Fire chicken with cheese

Chijeu-buldak 치즈불닭

Today’s recipe is super-spicy chicken, called buldak in Korean. The Korean word bul means fire, and dak means chicken, so you can call this “fire chicken.”

I first heard about this dish years ago, when I still lived in Korea. One evening I saw a truck on the street selling barbecued chicken. The guy had set up a homemade grill with real fire underneath, and was barbecuing huge chunks of chicken covered in a thick, spicy paste. With the flames and the smoke, it was a real festive sight, and there was a crowd of people gathering around, some to buy his chicken and some to just take part in the revelry.

He had a banner on the side of his truck that said “불닭” (buldak). I had never heard the name before, but between the spicy chicken and the fire he was cooking it over, it seemed like a great name to me. I bought some and brought it home to my family. It was fantastic!

These buldak trucks caught on: they would come out in the evenings, set up their makeshift fire pits, and grill spicy chicken over the flames. People would come out and take part in the fun.

I eventually left Korea, and when I visited a few years ago and ordered buldak in a restaurant, it was a lot different than the chicken I used to get from the homemade fire pits. It was cooked in the kitchen and not an open fire in front of me, for one. It was still pretty tasty, and they offered to melt cheese on top, which was a new thing. And they used a cast iron pan to cook and serve it in, which was also new.

Over the years, many of my readers have requested I do a buldak recipe and video. I can’t set up a fire pit in my apartment, but my version is still plenty fiery! This buldak is spicy, a little sweet, and plenty soft and juicy. The crunchy rice cakes are my own variation and optional, but they give the dish a wonderful texture. If you want to make it less spicy, cut down on the hot pepper flakes, or use milder flakes. I use chicken breast in my recipe, but you could use chicken thigh, too.

I hope you love this recipe! Let me know if you try it!
buldak with cheese (치즈불닭)

Ingredients (4 servings)

  • 2 pounds of chicken breast, cut into 3/4 or 1 inch cubes
  • ½ cup hot pepper flakes
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons hot pepper paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable or corn oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup rice syrup (or corn syrup, sugar, honey)
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, minced
  • 1 pound mozzarella cheese (optional), cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup of sliced rice cake (optional)
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup water

buldak-mozzarella

Directions

  1. Combine hot pepper flakes, hot pepper paste, soy sauce, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, ground black pepper, rice syrup, garlic, and ginger in a bowl. Mix it well into a sweet and spicy paste.
  2. Add the chicken and mix well by hand.
    buldak with cheese (차즈불닭)
  3. Heat up a skillet with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Add the sliced rice cakes and fry them for a few minutes. Turn them over with a spatula once or twice until both sides are crispy and light golden brown.
    sliced rice cakes
  4. Place the marinated chicken into a heavy pan, preferably cast iron. Use the water to rinse the bowl and get the last of the sauce into the pan. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 10 minutes. If you use a normal frying pan, it will take 7 to 8 minutes. Be sure not to burn the chicken.
    buldak with cheese (치즈불닭) buldak with cheese (치즈불닭)
  5. Uncover, stir and turn over the chicken with a wooden spoon. Add the rice cakes to the top of the chicken.
    buldak with cheese (치즈불닭)
  6. Turn down the heat very low. Cover and let cook another 10 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked. If you’re using cheese, pre-heat the oven broiler.
  7. When the chicken is cooked, put the cheese over the top. Slip it into the oven for a few minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly.buldak in the oven
  8. Remove and sprinkle with the chopped green onion. Serve hot.
    buldak with cheese (치즈불닭)buldak with cheese (치즈불닭)

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49 Comments:

  1. rocknchick Rockford, IL My profile page joined 12/14
    Posted March 30th, 2015 at 2:22 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi- I’m American, live in the US. I’m really enjoying preparing your recipes and it has made me a good cook! I made this dish this weekend and my husband, daughter and I LOVED it! I only used 1/3 cup of red pepper flakes because I didn’t want to make it unbearably hot. I’ll use the full 1/2 cup next time per my husband’s request. :) I didn’t use any water in it- was that listed in the ingredients by mistake? You didn’t say to use it anywhere in the instructions.
    My husband was amazed by the crispy rice cakes, he said they were his favorite version of them so far! :) He also liked the sauce so much, that he asked me to make a batch of it to use as a condiment on other dishes.
    I ordered your cookbook and am excited to read it.
    Thanks for all you do! :)

    • Maangchi My profile page joined 7/08
      Posted March 31st, 2015 at 9:20 am | # |

      Thank you for pointing out about the 1/4 cup water. I had left it out and now edited and updated step 4 to include the water.
      I’m happy to hear that you and your family enjoyed this recipe. It’s funny that you are going to increase the amount of hot pepper flakes the next time you make this recipe. : ) Happy cooking!

  2. scon1255 My profile page joined 3/15
    Posted March 29th, 2015 at 2:29 pm | # |

    Delicious! If you’re a wimpy British person like me though be careful with the spice. It’s so spicy, but so tasty. Next time I make it I’ll add less hot pepper flakes, and I’ll add rice cakes since I didn’t have any on hand. This time we had it over some sushi rice and it was great. Thank you Maangchi!

  3. HyunsoosMom My profile page joined 3/15
    Posted March 25th, 2015 at 11:21 pm | # |

    First, I want to say I love your website! My husband is Korean and he doesn’t like American food. (Honestly, I don’t like much American food either.) I have been using your website for a few years now and it has helped me so much. Usually my husband even says my food is better than his mother’s! I will never tell her that though!! It has helped me gain confidence in cooking Korean dishes so I can easily help with meals while we visit his family in Korea or even give his mother a break and cook for her. So, thank you so much for this website!

    My husband and I really loved this recipe! Many of my family members won’t try Korean food because they think some ingredients are strange, but this one was perfect for them to try. They enjoy spicy food and there wasn’t anything they thought was weird. Plus, many Americans love anything smothered in cheese.

    Lastly, for anyone reading this that is thinking about trying this recipe, DON’T SKIP OUT ON THE RICE CAKES! They made this dish so much better than it already is. The crunch of the rice cake with the stringy cheese and spicy chicken was a perfect combination!

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted March 26th, 2015 at 9:44 am | # |

      Your id is HyunsoosMom, so I can guess your son’s name is Hyunsoo. right? : )

      I loved every single line of your comment and was particularly happy to hear that my recipes are helping you gain confidence in Korean cooking! And yes, the crunchy rice cakes make this dish special.
      Happy Cooking!

  4. Shanna My profile page joined 3/15
    Posted March 24th, 2015 at 9:08 am | # |

    Looks so fingerlickin!! Is cheese a used ingredient in Korea?

  5. hifimono Milwaukee, WI My profile page joined 7/11
    Posted March 23rd, 2015 at 1:57 pm | # |

    Thank you for the Buldak recipe! I plan on using chicken thighs and throwing this on my charcoal grill. I’ll add the cheese on top to half of it and finish it up in the oven. I’ve been craving this ever since I first heard of it and saw pictures. I was able to try it at a place in San Francisco and then again at Dancen in Chicago. I could go for a giant bowl of this with a side of rice and kimchi.
    Thanks again!

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted March 23rd, 2015 at 5:36 pm | # |

      Whatever is cooked on charcoal grill, it turns out delicious. : ) I am sure yours will be super tasty!

  6. noodlepanda My profile page joined 3/15
    Posted March 23rd, 2015 at 11:21 am | # |

    Hello Maangchi!

    I registered here to thank you for your awesome recipes! Thanks to Korean cuisine and your site I’ve discovered my love to cooking. As well as way to impress my Korean future-mother-in-law and gain some of her love. :) Now she’s excited she has some “material” to teach since her own daughter refuse cooking. :) I hope I won’t disappoint her when we will meet in Korea soon. So now, before I will go back to cooking my “치즈불닭” , I want to thank you one more time!

    You’re my hero!

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted March 23rd, 2015 at 5:26 pm | # |

      Thank you so much for the nice words! Your mother-in-law will love you because you like to learn about Korean culture and food! But not all Koreans love spicy food. Ask your husband what kind of dishes she will like. Then make her favorite dish. I love spicy food but my mom is not a big fan of spicy food. : )

  7. aTrueRedHead Germany My profile page joined 8/14
    Posted March 23rd, 2015 at 7:22 am | # |

    Hello Maangchi

    This looks like another delicious receipe for me to try. I just have one questions. The rice cakes you are using are not frozen, are they?
    I still have some frozen rice cake from the soup I made. Do I need to defrost and dry the rice cakes first (because of the use of hot oil)?

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted March 23rd, 2015 at 5:23 pm | # |

      Yes, the sliced rice cake were from my freezer. I thawed them out at room temperature just for 10 minutes and cooked just as I showed in the video.

  8. Stephanie Bognot My profile page joined 3/15
    Posted March 23rd, 2015 at 6:40 am | # |

    Maangchi this one looks good!! (my mouth is watering already T.T) I better ask my mom to cook this right now for dinner! Thank you for sharing this simple recipe! I love you Maangchi!!

  9. Donnarz Iloilo,Philippines My profile page joined 12/14
    Posted March 22nd, 2015 at 8:03 am | # |

    what kind of noodles maangchi can i use ? <3 :)

  10. kayluhh_hoffy United States My profile page joined 2/15
    Posted March 22nd, 2015 at 12:35 am | # |

    This was delicious!!! Thank you, Maangchi!!!!

  11. iamrhart Namhae, South Korea My profile page joined 10/12
    Posted March 21st, 2015 at 5:14 pm | # |
  12. iamrhart Namhae, South Korea My profile page joined 10/12
    Posted March 21st, 2015 at 3:04 pm | # |

    This was my FIRST introduction to the “spicy noodles” in korea. after that, others have tried to make some videos about it too. Maangchi, you might enjoy it. Let me know if you try it, and where you got it from…i cant find any in VT.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWZmdWP67DA

    • ddnorman Southern NH, USA My profile page I'm a fan! joined 9/13
      Posted March 21st, 2015 at 4:45 pm | # |

      imrhart,

      I live in southern NH and work in MA. I got these in a small Korean grocery Chung Ge in Ayer, MA about 40min from where I live. I posted a review of that store here on Maangchi’s site. Also there is an HMart (basically a Korean Wal-Mart) which has pretty much everything you could want! You could make a day trip of it because HMart has a food court and a Korean bakery! Then you could stop at Chung Ge and pick up some soju and makgeolli!

      Cheers!
      Dave

      • iamrhart Namhae, South Korea My profile page joined 10/12
        Posted March 21st, 2015 at 5:02 pm | # |

        maybe i need to correspond with you ;-), i live in the North-Eastern most point of VT…almost a canadian. haha

  13. crystlkung My profile page joined 3/15
    Posted March 21st, 2015 at 2:24 pm | # |

    Made this for dinner tonight :)
    What do you think Maangchi?

  14. ddnorman Southern NH, USA My profile page I'm a fan! joined 9/13
    Posted March 21st, 2015 at 6:42 am | # |

    Maangchi씨 안녕하세요!

    I have only had this once and I was totally caught off guard by the heat level! I had it at BonChon Chicken restaurant in Lowell, MA. Now I can make it at home! Yes!! Thank you for this recipe!

    Cheers!
    -Dave

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted March 21st, 2015 at 11:11 am | # |

      Dave, this is not buldak you made but had at the restaurant, yes? I’m already excited to see your own homemade buldak photo! : )

      • ddnorman Southern NH, USA My profile page I'm a fan! joined 9/13
        Posted March 21st, 2015 at 4:48 pm | # |

        Maangchi,

        That’s right! I had it at BonChon! The restaurant BonChon originates in Korea but has expanded to the US. In gact, I believe their headquarters is in NYC! They specialize in Korean style fried chicken. Now I can make from your recipe! 😁👍👍

        해피 토요일!
        Dave

  15. RyanQVan My profile page joined 3/15
    Posted March 20th, 2015 at 6:53 pm | # |

    Just made this today, tripled the recipe! Didn’t use a cast iron skillet because I don’t have one, but instead I used a nonstick wok. I had to turn it every 2 mins for 8 mins total, otherwise it would burn a little. Also, instead of sticking the wok in the oven I transferred everything to an aluminum pan and broiled for about 5 minutes until little brown spots appeared. Tasted great, thanks!
    http://puu.sh/gIGme/5a0f0bbdcc.jpg

  16. Kimah2003 My profile page joined 3/15
    Posted March 20th, 2015 at 2:07 pm | # |

    Wow, I lived in Korea for almost 8 years and have never heard of this dish! It does look delicious, though. I’ll have to try it out!

  17. phillipsea20dc My profile page joined 3/15
    Posted March 20th, 2015 at 10:40 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi!!!!!!!! I love your blog! Is this recipe in your cookbook???? Also are you able to make chicken buldak with a crockpot?

    • sanne Munich My profile page joined 8/14
      Posted March 20th, 2015 at 11:18 am | # |

      Hi phillipsea20dc,

      a crockpot always works nicely when it comes to simmering dishes.

      Bye, Sanne.

  18. MoonYang My profile page joined 3/15
    Posted March 20th, 2015 at 8:45 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi, i dont have the oven so can i use microwave?

  19. iamrhart Namhae, South Korea My profile page joined 10/12
    Posted March 20th, 2015 at 3:28 am | # |

    This reminds me of buldak beokumyeon. It was very popular and my students would compere to see who could eat the most. Thanks for posting this recipe. Cant wait to try it.

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted March 20th, 2015 at 9:16 am | # |

      Thank you for sharing your story! You must have lots of good memories of Korea!

      • iamrhart Namhae, South Korea My profile page joined 10/12
        Posted March 21st, 2015 at 2:58 pm | # |

        yep. i remember when we first started talking, about Namhae and family history. thanks to you i can claim to “cook some korean food”… :-( no one there ever taught me.

    • ddnorman Southern NH, USA My profile page I'm a fan! joined 9/13
      Posted March 21st, 2015 at 6:37 am | # |

      iamrhart… I just recently bought a package of buldalk bokkeumyeon! Spiciest ramyeon I’ve ever had! Apparently I made it incorrectly when I left the water in that you boil the ramyeon in. When I posted the picture in Instagram, no less than 3 of my Korean friends immediately told me so! Haha!

      • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
        Posted March 21st, 2015 at 11:07 am | # |

        I’ve never tasted buldalk bokkeumyeon! I should try it out sometime. I’m glad you have Korean friends! So cool!

        • ddnorman Southern NH, USA My profile page I'm a fan! joined 9/13
          Posted March 21st, 2015 at 4:54 pm | # |

          Maangchi,

          I am planning a trip to Korea, possibly for next year! I am hoping to meet some of those friends there and maybe cook some Korean food for them using your recipes! I tell them about your website and they always praise me when I cook your recipes! Haha! On my profile is a link to your website!

          Cheers!
          Dave

      • Cutemom Indonesia My profile page joined 3/13
        Posted March 21st, 2015 at 1:20 pm | # |

        You’re absolutely right Dave. That ramyeon is so spicy yet addicting. I can’t wait to make my own and put noodles in it.

      • iamrhart Namhae, South Korea My profile page joined 10/12
        Posted March 21st, 2015 at 2:59 pm | # |

        That picture looks cool. i dont think there is any “wrong” way to eat it, i mean you at LEAST got a HOT broth out of it.

        I sure do miss the noodles. can’t find them here in the USA

  20. merrick232 USA My profile page joined 11/11
    Posted March 20th, 2015 at 2:47 am | # |

    Ah, this looks so good. Can you bake the chicken instead of cooking on the stove?
    Thanks.


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