Dakgalbi is a South Korean culinary specialty made from pieces of chicken and vegetables sautéed in a spicy sauce.
What is dakgalbi?
Dak galbi or dakgalbi (닭 갈비), is a dish of Korean origin, consisting of spicy chicken and sautéed with sweet potato, cabbage, carrots and tteok (Korean rice cakes).
Often used in Korean cuisine, gochujang is a spicy condiment, made from fermented chili paste. It is thanks to this marinade that the dish holds this strong flavor and this unique taste that are so much appreciated.
Tteok, also called ddeock, dduk or even thuck, is a Korean specialty made from rice flour. These cakes, sometimes sweet, sometimes neutral in flavor, are generally eaten as snacks or as desserts.
It also happens that these small rice cakes form the basis of certain traditional dishes, as in the case of the dakgalbi.
What is the origin of dakgalbi?
The origins of dakgalbi date back to the 1960s. It was in Chuncheon, a town in Gangwon province, that the dish first appeared.
The story goes that it came about thanks to a chef who decided to prepare a more affordable version of the dwaeji galbi. Grilled pork ribs were one of the most popular dishes at the time for gui (or guee), the traditional Korean barbecue. The high cost of this meat, however, made it difficult to access for many people. The chef then had the idea of recreating the taste of dwaeji galbi, while using chicken instead.
This is why he called this invention the dak galbi, dak meaning “chicken” and galbi “rib” in Korean, although it is not actually ribs, but chicken thighs.
In Korea, it is classified as anju, a term for a meal accompanying alcoholic beverages.
The adoration of the dak galbi is such among the inhabitants of Chuncheon that an entire festival is organized each year in its honor. The Dakgalbi & Makguksu Festival celebrates the famous dish as well as another regional specialty, the makguksu, a dish of buckwheat noodle with broth. During the festival, you can attend culinary demonstrations, learn how to cook recipes and participate in cooking competitions.
How to eat dak galbi
For Koreans, dak galbi is synonymous with celebrations and large gatherings with friends. At home or in restaurants, tasting a dakgalbi is always a moment of great conviviality, and must be done according to certain rules.
Tradition has it that after marinating for several hours, the chicken and the rest of the ingredients are brought directly to the table. The dish is then cooked in the center of the table, in front of the guests, in a large cast-iron pan heated by a stove.
Once ready, all the guests can then serve themselves directly from the dish, in a very family-friendly spirit. When the meal comes to an end, it is common to add udon noodles or white rice with kimchi to the dish to fry with the remaining sauce and chicken.
The variants of the dakgalbi
Today, the popularity of the dakgalbi has crossed Korean borders and is featured on the menu of many Western restaurants. The cheese dakgalbi is an undeniably westernized variant of this dish. As its name suggests, it is here covered with melted cheese, which slightly alleviates the spicy side while making it richer.
Dakgalbi in its minimalist, chicken-free version looks a bit like tteokbokki, another typical Korean dish consisting mainly of tteok and gochujang sauce. The tteok are presented here in the form of long cylindrical tubes, similar to macaroni.
- 1 lb chicken thighs de-boned, diced in 1 inch cubes
- ½ medium sweet potato cut into long thick sticks
- ½ carrot sliced diagonally
- ¼ small cabbage shredded
- 10 leaves shiso (Korean perilla)
- 6 oz. tteok (Korean rice cakes) soaked for 10 minutes and cut into pieces
- 3 tablespoons rice bran oil or vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chilli paste)
- 2 tablespoons rice wine
- 1 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger chopped
- 1 teaspoon Korean curry powder
- 1 small scallion chopped
- Black pepper freshly ground
- In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the marinade and marinate the chicken in the mixture for 4 hours.
- Preheat a wok (or pan) over medium-high heat and once heated, add a little rice bran oil.
- Place all the vegetables and the tteok pieces in the wok and add the chicken and its marinade on top.
- Cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes.
- Stir regularly during cooking.