Korean food is so special. It’s something I had very limited exposure to while growing up in Atlantic Canada. OK, I never really had any until I moved to Wonju in 2012. But, it grew on me quickly, and dakgalbi, the expat favourite, quickly rose to the top of my list.
It’s a simple concept: spicy, stir-fried chicken and vegetables. The art is in the particular combination of ingredients and the execution. Originating in the city of Chuncheon (45 minutes north of Wonju by bus), dakgalbi is abundant in Gangwon province.
Walk into a dakgalbi restaurant in South Korea and you’ll find that the menu is pretty limited–it’s a dakgalbi restaurant. You’ll order a quantity that depends on the size of your group, with the option of ordering additions, like noodles, rice, or cheese. The server will bring the raw ingredients and dump them onto the hot skillet in the centre of your table. On the side will normally be a cold soup, kimchi, and some onions and garlic that you can add to the skillet.
The dakgalbi itself is a dish of chicken, onion, garlic, hot chilli paste mixed with soy sauce, hot pepper flakes, and cooking wine, along with cabbage, sweet potato, rice cake, green chilli slices, and (not to be forgotten) perilla leaves.
It can be hard to watch the food cooking without grabbing a premature bite, but I think it’s important to remind yourself of the bliss that is caramelized spicy sauce. Also, eating raw chicken is never a good call.