Korean Cheesy Fire Chicken (Chijeu-Buldak)
We tried a Korean recipe for Chijeu-Buldak the other night, which roughly translates to English as "Cheesy Fire Chicken." Sounds crazy, right? CRAZY GOOD. This dish is representative of Korean bar and street food: sweet, spicy and goes great with beer. I thought I'd show a different side to Korean cooking apart from the usual (yet still delicious) bulgogi and kalbi that is found in restaurants.
Chijeu-Buldak is chicken that is marinated in the Korean Cooking Trinity and cooked over low heat until the chicken is moist and tender. It's usually finished off under the broiler with some mozzarella cheese melted over top. Think of the best chicken wing sauce you've ever had...this is better. I promise. Especially if you love spicy food. It's like eating chicken wings but, instead of bones, there's CHEESE.
What is the Korean Cooking Trinity though? It is 3 key ingredients used in *most* Korean recipes. Behold!
Gochujang (GO-CHOO-JANG) - Known in English as "Hot Pepper Paste," it is a sweet and spicy paste that is quite thick and sticky. It is used in a variety of Korean dishes, from kimchi stew to bibimbap, and is usually used in small amounts since the flavour is so concentrated. It's generally made of rice paste, hot pepper powder, fermented soy beans, fermented soy, and a sweetener.
Gochugaru (GO-CHOO-GAH-ROO) - Known in English as "Hot Pepper Powder or Flakes," it is a flavourful chili powder that is quite fruity and smokey at the same time. It's texture is a bit finer than the coarse texture of most red chili flakes available in stores and its heat level ranges from mild to hot. It's a main ingredient for home-made kimchi and soon tofu, among others.
Garlic - No trinity is complete without garlic.
Anyways, back to the Cheesy Fire Chicken: I found the recipe online from a well-known Korean home cook, Maangchi:
I did make some adjustments to the recipe:
Chicken thighs instead of Chicken breast: I used bone-in chicken thighs partly because I prefer dark meat and partly because it's what I had on hand. To prep the chicken, I just removed the skin and de-boned it, before cubing it into large 1 inch pieces. I set aside the chicken skin to be fried as a crispy topping for the dish, and I froze the chicken bones for the next time I want make soup.
Gochugaru substitution: Since gochugaru is proving to be quite difficult to source (we're working on it), we do not have it available at Southside yet. Instead, I used red chili flakes (aka. crushed red pepper) and it turned out great. I did adjust the recipe's amount of chili flakes though. Maangchi's recipe uses 2 pounds of chicken and calls for 1/2 cup of hot pepper powder. Since we're Canadian, we'll be working in grams; and since I would prefer to have a tongue after this recipe, I downsized the amount of chili flakes to 1 tablespoon for every 500 grams of chicken. Maangchi was able to use a 1/2 cup of gochugaru because she tends to use a mild version of the powder. Be sure to taste the marinade before adding in the raw chicken to ensure that it is to your heat tolerance.
Mozzarella cheese substitution: I used The Village Cheese Squeakers (poutine curds) because that's what I had on hand in the fridge that night. They were delicious in this recipe since they add a nice salty, chewiness to the dish. But I found that because they are curds, they did not stay melted for as long as a mozzarella would. In the future, I think I would try this recipe with mozzarella, but who knows what cheese will be in my fridge in the future?
Wok instead of cast iron: The recipe calls for stove top cooking that moves to the oven for a quick broil. Since my cast iron pan wasn't anywhere near me, I used a wok which worked out quite well. Just be sure that whatever pan you decide to use is also oven safe.
For my version of Maangchi's recipe:
500 grams of chicken thighs (about 3 chicken thighs), cut into 3/4 or 1 inch cubes
Raw chicken skin separated from the meat
1 tablespoon red chili flakes (gochugaru)
2 tablespoons hot pepper paste (gochujang)
½ tablespoon soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoons vegetable or corn oil
⅓ cup honey
6 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
½ pack of The Village Cheese squeakers (poutine curds)
2 green onions, chopped
¼ cup water
For the cooking instructions, I just followed her original recipe. The only major difference is that I didn't use rice cakes even though I would have liked to (we're still sourcing them!). Maangchi uses them to add texture to the dish: chewiness and crunchiness. I already have the chewiness thanks to the fresh cheese curds used instead of mozzarella. For the crunchiness though, I compensated with fried chicken skin. ("But that's unhealthy, Michelle." Yeah yeah, I DO WHAT I WANT)
The chicken skin needs to be pan fried before the marinated chicken is cooked in the wok. I fried the whole pieces of chicken skin at medium-high heat until they crisped up, drained them on some paper towel and seasoned them with a bit of salt. After that, I just followed Maangchi's instructions as written. Once the rest of the cooking was done, I cut up the fried chicken skin and garnished the Cheesy Fire Chicken with some crunchy, salted goodness.
This dish is usually eaten with rice and banchan (a variety of prepared fresh, cooked and pickled vegetable side dishes), but for my version, I kept the meal fairly simple - just steamed rice and raw, sliced cucumbers.
Here's a poorly taken photo of the Cheesy Fire Chicken that I made the other night. It looks like a volcano - one that I would gladly shove my face in. Cheesy, spicy and crispy - Do I need to tell you one more time that this was delicious?
*Korean Cooking Trinity - Most recipes tend to include all (or a mixture) of gochujang, gochugaru and garlic in their ingredients list but not ALL Korean recipes require these ingredients. This trinity is an observation made from experimenting with Korean cuisine for the past few years. Basically, I'm just making stuff up as I go along.
RECIPE & INGREDIENTS
- Spicy Fire Chicken with Cheese Recipe from Maangchi
- Gochujang (Hot Pepper Paste) - found in store in Aisle 3. The brand is called Sempio Hot Pepper Paste and should be refrigerated once opened.
- Gochugaru (Hot Pepper Flakes) - substituted with regular red chili flakes/crushed red pepper. Please note the adjusted amount for the recipe above.
- Fresh ginger, green onions and cucumbers - available in our Produce department all year round