The BEST Cheese Buldak (Korean Fire Chicken)

Satisfy all your spicy cravings with Cheese Buldak or Korean Fire Chicken. This South Korean street dish will make your mouth burn. Rich, intensely spicy, and smothered in gooey cheese. Fiery Perfection.

Spicy food lovers, this is the Korean recipe for you.

Saucy, deeply flavored, and intensely spicy — Korean Cheese Buldak is the dish you’ve been waiting for!

I promise you — once you start making this dish, you won’t be able to stop!  The spicy deep flavor is addictively delicious!

What is Cheese Buldak?

Cheese Buldak is a popular South Korean street food. Tender chicken is coated with a fiery spicy sauce. Then smothered with cheese for good measure.

Buldak literally translates to “Fire Chicken.” Bul = Fire. Dak = Chicken. The “fire sauce” that covers the chicken is so spicy, it leaves behind a burning sensation in your mouth.

Nowadays, the word Buldak has become synonymous with a distinctly super spicy flavor. You can even find Buldak flavored sauce packets (like ketchup) and Buldak instant noodles.

How spicy is it? The spice level is mouth-burning, nose-dripping, forehead-wiping spice. The kind that leaves you spooning more rice into your bowl and constantly reaching for the water glass. But Korean Cheese Buldak is a recipe that will satisfy every last spicy craving!

cheese buldak in cast iron skillet with scotch bonnet peppers and gochukaru in corner

Ingredients:

Chicken Marinade:

  • Chicken. Boneless, skinless thighs stay tender and flavorful.
  • Soy sauce, Mirin, Honey. For deeply flavored chicken.

Fire Sauce:

  • Gochukaru. Korean dried chili flakes. Smoky, spicy, floral — an essential ingredient! There is no substitute.
  • Gochujang. Korean fermented chili paste.
  • Scotch Bonnet Peppers. Provide the best spicy heat with depth of flavor. Include the seeds for that ultimate, burn-in-your-mouth feel!
  • Asian pear. A common marinating ingredient in many Korean recipes. Adds sweetness and a nice texture. They are the size of a grapefruit and covered with thick yellow skin. Substitutions: Bartlett or Bosc pear OR Fuji or Gala apple.
  • Onion + Garlic. The aromatic base of the sauce.

Cheese Pull:

  • Korean Rice Cakes (dduk/tteok). Although optional, chewy rice cakes take Cheese Buldak to another level! Choose the shape you like best. If frozen, make sure to defrost by soaking in cold water.
  • Mozzarella Cheese. For that spectacular cheese pull at the end.

How to Make Cheese Buldak:

The steps to making Cheese Buldak at home are simple once you break it down. There are 3 components that all get cooked in one pan: the chicken, the fire sauce, and the cheese pull.

Chicken:

  1. Marinate the chicken.
  2. Brown the chicken.

Fire Sauce:

  1. Whizz the “fire” sauce in the food processor.
  2. Add “fire” sauce.
  3. Cook until the sauce is reduced and somewhat thick. 

Cheese pull:

  1. Add Korean rice cakes (dduk). 
  2. Cover with mozarella cheese.
  3. Bake until melted and gooey. 

What kind of pan can I use?

Typically Korean Fire Chicken is cooked over a charcoal grill. The smoky flavor is hard to beat.

To make a Cheese Buldak recipe without a charcoal grill, I recommend a cast iron skillet. Cast iron is an excellent heat conductor and chars the chicken beautifully. All those tasty, browned bits add so much flavor! Cast iron skillets also transfer easily from stovetop to oven. Making this recipe a one pot meal!

I’ve tried cooking Cheese Buldak in both a non-stick skillet, stainless steel skillet, and enameled cast iron braiser. They all work. But the end result is not as delicious, deeply flavored, or easy to serve as a cast iron skillet!

FYI: cast iron is porous and absorbs the flavor of the fire sauce. After making Cheese Buldak, the skillet will impart a slightly spicy flavor to whatever you cook next — no matter how hard you clean or scrub the pan.

Can I make this dish less spicy?

As with any dish, yes — you can make Cheese Buldak recipe less spicy. To enjoy a mildly-spicy Korean chicken with cheese, simply adjust the spicy fire sauce.

How to adjust the spice level:

  • Use 1 Scotch Bonnet Pepper instead of 2
  • Do not include seeds of the Scotch Bonnet Peppers
  • Leave out the Scotch Bonnet Peppers entirely

Note: the rice cakes and cheese lessen spicy factor. Also, serve with rice to lessen the heat!

What is a cheese pull? How do I make one at home?

A cheese pull is that photographic moment when a long stretch of cheese pulls dramatically away from a dish.

Classically, mozzarella is used for a spectacular cheese pull. And the mild flavor doesn’t overpower the rest of the saucy chicken.

Cheese pull tips:

  • Low-moisture mozzarella works best. Fresh mozzarella is too wet for this recipe.
  • Use LOTS of cheese. The full amount is completely necessary!
  • GENTLY melt the cheese. A slow melt will ensure the cheese doesn’t harden and burn.

More Korean Food Inspiration:

PIN FOR LATER:

hand pulling cheese buldak from cast iron skillet

The BEST Cheese Buldak (Korean Fire Chicken)

The Subversive Table | Lis Lam
Satisfy all your spicy cravings with Cheese Buldak or Korean Fire Chicken. This South Korean street dish will make your mouth burn. Rich, intensely spicy, and smothered in gooey cheese. Fiery Perfection.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine Korean
Servings 4

Equipment

  • 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet
  • Food processor (You can also grate the onion and Asian pear with a box grater)

Ingredients
  

Chicken Marinade

  • 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch long strips
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Mirin or rice wine
  • 1 Tbsp honey (sugar also works)
  • 1 Tbsp neutral oil

Fire Sauce

  • 4 garlic cloves peeled
  • 1/2 large onion roughly chopped
  • 1/2 large Asian pear peeled, cored, roughly chopped (can be subbed with Bosc pear, Bartlett pear, Fuji apple, Gala apple)
  • 2 Scotch Bonnet Peppers stemmed (keep the seeds), or to taste
  • 3 Tbsp Gochukaru (Korean red chili flakes)
  • 3 Tbsp Gochujang (Korean red chili paste)
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp sugar

Cheese pull

  • 1 cup Rice Cakes (dduk)
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella loosely packed (about 8 oz)

Instructions
 

  • Combine Chicken marinade ingredients in large bowl.  Mix with spoon.  Add chicken.  Mix until well combined.  Cover and place in fridge.  
    (Marinate at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight.)  
    marinated chicken in stainless steel bowl
  • If your rice cakes are frozen, add to a small bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside. (Rice cakes can keep this way, tightly sealed, in the fridge for 2-3 days).
  • Place Fire Sauce ingredients in food processor. Puree until no large chunks remain. Set aside.
    pureed spicy sauce in food processor for cheese buldak
  • Preheat oven to 350F/176C.
  • Heat cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add about 1 Tbsp of oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken. Brown the chicken in batches, one layer at a time, making sure not to crowd the pan. It's ok if the chicken is not fully cooked.
    Transfer to a clean plate. Repeat process until all the chicken is cooked.
    browned chicken in cast iron skillet
  • Place all the browned chicken back into the skillet. Pour the Fire Sauce on top, making sure to scrape every last bit with a spatula. Mix around with a spatula until chicken is completely coated in sauce.
    browned chicken with fire sauce in cast iron skillet
  • Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the sauce becomes dark red, thick, and reduced, about 12-15 minutes. The chicken and sauce should bubble somewhat vigorously. Lower heat, if needed. Feel free to add water if the sauce looks too dry (about 1 Tbsp at a time). Keep an eye on the sauce, mixing it from time to time.
    chicken and spicy sauce in cast iron skillet
  • Remove skillet from heat.  Drain rice cakes and scatter over the chicken and fire sauce mixture.  
    chicken, fire sauce, and Korean rice cakes in cast iron pan
  • Sprinkle the cheese on top of the rice cakes and chicken, making sure to coat evenly.
    mozzarella cheese over chicken and spicy sauce
  • Place skillet in oven until cheese melts, about 5-10 minutes. It should be a gentle melting of cheese. Watch carefully and make sure it doesn't overcook!
  • Remove from oven.  Garnish with sliced green onion and sprinkle of sesame seeds, if desired. Serve immediately with rice and enjoy!
    Korean cheese buldak in cast iron pan, close up

Notes

*If you don’t own a cast iron skillet, you can also cook all the components in a stainless steel or non-stick skillet.   If the skillet is oven safe, trasnfer directly to the oven to melt the cheese.  If the skillet is NOT oven safe, transfer to a baking dish after the chicken has cooked in the sauce. Then, add the rice cakes (dduk) and cheese. Bake in the oven, as per usual.
**When browning the chicken, you may need to add more oil depending on your cast iron skillet. My cast iron skillet is well seasoned after years of use so 1 Tbsp was perfect.
Keyword Cheese Buldak, chicken
All Recipes, Chicken, Dinner with Friends, Gochujang, Korean, Main

5 Comments

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  4. Made this for lunch and love it! What an amazing combination of taste, texture, east, west, and the addition of rice cake!

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