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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.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: Korean
Keyword: Cheese Buldak, chicken
Servings: 4
Author: The Subversive Table | Lis Lam

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.