliced
  • ½ large onion, sliced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, sliced into ¼" thick wedges
  • 2 tablespoon grape seed or canola oil
  • 2-4 tablespoon water
  • more perilla leaves and toasted sesame seeds to garnish
For the sauce:
  • 3 tablespoon Korean chili paste
  • 2 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon Korean chili flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 2 tablespoon rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • dashes of pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Korean corn syrup, optional
Instructions
  1. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Toss the chicken pieces with ½ the sauce and mix. Set aside.
  2. Soak rice cakes in hot water until ready to use and drain.
  3. Drizzle oil in a cast iron skillet, spread the chicken and top with vegetables (only ½ the amount of perilla leaves) and rice cakes. Drizzle the remaining sauce over and bring the skillet over med-high heat.
  4. When you hear the loud sizzling noise from the skillet, toss to coat everything with the sauce. Continue to cook for about 2 minutes. Add the water to create steam to cook and reduce the heat to medium. Continue to cook, about 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. When chickens are cooked through and potatoes are tender, add the rest of the perilla leaves and heat through. Everything should be slightly browned at this stage.Toss gently so that you don't break the potatoes.
  6. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and garnish with more perilla leaves. Serve hot.

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Comments

  1. says

    Oh my lord that looks amazingly good. Even without hearing the story about how it helped your friend forget about her heartbreak, I’m already convinced. Though, of course, I really enjoyed hearing about that story, I love hearing about how food brings people together and creates special memories. lol about that first quote.

  2. Mike says

    Whoa, that looks super delicious! This is one of my favorite dishes ever. I’ll try your recipe soon. I love your story too…comparing a lost romantic partner to soggy noodles…you have such an imaginative mind, haha! Small correction though, it should be perilla leaves, not paella.

    • Holly says

      Ooops! you are right Mike. It should be perilla leaves. Thanks for pointing that out. You can tell I am not a native English speaker.

  3. says

    This looks delish! And great photos. Definitely makes me want to cook it but… absence of local stockist of rice cakes. I think it would still be delicious without, until I could get hold of rice cakes next time I’m near somewhere that sells them?

    Thanks for posting!

    • Holly says

      You don’t need to add the rice cakes. Instead add udon noodles at the end. or fry with some cooked short grain rice at the end after you finish the dishes to slobber with the sauce.

      • says

        Udon’s a great idea, and one of favourite noodles in this house – nothing more wonderful that watching my 8 month old squishing them in her hands and scooping them up into her mouth. It makes me feel very blessed :)

        Thanks Holly

  4. Apple says

    Wow this looks very delicious! But when you say “paella leaves” do you mean “perilla leaves” instead? Because I’ve bought those leaves at a Korean supermarket and they’ve always been labeled “perilla.” Paella is the Spanish seafood and rice dish, I think…

    For the rice cakes, do they have to be the long type or are the oval kind also okay?

    • Holly says

      Apple, Yes, it should be Perilla, not Paella. I knew it was perilla, but I was writing this post very late at night and my brain was not functioning the way it should. Sorry for the confusion. Also I used the rice cake sticks but you can use the flat oval kind as well.

  5. Nicole says

    Hello Holly,

    I love the story. I think with every blog, it is always interesting to know that there is a story behind everything we do, be it cooking, travelling or whatever people blog about these days. It makes the main subject more attractive as food although delicious will only remain as food. But with a reference or story, it takes on a whole new meaning.
    This is why memories are always associated with the food we eat.

    There is a huge Korean supermarket near me and I buy most of my Chinese groceries there but because I do not know any Korean, I don’t know what to do with the Korean ingredients. The only Korean meal I had was in Hong Kong in a Korean Barbecue restaurant. I remember the crowds and the sizzling noises on the domed shaped pan placed on top of the gas burner. The smoke and steam together formed a formidable sight!

    I will try and cook your receipes as the photos have shown what the various ingredients are. Thanks for the tutorials!

    • Holly says

      Thanks Nicole. I agree with you. I love reading article about food that has stories behind. It help me appreciate the dish even more. That’s why I like to read my cookbooks like a novel. Hope you can give dish a try if you can gather all the ingredients.

  6. says

    I can almost imagine a korean drama coming from this post haha! My hubby and i love korean food, and this post just brings back memories of our holidays in seoul years ago when we accidentally found the best restaurant in insadong. Thanks for sharing the recipe, must try it one day.

      • Holly says

        This particular dish I had was in the restaurant in Chuncheon, 2 hours east of Seoul. However, there will be plenty of Dak galbi restaurant in Seoul these days. Just ask some locals and they will let you know which on is the best (for them at least).

  7. Sharmin Ullah says

    Looks great! And I’ve never had Korean food before. I was wondering if there was a substitute to the korean chili paste? I don’t want to buy an entire jar of it, just in case it goes to waste.

    Thanks a bunch!

    • Holly says

      Hi sharmin
      Korean chili paste is the main ingredient in the sauce and if you replace with other, it will change the flavor. Korean chili paste has rice powder in it so it thickens the sauce eventually. You can give a try to use Chinese or other Asian chili sauce but with the less amount.

  8. says

    Looks delicious, Holly! This is my family favorite as well. I make this especially when my kids are home because they love it. Great story and recipe!

  9. says

    Holly, this looks amazing and even better with the story behind it. I am lucky to have and Asian store within walking distance from me and ours is owned by Koreans, so over the years I have become more and more familiar with Korean food. I just picked up some perilla leaves and they are in my fridge ready to use. I often get the sweet potatoes just like you, actually they had some it the other day. I have rice cakes just like that too. I am so excited to try this! I have some perilla oil, and I love the Korean sesame oil, such a good flavor. They make their own kimchee each week, and sell Korean sushi, and Korean sweet potato noodles for lunch on Saturdays. Okay back to reality!!
    BTW – to answer your question you left on my blog. Cotjita cheese was found in the Latin section in the refrigerated area where you find the tortillas and other Latin cheeses. It is similar to Parmesan cheese, you could use that instead. HTH

    • Holly says

      Thanks Lyndsey. It is very difficult to find Latin groceries in Malaysia especially the Latin dairies. I actually never had Cotjita cheese and very curious about it. Similar to Parmesan? Interesting.

  10. Bridget says

    Gochujang will never go to waste!!! I am an american irish girl who never tasted the stuff until I started bartending in a Korean restaurant when I was 24. Let me tell you I find myself trying to figure out ways to work it into mundane recipes. I mix it into chicken salad! I use it like crazy! Sharmin Ullah I would buy it if you can find it cus it really does have a unique, delish flavor that is all its own! BTW great recipe Holly I cant wait to make this!

    • Holly says

      Thanks Bridget for wonderful review on Gochujang. You are so right. Gochujang is so unique on its own and versatile you can use it for many dishes and be creative. I can’t live without it, honestly!

  11. says

    Wow, this looks great. I really need to track down some Korean Chili Paste. And I’ve never used perilla before, although I’ve heard of it. I didn’t know it tasted like a combo of basil and mint – and I have both in my garden. You suggest substituting sweet basil, but it sounds like I could add a bit of mint, too. Great recipe and a touching story about your friend. Thank you.

  12. Julie says

    Hi Holly, thanks for sharing this recipe! I bought the ingredients this past weekend, so I’m looking forward to making this dish later this week.

    One question, I do not have ground ginger, but I do have real ginger. Can I use real ginger instead and how much would be appropriate? I also have other dry ingredients, so if there are other options, I look forward to hearing from you.

    Thanks again!

    • Holly says

      Of course you can use the fresh ginger. Use double the amount of dry ginger in minced form. You can use the dried garlic powder instead of fresh, possibly less amount than fresh garlic. Have a fun making the dish. It will be spicy but very delicious!

  13. says

    I love Korean rice cake. This look so good. I started to drool when you started to cook. Perilla is one of my favorite herbs and I use it a lot for my cooking. Gosh your step by step pictures are so good that I’m intrigued to pick up a piece while you are cooking! Wish my kitchen is bright and pleasant like your kitchen!

    • Holly says

      Thanks Nami. Actually my kitchen is quite dark. I have to turn on the light during the day. My dream kitchen will have a huge window in one wall to bring all the natural sunlight into the kitchen. Someday…, crossing my fingers!

  14. Lucy L says

    Aside from this recipe looking absolutely delicious, I especially love the stories that come with your food =D

  15. LiAna says

    I’m am soooo excited to make this!! I think my husband of 11 years just fell in love with me all over again. He was station in Chuncheon, Korea right after we got married and when I went to visit him there he took me to have dak galbi and I loved it and everything about Korea! We would tell other koreans about it when we got back stateside but they would look at us like we were crazy, now I know I am not!! LOL!! We live in Kuwait now but I will hunt down or order these ingredients online if they will let me. I’m just wondering if the perilla leaves can be found here? We don’t have a lot of korean grocery stores (if any) but we do have phillipino stores maybe they might have it?

    • Holly says

      Hi LiAna, I am so happy to hear that someone had the same dish in Chuncheon city. Isn’t this dish delicious? Perilla can be tough to find in Kuwait. Mostly Japanese and Koreans use this culinary leaves and I am not sure any SE Asian uses. If you can’t find, substitute with basil and mint.

    • Holly says

      Hi LiAna, I am so happy to hear that someone had the same dish in Chuncheon city. Isn’t this dish delicious? Perilla can be tough to find in Kuwait. Mostly Japanese and Koreans use this culinary leaves and I am not sure any SE Asian uses. If you can’t find, substitute with basil and mint.

  16. L says

    I had something like this (probably nothing like this, haha) in Seoul once..but it had squid in it too.. I think it was calles Ossam or something like it, is that something you recognize? Id love to make it again, but am unsure of exactly what was in it..

    • Holly says

      Hi L, the word Ossam doesn’t sound familiar to me. Do you mean Bossam? It is braised pork belly wrapped with lettuce and spicy toppings. For this dak galbi recipe you can substitute with seafood, like squid, of course.

      • L says

        Oh wait, Im so stupid.. it wasnt chicken though, sorry. It was pork.. sp I think the name was a play on words with ochingo and samgyopsal, does that ring a bell?
        Anyway, this looks delicious and I’ll surely be making it soon.^^

  17. Leslie says

    Okay, you’re officially one of my favorite websites! Made this dak galbi for my family and they loved it! At my local Korean market, the owners helped me find the Korean corn syrup and asked what I needed it for. I went back in today and I’m now known as
    “Dak Galbi!” :-)

    • Holly says

      That is funny, Leslie. We use the Korean corn syrup in many dishes. I am glad that your dak galbi turned out so well. I am so craving the dish now.

  18. Tracey says

    Just made this dish for my Korean friend who was craving it. It turned out fantastic! She loved it and couldn’t stop eating it (and she’s very picky)!

    • Holly says

      That is so great to hear, Tracy. This is one of my treasured recipe and I am so happy to hear how much people enjoying it. You are such a great person to cook for your friend.

  19. Priscilla says

    Holly,
    Thank you for this recipe. I have been searching for this for about 4 years now. There was or is (not sure)this resturant I used to eat this at all the time when I was in Korea. I know it is in Seoul around Sookmyung Women’s Univ. area. I don’t recall the name because I didn’t know the language at the time. I knew how to walk there because I recongnized certain stores. My friends and I would go there EVERY Saturday afternoon to eat this delicious Dak Galbi. I remember the man that served it to us everytime we went would add cheese (not sure what kind), but it was the best thing ever!!!!!!!!!!!! I especially love the rice cakes. It would not be the same dish without them! I am so excited to try this with my family. Thank you a million times for this!!!! Now I just need a cast iron skillet enought to feed about 6 people!!

    • Holly says

      Hi Pricilla
      I am glad that you get to find this recipe, too. It is one of the famous Korean chicken dish and I hope this is the one you’ve been looking for. Yes, rice cake is the must here. I never had one with cheese on top but thinking of it make me drool. A Cast iron big enough to cook to feed more than 6 people can be extremely heavy. Try paella pan. Look for the one with carbon steel and they come in big sizes and not as heavy.

  20. jodi says

    Holly, I made this for my boyfriend tonight (ironic, given the story?) and it was a huge hit! Thank you for sharing your recipes and congratulations on the magazine publication!

    • Holly says

      Thank you Jodi. I’m glad that your boyfriend loved it. Food brings people to be closer. I hope you had a great time with him through this chicken galbi.

  21. says

    First of all ..it looks like a wonderful recipe.. I will try to make it with whateva I have in India but I must congratulate you for the beautiful writeup and equally good pictures.. loved your blog ..

    God bless you

  22. says

    I was stationed at Camp Long, Wonju, South Korea near the birthplace of this masterpiece. It’s still my favorite food of all time. I wish there was a Dak Galbi restaurant around Pittsburgh.

  23. Shay says

    holly –
    just wanted to say i LOVE your site. i have been SCOURING the internet for some traditional korean recipes and yours is hands down THE BEST- i have already made the scallion pancakes – love! – and one of your pork dishes! i cant say enough good things about your food! i cant wait to make this for my husband. he is very wary of korean food because he doesnt like fish but so far has absolutely raved about your dishes. After i made the tuna pancakes he said – “what makes that korean?! thats just delicious!” – i am so excited to make this chicken because i have a well seasoned cast iron skillet – his cooking “baby” – and he will be thrilled that i used it. Thanks to your site my husband and i are cooking these new dishes together – i am having a lot of fun introducing him to the culture and the cuisine. (side note: i am a HORRIBLE cook. i burn water and i dont know the difference between garlic and scallions BUT your site has made me quite popular! my mom cant believe im in the kitchen and my husband cant believe how “good i am” now at cooking) a thousand thank yous! khamsam-mida

    • Holly says

      Thank you Shay. I am so happy to hear that everything turned out great. I don’t believe you are a horrible cook. I think you have quite a talent in cooking. Keep up the good work. Tell your husband how lucky he is to have a wife who cooks great Korean food. Wife like you doesn’t come easily. :)
      Please let me know if you need any help with my recipes. Have a great week!

  24. Nastassja says

    This looks AMAZING! Can’t wait to cook this. I am from South Africa and I lived in Korea for a year and I really really miss Korean food so much. I miss everything about Korea :(
    I’m am trying to get all my friends to open their minds and try Korean food.
    Thanks for an amazing and inspiring blog. Looking forward to hosting my next Korean dinner party. :)

  25. Duziggy says

    Just found your blog..Thank you for the stories and the great recipes. on my way to the OMart to get what i dont have to cook this

  26. leah says

    hey Holly,
    my bestfriend and i lived in Chouncheoun for a year and would try a different dak galbi resturant every weekend. our fav one was just around the corner and the family that ran it were amazingly friendly and by the end of or year we were like there adopted daughters! kkk so miss that place and the soju! cheers for the recipe.

  27. Melissa says

    Thanks for this recipe! It was so good!! Since we can’t go back to Chuncheon anytime soon, this helps satisfy our craving!

  28. Cedelinda says

    When i was stationed in Seoul, there was a warming gate that when you exited, there was a restaurant that served Dak Galbi. So many memories. Going out later today to find the ingredients.Thank you so much.

  29. mehkko says

    Made this for the second time, and somehow, it’s gotten even more delicious! Not many one-dish meals are this impressive, but this is really so satisfying.

  30. Josh says

    Thanks for this delicious and very well-written recipe. I was stationed in Chuncheon as an officer in the US Army in the late ’80s, and some of my fondest memories of that time revolve around evenings spent at one of the array of restaurants, all clustered together at the center of town, that all featured Dak Galbi exclusively on their menus. When I went back to Seoul years later, I was surprised to find that this particular dish was such a Chuncheon specialty that even though everyone seemed to know and love it, nobody knew of anyplace outside of Chuncheon that served it (as anyone who has ever eaten in any one of the 500 or so Ray’s Pizzas in NYC, such a thing would never happen in the US, where there would be no shortage of folks claiming to have invented the recipe in their own home town). I’ve recently not only found a great Dak Galbi chain in Seoul, but also an impressively authentic version here in the LA area as well. Yours, though, is the best version of a cook-at-home recipe I’ve seen, and I’m excited to try my hand at it here soon. Thanks again!

  31. says

    This is awesome!! Dak Galbi is one of my favorite Korean dishes but I just always assumed it would be really difficult and time consuming to make… This recipe is perfect! Can’t wait to try it out :)

  32. says

    This spicy chicken looks delicious! It is perfect for cold winter days.
    Love your story! It’s very cute to compare soggy noodles with ex-boyfriend ;) I believe good food brings comfort anytime in life.

  33. says

    Hi, I really want to try this dak-galbi recipes, but I have 1 question.
    About the rice wine, since I couldn’t consume rice wine (or any kind of wine), could we leave or replace them with something? By changing or leaving them, would it make the taste different?

    Thank you.

  34. Qwerty says

    What brand of rice wine did you use? I bought one but its alcohol content is 30%. I think it’s too high, isn’t it? How much is yours?

    • Holly says

      The alcohol will evaporate as it cook. I wouldn’t worry about the alcohol content in your rice wine. You can even omit it if you want.

  35. Jeanne says

    :-)! Loved your story, Holly! And yes, as you have shown, super delicious food can make heartache go away… Interesting use of curry in Korean food too.

    Thanks for this wonderful recipe and the interesting insight on love and food :-)

  36. Sarah says

    DO NOT USE CRUSHED RED PEPPER PEOPLE!!! Lol uhm, whoops, it was almost impossible to eat because it was so hot. I doubled the recipe and still only used 3 TBL crushed red pepper instead of 4 TBL. I will make this again because we could tell that the flavor was great, but I will remember the Korean chili flakes next time haha.

    • says

      Hi Sarah

      Korean chili flakes are not for everyone. It can be quite spicy. But I am happy to hear that you like the flavor, though.

      • Sarah says

        We are actually really good with spicy food. Our problem was instead of korean chili flakes we used regular crushed red pepper. I googled it after the fact and read that they should not be interchanged and crushed red pepper has seeds making it hotter lol. I found some perilla leaves today though (we used basil last time), so I will be making it again this week with korean chili this time. :)

  37. says

    GREAT story! Mahalo for this; makes me want to get back to blogging! But if I make this I will have to cut waaay back on the chili factors, as the family is not heat-tolerant.

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