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Cheese Buldak aka Korean Fire Chicken

Literally "Fire Chicken," this South Korean street dish will make your mouth burn. Cheese Buldak is rich, intensely spicy, and smothered in gooey cheese. Spicy 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

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
  • 1 Tbsp neutral oil

Fire Sauce

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

Additional

  • 1 cup Rice Cakes (dduk)
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella loosely packed (about 8 oz)
  • 12 inch Cast Iron Skillet

Instructions

  • Place rice cakes into small bowl and cover with cold water, if frozen.  Set aside.
  • Combine Marinade ingredients in large bowl.  Mix with spoon.  Add chicken.  Mix again until  well combined.  Cover and place in refrigerator.  
    (Let marinate at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight.)  
    marinated chicken in stainless steel bowl
  • Place Fire Sauce ingredients in food processor.  Whiz until pureed.  Set aside.
    pureed spicy sauce in food processor for cheese buldak
  • Heat 10 or 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add about 1 Tbsp of oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  When the oil shimmers, 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 browned chicken back into the skillet.  Pour the Fire Sauce on top.  Mix around with a wooden spoon until chicken is completely coated.  
    browned chicken with fire sauce in cast iron skillet
  • Continue cooking unti the sauce becomes dark red, thick, and reduced a bit, about 12-15 minutes on medium-high heat. The chicken and sauce should bubble somewhat vigorously but not burn. Lower heat, if needed. Also, feel free to 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 350 F 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!
    cheese buldak in cast iron pan, close up
  • Remove from oven.  Garnish with sliced green onion and sprinkle of sesame seeds, if desired. Serve immediately 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 regular skillet and 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.