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.

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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

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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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83 Comments:

  1. Kfwooten NC, USA joined 6/17
    Posted June 1st, 2017 at 11:38 pm | # |

    Great taste overall. Didn’t find it spicy enough and the proportion of pepper flakes made the sauce a bit off-putting texture-wise. Will be trying again by grinding the store-bought flakes to a finer texture, replacing some with fresh ghost pepper, and adding cayenne to help round together the flavors.

    Didn’t use cheese and only served with plain rice, but after seeing the comments will serve with cabbage next. Thank you for the recipe!

    (1)
  2. ElizabethXO joined 7/15
    Posted May 28th, 2017 at 10:31 pm | # |

    If I replace rice syrup with corn syrup, do I have to mix the corn syrup with honey and sugar? Or do I just use corn syrup by itself?

    (0)
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