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Passport & Plate - Dakgalbi - Spicy Korean Chicken

South Korea | Wednesday, 12 March 2014 | 5 photos

500g chicken (thighs or breast)<br/>
½ a cabbage
1 sweet potato
½ an onion
Rice cakes (ddeok)
Sesame leaves (perilla)
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
1 small green pepper

¼ cup hot pepper paste (Gochujang)
¼ hot pepper flakes (optional if you like it extra spicy!
1 tbs soy sauce
2 garlic cloves
Water-sugar solution (½ cup water and 1 teaspoon sugar)

To serve
2 garlic cloves sliced
Cos lettuce leaves for wrapping

How to prepare this recipe
1. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. In a bowl, add two tbs of soy sauce and a few shakes of black pepper.
2. Make the sauce by combining ¼ cup of hot pepper paste, optional pepper flakes, 2 garlic cloves crushed, 2 tbs of soy sauce, the sugar-water solution and mixing well.
3. Cut up the cabbage and sweet potato into bite-size pieces. Cut up ½ onion and half of the green pepper. Heat the frying pan up with a bit of sesame oil. When hot, add these ingredients and the rice cakes into the frying pan.
4. Layer the sesame leaves on top of the vegetables. The sesame leaves cook down a lot, so you can put a fair few on. Next, put the chicken on top of the leaves and the sauce on top of the chicken. Cover the pan and leave for a few minutes.
5. Keep mixing the ingredients, making sure the sauce covers everything. This dish is usually cooked in the middle of the table. Use a fork (or chopsticks!) to test if things are cooked. You want the sweet potato and rice cakes to be nice and soft. If you can’t wait for the harder ingredients to cook, start eating the cabbage while you wait!
6. Dakgalbi is eaten out of the frying pan, everyone helping themselves. It can be eaten as it is or wrapped inside a lettuce leaf with a slice of garlic or two. Place the leaf in your left hand and spoon some dakgalbi onto it. Wrap up and eat. The leaves are a refreshing contrast to the spiciness of this dish!

The story behind this recipe
I cried the first time I tasted this dish. Not the kind of tears you get when you’ve just discovered a melt-in-your-mouth amazing dish. These were the ‘my mouth is on fire’ type of tears. Hoping I didn’t offend the cooks hovering around the table, I smiled and had another bite. Tears rolling slowly down my cheeks, I kept eating. As I did, I was able to get past the tingling lips and I realized I loved this dish. The chicken was tender, the ddeok - slightly fried on the outside, soft inside - added a great texture Yes, it was spicy, but it was so good! Dakgalbi (spicy fried chicken) is a specialty dish from Chuncheon, South Korea. This city loves the dish so much they have named and dedicated a whole street to restaurants serving the dish. Leave it too late on a Friday or Saturday night and you will find yourself queuing just to get into the restaurant. I had been in Korea for about one week when I discovered the dish. A group of friends and I, hungry and feeling adventurous, decided to explore the city and find a good meal. We came across Dakgalbi Street and decided that the sheer number of restaurants was a good enough recommendation! We probably knew around 10 Korean words, but by pointing to a picture we managed to order the specialty. To be honest, they probably guessed what we wanted. Why else would we be there?! As Dakgalbi is cooked in the middle of the table we were able to see and experience the making of the dish: The main ingredients went in and started to fry. A few sesame leaves on top and the sauce finished the process. As it began to cook, spice filled the air. We pointed to the dish and asked the cook, “Spicy?” She laughed and nodded! I shrugged off my apprehension and took the first bite. Back to the tears. I cried my way through it, but by the end I realized it’s a necessary pain. To eat this delicious dish, I was going to have to cry a bit. As time went on and Dakgalbi became a regular meal, I stopped crying and looked forward to every bite!

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