Dakgalbi is a popular Korean chicken stir-fry made with chicken thigh, cabbage, rice cake, and sweet potato in a gochujang based spicy sauce. The city of Chuncheon is famous for this delicious chicken dish.
I have a fond memory of the Korean chicken stir-fry dish called Dakgalbi (닭갈비). I first encountered dakgalbi at the city of Chuncheon, on the eastern part of South Korea, over 30 years ago. I was a college student in Seoul at the time. I had a friend who was having a difficult time because of breaking up with her boyfriend.
I wanted to comfort her by suggesting her to take a train ride to a random city, so that I can help her to change her mood and forget about her misery. We bought two tickets that were available to take off right away.
The 2 hour train ride brought us to Chuncheon city as a final station. Near the train station, there are many Chuncheon style dakgalbi restaurants. We picked a random one and ordered the ever famous Chuncheon dakgalbi.
The server brought a huge griddle piled up with chicken and other ingredients. Then the server starting cooking the dish right in front of us. We both were new to this chicken dish and it seemed to be quite a different chicken stir-fry than we were used to, but we both loved it.
In fact, my heartbroken friend enjoyed the dish so much, she forgot about the misery of losing a boyfriend. Through eating this sensational dakgalbi that she never tried before, she recognized that there are always new and exciting things that can happen in her life, and she shouldn’t spend too much of her time dwelling on negative feelings and blaming herself. Food often teaches us valuable life lessons.
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What’s Dakgalbi (Korean Chicken Stir-Fry)?
dak = chicken
galbi = rib
Although dakgalbi has nothing to do with chicken ribs, it’s named after how the chicken is prepared – grilled over the open flame just like Korean beef ribs are cooked. Chicken thighs are cut up and stir-fried with cabbage, rice cake, sweet potato wedges, and perilla leaves (kkennip), with a gochujang-based spicy sauce.
The original dakgalbi was introduced in the 1960s in South Korea’s eastern city of Chuncheon, where chicken farms were the major local industry. This particular chicken stir-fry became very popular among locals on Chuncheon’s main street. There are a few different varieties of spicy chicken stir-fry dishes in Korea, but this local specialty of Chuncheon dakgalbi is the most outstanding, in my opinion.
How is it served in a restaurant?
Most people who are new to dakgalbi are amazed at first by watching the size of griddle, the volume of the food, and how it is cooked in the restaurant. A big carbon steel griddle is piled up with chicken and other ingredients. Then it is brought to the dining table with a hole in the middle. A charcoal grill (or gas grill) resides underneath.
The griddle is placed over the heat and the dish starts to sizzle in no time. The server will start tossing everything in the griddle busily right at your table until everything is well cooked and soft. Soon this spicy chicken stir-fry is ready to serve and people rush to enjoy the dish when it is hot.
Try Dakgalbi Fried Rice
The fun part of eating dakgalbi begins after that. It is a popular practice for Koreans to make fried rice with whatever remains in the skillet after finishing the dakgalbi. So, save yourself some space in your stomach for this delicious dakgalbi fried rice.
Once most of the content in the griddle is consumed, then the server brings a bowl of rice to make fried rice with the remaining sauce in the griddle. Traditionally, as a final flourish they sprinkle crumbled roasted seaweed over the rice.
Recently, the K-food trend is to add mozzarella cheese to make it cheesy (aka cheese dakgalbi) – I’m not a huge fan of this. It detracts from the traditional beauty and flavor of the dish.
Dakgalbi is a type of dish that makes you want to eat until your stomach is on the verge of exploding, but you can’t help stop eating. This is not a dish for dieters or picky eaters. You share the food with family and friends in the same pan at the table and enjoy every bit of it until the last piece of food disappears!
Home Preparation Tips
- Use a large skillet which has an enough room to stir-fry everything all at once – preferably a heavy cast iron skillet or carbon steal skillet to retain the heat.
2. It’s fun to cook dakgalbi right at the table so that people can share hot food right away. To do so, use a portable burner on the table.
3. If you decide to make fried rice at the end, try pressing down the rice in the skillet over medium heat when finished stir-frying, so that it creates a crust rice layer (nurungji) on the bottom.
How to Make Korean Chicken Stir-Fry at Home
Step 1: Make the sauce; mix all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl.
Step 2: Toss the chicken pieces with 1/2 the sauce in a mixing bowl and set aside
Step 3: Soak rice cakes in water for 10 minutes and drain. Dice chicken thighs into bite size pieces. Dice cabbage and slice the onion and perilla leaves. For sweet potatoes, try to cut into thin wedges or matchsticks.
Step 4: Drizzle 2 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet. Arrange chicken, cabbage, rice cake, sweet potato wedges, onion, and half of the sliced perilla leaves in the skillet. Drizzle the sauce over the top and place the skillet on medium-high heat.
Step 5: When it starts to make a loud sizzling sound, begin tossing everything to combine. Stir-fry until chicken is fully cooked, and the rice cake and sweet potato are tender, about 6-7 minutes. If your food seems to be sticking too much to the skillet, add 2-3 tablespoons of water to create steam to release the sauce on the skillet and to cook evenly.
Step 6: Add the remaining perilla leaves toward the end of stir-frying. Serve immediately when it is hot.
Optional Fried Rice
Step 1: To make the fried rice, turn the heat back on to medium heat. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet, add the cooked rice and start stir-frying to coat the rice with the sauce residue remaining in the skillet. Add soy sauce and gochujang and mix.
Step 2: Press the rice gently to the bottom of skillet and let them crisp up for 1-2 minute over low heat.
Step 3: When the rice sticks to the skillet and become golden crisp, drizzle sesame oil and sprinkle crumbled seaweed and toasted seaweed and toss. Serve immediately.
More Chicken Recipes You Will Like
- 20 minutes Chicken Mango Stir-fry
- Crispy Korean Chicken Nuggets, Dakgangjeong
- Chicken Bulgogi (Korean Chicken BBQ)
- Yellow Chives and Chicken Stir-Fry Recipe
This recipe was originally posted in Juner 2012. I’ve updated the recipe with minor changes, new photos, and more information.
Dak Galbi (Korean Chicken Stir-Fry)
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thigh diced
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1/2 lb Korean rice cake sticks
- 1/4-1/2 green cabbage diced
- 8-10 perilla leaves + more sliced
- 1/2 large onion sliced
- 1 medium sweet potato sliced into 1/4-inch thick wedges
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2-4 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds to garnish
For dakgalbi sauce
For the dakgalbi sauce
- To make the dakgalbi sauce, combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
For stir-frying dakgalbi
- Toss the chicken pieces with 1/2 the sauce in a mixing bowl and set aside.
- Soak rice cakes in water for 10 minutes 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 it starts to make a loud sizzling sound, begin tossing everything to combine. Stir-fry until chicken is fully cooked, and the rice cakes and sweet potato are tender, about 6-7 minutes. If your food seems to be sticking too much to the skillet, add 2-3 tablespoons of water to create steam to release the sauce on the skillet and to cook evenly.
- Add the remaining perilla leaves toward the end of stir-frying. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately when it is hot.
To make fried rice
- After finishing dakgalbi, turn the heat back on to medium heat. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil to the dakgalbi skillet with the remains, add the cooked rice and start stir-frying to coat the rice with the sauce residue remaining in the skillet. Add soy sauce and gochujang and mix.
- Press the rice gently to the bottom of skillet and let them crisp up for 1-2 minute over low heat.
- When the rice sticks to the skillet and become golden crisp, drizzle sesame oil and sprinkle crumbled seaweed and toasted seaweed and toss. Serve immediately.