Fire chicken with cheese

Cheese 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 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 ¾ or 1 inch cubes
  • ½ cup Korean hot pepper flakes (gochugaru)
  • 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. Is there a cheese we can use that’s not mozzarella?

  2. Monique M. Florida joined 2/15 & has 6 comments

    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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. ZEC joined 5/15 & has 3 comments

    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

  6. username202 joined 5/15 & has 2 comments

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

  7. Cutemom Indonesia joined 3/13 & has 82 comments

    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?


  8. jclechat joined 6/10 & has 3 comments

    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.

  9. 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 joined 8/14 & has 279 comments

      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.

  10. jnd joined 4/15 & has 1 comment

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

  11. rocknchick Rockford, IL joined 12/14 & has 11 comments

    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 joined 7/08 & has 12,045 comments

      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!

      • rocknchick Rockford, IL joined 12/14 & has 11 comments

        Maangchi- I made the sauce by itself last night. It turned out pretty good, but I wanted to ask- have you made it in large quantities? I want to make a large batch of it to put in plastic squeeze bottles and use on various things as a condiment. My husband thought we should add chicken or beef broth to thin it out, and put it in the blender to remove any chunks. I cooked the sauce in a pan last night until it looked like it had on the Fire Chicken. If blending it will work, should I do it before or after cooking it? Any suggestions you can offer would be most appreciated.

  12. scon1255 joined 3/15 & has 1 comment

    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!

    See full size image

  13. 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 joined 8/08 & has 12,045 comments

      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!

  14. Shanna joined 3/15 & has 1 comment

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

  15. hifimono Milwaukee, WI joined 7/11 & has 1 comment

    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!

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