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




  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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  1. ChrisCooksKorean Oklahoma U.S. My profile page joined 9/16
    Posted September 6th, 2016 at 3:55 pm | # |

    I love this recipe, and I’ve made this 5 or 6 times now. It always goes perfectly except for toasting the rice cakes. I use the frozen slices they sell at the grocery store and I can never get the little buggers to toast. If I put them in a hot pan frozen or thawed they just start to stick to the pan like glue well before they get anywhere close to being toasted. I’ve tried a dry pan and oil. It’s fine, because I prefer them chewy, but I can’t figure out why the ones in the recipe video don’t stick and mine do. Maybe because mine aren’t homemade?

  2. Andrea Italy My profile page joined 1/09
    Posted September 1st, 2016 at 3:26 pm | # |

    Oh Maangchi, why haven’t I tried this recipe before?
    I just finished eating my portion (I’m the one who eats spiciest in the household, so I wanted to check it myself first) and… boom! What a delicious meal.
    I know I shouldn’t have cooked only one portion, it was so good!
    Thank you thank you for this good recipe. I’ve never been to Korea but with your recipes I get an idea of it.
    I have used normal Italian mozzarella, what you show in the recipe we call it mozzarella for pizza, so my cheese was a bit more watery and some of the rice cakes were soggy. Tasty nonetheless.
    Look at the photo, what a cute dish :-)
    Love from Italy

    See full size image

  3. Rekhapragadish India My profile page joined 7/16
    Posted July 11th, 2016 at 5:34 pm | # |

    Dear Maangchi

    I am so delighted to share my experience about trying this Cheese buldak.. Iam from India where I don’t get Gochujang.. I somehow got an imported tub from an online site and I tried this recipe..

    It became a big hit in our home in spite of the spiciness…I love the simplicity of this recipe where they is no need of marination and the mixing sauce and chicken gets cooked and final touch with mozzarella …

    I am new to Korean cooking and I have tried so many recipes from the site… Thanks for your wonderful recipes.. Looking forward for more spicier recipes from u..

    Rekha Pragadish.

  4. anits12 malaysia My profile page joined 6/16
    Posted July 4th, 2016 at 9:27 am | # |

    I am so going to try this recipe, what can I sub the rice syrup, I follow low carb, the rice syrup will throw me way out. Your suggestion will help, please. Thank you.

  5. nmai My profile page joined 5/15
    Posted May 23rd, 2016 at 7:54 am | # |

    i think my sauce didn’t taste as good cause i used a bit of coarse chillli powder ;(

  6. Fany My profile page joined 12/15
    Posted April 29th, 2016 at 10:28 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi!
    What vegetables go best with it? Maybe one of your side dishes?

    • alexpoe90 Yecheon, South Korea My profile page joined 5/16
      Posted May 1st, 2016 at 1:00 am | # |

      Hi Fany. A place I like to go to uses green chilies and, oddly enough, cabbage!

  7. Deb802 SF My profile page joined 2/16
    Posted February 17th, 2016 at 11:45 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi! 안녕하세요!
    I love your recipes and your videos are so fun to follow! I’m planning to make the fire chicken for some friends and was wondering if the taste would be compromised if I skipped the vegetable oil. Do you recommend a substitute or can I just skip the vegetable oil?


  8. Joyce Yu Irvine, CA. My profile page I'm a fan! joined 9/09
    Posted February 2nd, 2016 at 8:08 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi! I’ve been waiting for this recipe… It looks so good.

  9. jsp73 My profile page joined 3/15
    Posted January 28th, 2016 at 6:44 pm | # |

    Delicious, but absolutely NOWHERE NEAR as spicy as what I ate in Korea. I used the extra spicy gochujang and threw in some of the small kimchi chiggae peppers when I made this, and it still didn’t make me sweat like the stuff I ate in Seoul (HongCho Bul ddeok was my favorite chain, but most others were extremely hot, too). How do I make it spicy enough???? What do they use? I tried habanero peppers, too (4, WITH seeds, and it still wasn’t as hot as what I ate in Korea so many many times). What is the secret?????

  10. Xieyuting My profile page joined 8/15
    Posted August 13th, 2015 at 6:41 pm | # |

    Is there a cheese we can use that’s not mozzarella?

  11. Monique M. Florida My profile page joined 2/15
    Posted July 23rd, 2015 at 11:14 pm | # |

    I made this today. It was really good. I never had rice cake before, normally I’m not a fan of things that are chewy.. but I really liked the sliced rice cake in this. I was surprised this wasn’t really spicy with how much hot pepper flakes is in this. My mother couldn’t handle it though lol. Next time I might cut the amount of hot pepper flakes in this to half and see if that is better for her.

  12. Hannahnoface My profile page joined 5/15
    Posted May 24th, 2015 at 8:52 am | # |

    I made this 3 times now, I made it for my birthday dinner and served with coleslaw! It’s so refreshing with coleslaw after taking a big spicy bite of chicken. Also kimchi was there, then I made it for my aunt who has never had Korean food who said it was super super delicious (she especially loved the Tteokguk! So chewy)! I toned down the hot pepper flakes for my family but it was still super delicious!

    Thank you!

  13. Deschanelle My profile page joined 5/15
    Posted May 19th, 2015 at 10:25 am | # |

    Thank You Maangchi ! Your recipes earned me praises from my friends and my relatives at my housewarming party.
    My Cheese Buldak recipe is different from yours, though. I combined kimchi gimbap and arranged it on top of the Buldak . The cheese I used canned cheese. Turned out a little burned, but delicious!

  14. ZEC My profile page joined 5/15
    Posted May 16th, 2015 at 9:31 pm | # |

    Hello Maangchi, I just got some really bad news and Korean food comforts me so I decided to try making this. WOW it is so good…I added some doenjang because I love it and it turned out sooo delicious! The crispy-chewy rice cake i

    • ZEC My profile page joined 5/15
      Posted May 16th, 2015 at 9:32 pm | # |

      (oops!) is so tasty. I always turn to your recipes when I’m missing Seoul.

  15. username202 My profile page joined 5/15
    Posted May 8th, 2015 at 3:24 pm | # |

    I don’t have mozzarella cheese. Can I use a different type of cheese? Will it still taste good?

  16. Cutemom Indonesia My profile page joined 3/13
    Posted April 26th, 2015 at 3:57 am | # |

    Hi, Maangchi !

    This is one mean dish. I followed your recipe except i marinate the chicken overnight and grilled it. Then i cooked the marinate+a little water & sugar to tame the fire and 1 ramyeon to soak up the sauce and topped it all with the grilled marinated chicken and the fried rice cake with no cheese.

    Even my son ate a whole serving of it with lots of water. He said it’s spicy but addicting. I agreed with him. Hence this is a really mean fire chicken recipe.

    A million thanks from my family to you.

    By the way, would the marinate work with pork as well? If so, belly or shoulder?


  17. jclechat My profile page joined 6/10
    Posted April 13th, 2015 at 10:15 pm | # |

    This dish is so delicious! I wasn’t sure how it would taste with the cheese, but the cheese, it turns out, serves a vital role of mellowing the spiciness. And it does meld really well with the other flavors. I’d highly recommend making this with the cheese.

  18. jazz.starr My profile page joined 4/15
    Posted April 10th, 2015 at 5:13 am | # |

    Hello! I am new to your website, but I been living in Korea for a year now and will get married soon to my fiancé whose korean. I been using your website for a little while to help learn more about how to cook here. I never learned a lot in my own country, but being a wife soon I really want to take up the challenge to learn more. I really enjoy your simple and easy instructions and you make cooking seem more easy than I thought it was. About this recipe, I live in a small studio and don’t have an oven. However I do have one of those very small conventional ovens. A whole pot would not be able to fit inside my tiny conventional oven, however could i heat up the cheese in a separate smaller pan then pour it onto the chicken when it’s melted enough? My oven goes up to 230°. What temperature would melting the cheese be best if i can actually do this?

    • sanne Munich My profile page joined 8/14
      Posted April 10th, 2015 at 6:15 am | # |

      Hi jazz.starr,

      “A whole pot would not be able to fit inside my tiny conventional oven, however could i heat up the cheese in a separate smaller pan then pour it onto the chicken when it’s melted enough?”

      I wouldn’t recommend that.

      “My oven goes up to 230°. What temperature would melting the cheese be best if i can actually do this?”

      Make several small portions out of the readily cooked chicken prior to adding tteok and cheese, preheat your oven on high heat, put in fitting amounts, don’t close the door completely (! – put in a wooden chopstick e. g.), continue. Enjoy!

      Bye, Sanne.

  19. jnd My profile page joined 4/15
    Posted April 9th, 2015 at 4:27 pm | # |

    I can’t wait to make this!! Will I still have to use the oven if I don’t add cheese??

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