Dak Galbi is a spicy Korean chicken stir-fry with chewy rice cake and vegetables. My first encounter with this amazing Dak Galbi dish came with a memorable event with my friend many years ago.
The Story Begins…
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.
Dak Galbi In A City of Chuncheon
Upon arrival, we were both were hungry. We entered a narrow street near the train station. With a great astonishment we saw a sign, “the Best Dak Galbi in Chuncheon” in front of the door of one restaurant. Coincidentally, the next door restaurant had a sign, “The original Chuncheon Dak Galbi”. Subsequently, the restaurant on the other side also showed, ” The genuine Chuncheon Chicken Galbi” and so on… I was torn, but had to decide. ‘Eeni meeni miini moh…,’ Finally 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.
Surprisingly, 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. Soon, it was starting to sizzle loudly and the lady quickly tossed around to cook everything in it. Within a few moment, it was ready to eat.
Oh, my word! 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?
Making Dak Galbi At Home
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.
Firstly let’s make the sauce. 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.
Rice Cakes And Vegetables
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.
Use A Cast Iron Skillet
Grab this old time beauty, a 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 in a skillet.
How To Cook
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 kketnip.
Toss gently so that you don’t break the sweet potatoes. Looking gooooooood!
Lastly, sprinkle some love and it is ready to eat. Gosh! I want to shove my chopsticks in there now.
The Story Ends…
“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!
Dak Galbi, spicy chicken of Chuncheon
- 1 lb 450g boneless, skinless chicken thigh, diced
- 1/2 lb 250g Korean rice cake sticks
- 1/4-1/2 cabbage diced
- 8-10 perilla leaves sliced
- 1/2 large onion sliced
- 1 medium sweet potato sliced into 1/4″ 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 (gochujang)
- 2 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon Korean chili flakes (gochugaru)
- 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
- Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Toss the chicken pieces with 1/2 the sauce and mix. Set aside.
- Soak rice cakes in hot water until ready to use and drain.
- Drizzle oil in a cast iron skillet, spread the chicken and top with vegetables (only 1/2 the amount of perilla leaves) and rice cakes. Drizzle the remaining sauce over and bring the skillet over med-high heat.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds and garnish with more perilla leaves. Serve hot.