25 May

A uniquely Korean food that I’m always a little surprised hasn’t caught on more, internationally, is 닭갈비 (dalk-kalbi).  In Seoul, dalkkalbi restaurants are everywhere. dalkkalbi001
You come in as a group, sit down around a table with a built-in hotplate, and the server brings your chicken to cook in front of you while you wait.  At heart, it’s just spicy chicken stir-fry.  External trappings may include 떡 (ddeok, or rice cake), potato, sweet potato, an assortment of vegetables, mushrooms, glass noodles, shredded cheese, or even a round of fried rice at the end.  Either way, I’ve never met a foreigner who tried it and didn’t like it.

I’ve been telling myself I was going to whip up a batch at home for months, now, but between the move, training for a new job, and general new-home issues, I didn’t find time until today.  I used an excellent recipe, which I really didn’t stray too far from.  The curry powder was kind of a surprise addition, but I tried it and it really works. Anyway, I’m exceptionally pleased with how this batch came out.  Now I’ve just got to figure out what to do with all the leftovers!


3 tbsp Korean red pepper paste
2 tbsp chili flakes
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp minced garlic
3 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce (dark, full-flavored, suitable for marinades)
2 tbsp mirim/mirin (rice wine for cooking)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp corn syrup (alternatives include rice syrup, honey, or oligosaccharide syrup)

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks

1 medium sweet potato (white or yellow-fleshed, not orange), sliced into 1/4″ thick rounds
1 large onion (I used purple, but any color is fine)
3-4 medium stalks of green onion, chopped
1 liberal double-handful of ddeok
1/4 to 1/2 head of cabbage, chopped
10 perilla leaves (sesame leaves), sliced into strips
sesame seeds to garnish

dalkkalbi003Start by combining the red pepper paste, chili flakes, curry powder, sugar, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, mirim, sesame oil, and corn syrup in a bowl.  Mix well, then scoop out about half of the sauce for later, and add the chicken to the bowl.  This can marinate for hours, if you like, or be cooked within a few minutes.

When you’re ready to continue, get out a big wok or skillet and splash some canola or grapeseed oil in the bottom.  If you are using frozen ddeok, make sure you have soaked it in hot water for a few minutes first–if you have fresh ddeok, you can skip that step.  Dump the marinated chicken in your wok and turn the heat to medium-high.  Layer the sweet potatoes and onion over the chicken, scatter the ddeok over that, and heap the cabbage, about 3/4ths of your perilla leaves, and the remaining sauce on top.  Don’t even start stirring until the pan has begun to sizzle for a couple minutes.

Once it is sizzling thoroughly, toss everything to mix well.  Let it cook for about 2-3 minutes, then add a splash of water to create cooking steam and turn the heat down to medium.  If the pan seems dry or anything seems to be sticking much, don’t hesitate to add a bit more water.  Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender and beginning to crumble under pressure.  Stir (gently) to ensure all vegetables are coated in sauce.

Serve hot!  Garnish with remaining shreds of perilla leaves and a dash of sesame seeds.  Pick it straight out of the pan, communal style, if you’ve got a tabletop burner, even.  Friends with spice-sensitive tongues may need a bit of white rice on the side to cut the heat.


Things to note: You can easily mix and match alternative ingredients, so long as you keep the sauce basically intact.  If you prefer dark meat from your chicken, switch the breasts for thighs.  Mushrooms go well, regular potato can be swapped for the sweet potato, cellophane noodles can be slipped in to mop up excess liquid if you’ve added too much water, or the last few bites left in the pan could be fried hot with leftover rice for a delicious finish to the meal.  Stuffed ddeok are an excellent addition–they come in cheese-stuffed, sweet potato-stuffed, and other varieties.  I like sprinkling generic white shredded mozzarella over the top of the pan and popping a lid over it for a minute or two to melt the cheese, now and then.  If you like crispier edges, turn your heat up a little higher–the sauce will reduce down into a fantastic thick glaze if it bubbles for a bit.  Don’t try to do this in a small pan–you will wind up with cabbage overflowing in all directions.  My 30-cm wok barely fit everything, and I added the cabbage in batches to let it wilt and shrink down a bit, even then.  If you find that your vegetables aren’t cooking through, don’t hesitate to drop a lid on and let it steam itself for a couple of minutes.

Serves 4-5.

7 Responses to “Dalkkalbi”

  1. Jaime Thompson at 2:58 pm #

    Your photos are really fabulous! I will have to share this recipe with a friend 🙂

    • oddvocado at 8:48 pm #

      Thanks! I’m getting interested in photography and trying to learn about stock and food photography, but I think I need to invest in a better camera if I want to get very serious about it.

  2. jennifit at 9:18 pm #

    Added this to my ‘immediate to do’ list. Hope to try it on Monday, thank you!


  1. Whoops – Bank Holiday Monday | Jenn Does Insanity -

    […] Dalk-kalbi (닭갈비) A SPICY/HOT Korean recipe provided to me by my friend over at Oddvocado. I had to adapt bits and pieces of it due to what was in my cupboards, portion size, and my […]

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