Chuncheon was a city where most university students in Seoul went for workshops. This was because it only takes 1 hour 30mins max from Seoul to Chuncheon by bus or train, and the city is filled with rivers and lakes - we all love a good swim on a trip with friends! When you have a hundred hungry students, what you need is something both filling and cheap. Back in the days, Dakgalbi (닭갈비) was the best option for this as it didn’t require much chicken ($$) with it being filled with a mountain of veggie toppings instead. Having the Chuncheon Dakgalbi became a tradition for uni students on trips and since its appearance on television in the 80s, the popularity of Dakgalbi exploded! As the demands increased, the traditional way of cooking these marinated chicken & veggies on charcoal changed to being cooked on a huge iron plate, right on the tables to be served faster.
As the country’s interest and love towards Dakgalbi grew, they came up with a number of ways to enjoy Dakgalbi, often with different toppings. To tell you about the most common versions of having this dish, it can go three ways. After enjoying about half the Dakgalbi in its original spiciness, Koreans tend to add a bulk of mozzarella to make things more interesting. They Moses-Miracle the dish in its iron plate and pour the cheese in the middle for it to melt on the hot plate. Once melted, you fondue the toppings in the cheese and the collab of spicy and cheesiness is just wondrous. Plus, you get the perfect Instagrammable cheese pull as well!
Finally, if all those toppings still haven't filled you up, you add a bowl of steamed rice to make your own Dakgalbi Fried Rice! With the leftover toppings and sauce, you mix and stir-fry steamed rice on the heated plate with a few drops of sesame oil (and kimchi if you prefer!). The right way to have this fried rice once ready? Using a spatula you flatten it down on the iron plate and wait a couple of minutes for the rice to be slightly scorched on the bottom. The crispy texture of this DIY fried rice is what you’re forbidden to miss when having Dakgalbi.
- Cut chicken and vegetables into bite-sized pieces. (Tip: if you’re sensitive to poultry odour, leave the chicken soaked in milk for 30 mins after chopping)
- Mix all the sauces in a bowl and mix them with the chicken. Leave in the fridge for 1 hour for the marinade to sink in.
- Coat a flat iron pan or frying pan with sesame oil and stir fry marinated chicken and vegetables. Have a bowl of steamed rice when all ingredients are cooked!
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You can choose your own veggies, but ALWAYS have cabbage, onion and spring onion in there! On the ingredients list are my veggie recommendations for a perfect Dakgalbi. If you want to make the dish a step further, do add udon noodles when the Dakgalbi is almost cooked to stir fry with it - more toppings, more textures, the better! As for the mozzarella, you can add it by sprinkling it on top or making a dip between the Dakgalbi as I mentioned above. Feel free to add it the moment when the dish is ready, or mid-way in the meal when you want to change things up a little. Also, I cannot stress this harder. Remember to make FRIED RICE with the leftover Dakgalbi and thank me later. Here’s a link to a recipe video!