Bologna to Bolognese: Adventures With Food

Food is necessary. Food is fun. Food is an adventure!

My name is Shannon and this is my adventure, my love affair with food.

I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Four Words...Six Syllables...Charades and Dak Galbi

Dak Galbi, is a South Korean dish normally made by stir-frying chicken in a (chili pepper paste) based sauce, with sliced cabbage, sweet potato, scallions, onions and rice cake together on a hot plate. It is a local specialty food for the city of Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, and is commonly associated with students and soldiers because it is an inexpensive alternative to traditional "galbi" or grilled meat dishes.

I like to be adventurous when I cook and am pretty willing to try anything once. So when my husband asked me one day to attempt a Korean dish he liked. I took up the gauntlet and my quest to make Dak Galbi ensued.

So I searched diligently for a recipe and after much discussion he agreed that these ingredients sounded the closest to what he had eaten in Korea. Finding the ingredients was a whole other adventure. Really you are going to need to go to an oriental market of some kind. A Korean grocery would be best but I have seen these ingredients in other markets as well. I began my search with a list of ingredients all written out in English...just in case you don't see the problem with this on the horizon...let me be more clear.

When I got to the small family owned Korean market near our home I found I could identify some of the items on my list. I used all my wily language savvy ways but it came down to I couldn't read and no amount of trying was going to cut it. So I approached the shopkeeper and told him what I needed. He looked at me as if I had lost my mind. I tried a few more times, attempting to wrap my mouth around the Romanized gochoojang and gochoogaroo before giving up and showing him my list. That didn't help either. I was beginning to get frustrated now and am sure he wished I would just buy something and go away. I tried the name of the dish and showed him a picture and at last we had common ground. (Apparently I didn't butcher the name too badly.) So I asked how to make it and he began to take me through the steps carefully with many points, pantomimes and flourishes until I had a handle on it and the right ingredients. (I now have a much greater respect for Charades!) He also made a few changes to the initial recipe I had found so I consider this a fairly accurate representation of the dish though I imagine it is like any regional dish in that every cook has their own subtle changes.

Dak Galbi


2 - 3 Large Chicken Breasts
1 yam - sliced thinly
3 green onions - sliced
1 onion - sliced,
1/2 cabbage - chopped into ribbons
1 1/2 carrot, thinly sliced
2 oz plain rice cake (oval or tubular shape - ***note*** not the type of rice cake you find in American stores. You will need to get these from an oriental market)

Chili Paste Sauce:

*** Note*** For those who don't love spicy hot foods. If you follow this as written it will be quite hot for most. You can cut the heat by adding more sugar or cutting the chili powder. If you like mild heat I would halve the chili powder if you are very sensitive to spices I would cut it down to 1/2 tablespoon.

4 tablespoons Korean chili paste
2 tablespoons Korean chili powder (***note*** NOT in any way similar to your American chili powder - this is a powdered red chili and is quite spicy)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar (I prefer brown)
1 teaspoon honey


Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry. Cut the chicken into bite size (1 inch) pieces. Mix ingredients of chili paste sauce. Mix part or the sauce mixture in with the chicken to marinate while you prepare the vegetables. Make sure the Yam and Carrots are sliced thin so they will cook in a reasonable amount of time.

To prepare the rice cakes bring a pan of water to a boil then add the noodles. (about 1/2 of a large bag) When the noodles float they are ready. Remove and drain well. (You can add seasoning to the water if you choose and the noodles will soak up the flavor.)

Using a deep pan or wok add heat some oil and when it is ready add your Yam and Carrots, stir them for a few minutes before adding the onions and chicken. Stir for a few minutes before adding the cabbage and the rest of the sauce spice mixture. Stir until combined and put a lid on if possible. Stir often and when the vegetables are almost done add the rice cakes and reduce the heat to simmer for the last 5-10 minutes. Keep stirring often to avoid burning the rice cakes to the bottom of your pan. Add the sliced scallions at the last minute.

The challenges this dish posed were well worth it. It is a wonderful healthy and filling dish full of flavor and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. It was definitely an adventure from start to finish!

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