Much like samgyetang, I did not have any dakdoritang while I was in Korea.  In my defense my first visit I was with my mother, who is not terribly adventurous when it comes to food.  My second visit was spent helping my brother deal with his divorce which basically turned in to a week-long drunk punctuated by the consumption of masses of samgyeopsal (marinated pork belly) and kimchi jigae (kimch stew) since there was an excellent place around the corner from his apartment.  Dakdoritang is a pretty simple chicken stew however as I read up on the recipe I learned that there is actually a little controversy surrounding the name of this dish.  Both dak and tang are Korean, chicken and soup or stew respectively, however dori is a corruption of the Japanese word tori, or chicken.  Why is this problematic?  Well, I think it is fair to describe Korea as a rather nationalistic country and there is quite a bit of unpleasant history between Korea and Japan with Japan having forcibly annexed Korea in 1910.  Japan ruled Korea as a colony until the Japanese surrender in 1945 and the consequences of this rule as well as Japanese aggression in the region continue to exert influence over regional politics to this day.  According to Joe over at the Paint Roller Blog one of the suggested changes is to call this dish dakbokkumtang, or braised chicken stew.  Personally I do not really care about this sort of thing and find the whole ‘controversy’ both interesting and silly.  On the one hand I understand the pain of the Koreans, being a Southern boy who has had it up to here with the Yankee oppressor, on the other hand I do not see the point of hanging on to this sort of controversy.  There are real problems out there that need our attention.

Sorry about that, we’re here to talk about food so let us get on with that, shall we?

Since I live alone and do not mind eating the same leftovers for a week I am a big fan of the single-pot meal so when I found this recipe I knew I would have to give it a spin.

  • 8 pieces of chicken (I use drumsticks and thighs)
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp gochujang (hot pepper paste)
  • 2 tbsp gochukaru (red pepper flakes)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 cups of water

The recipe also called for 1 or 2 jalapenos, some green onions for garnish and some ginger.  I forgot about the green onions and ginger and decided to skip the jalapenos as they say Tex-Mex to me and I wanted to keep this dish as Korean as possible.  Also I figured the gochujang and gochukaru would provide more than enough heat.  Turns out I was right.

  • The first thing I did was peel the potatoes and carrot, cutting them in to rather large pieces.
  • I did the same with the onion
  • I then combined all of the ingredients in the pot, starting with the chicken on the bottom and tossing the vegetables in on top.
  • I followed up with the garlic, sugar, soy sauce, gochujang, gochukaru and then the water to wash all of this down through the vegetables and over the chicken.
  • Cook over a medium flame for 30 to 40 minutes.  While the recipe did not call for it, I stirred the pot a few times to get some of the vegetables down into the water and the chicken off the bottom of the pot.  I was not happy with where things stood at this point so I let things cook for another 10 minutes or so.

Some of the recipes I have seen suggest serving this with rice however I think the potatoes provide more than enough starch for this meal so I skipped it this time.  If I was feeding more people, like I will be on Monday night, I would have served it over rice.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and then consume!

I was REALLY pleased with this dish.  It turned out pretty much exactly the way I expected with the potatoes absorbing most of the flavor from the gochujang/gochukaru.  There is definitely heat to this dish however it is an burn on the front end rather than a lingering burn.

In the future I want to work on adapting this recipe to work in a slow cooker as I was a little disappointed with the fact that the chicken did not absorb much, if any, of the flavors in the stew.  A longer cook should fix that.

I am not certain when or where I came across the idea of samgyetang for whatever reason I never had it when I was in Korea however at some point I decided that I must try this dish.  Since none of the Korean restaurants in town have this on the menu it became clear I would have to make it myself if I wanted to try it.  Thus after a few internet searches and a flip through my one Korean cookbook (Practical Korean Cooking by Noh Chin-hwa) I felt prepared to take a swipe at the dish.  I decided to use this recipe posted by C(h)ristine over at Muffin Top.  First up I had to track down the ingredients which required a trip to a couple of Asian markets, more on that later, and my usual grocery store.  Oddly enough finding an appropriately-sized chicken was the major challenge here.  While most of the recipes I read allow, and some even advocate, the substitution of Cornish game hens for the chicken in this dish, I wanted to make it with a chicken.  Fortunately I finally tracked down a 3 pound bird at HEB.  I had all the fixin’s; it was time to get cooking!

When cooking with rice my first step is to ALWAYS clean the rice.  To do this I pour a little more rice than is called for into a bowl and add enough cold water to cover the rice with an inch or two to spare.  I then agitate the rice with my fingers for a bit.  The water will become milky.  I pour off the water and repeat until the water remains mostly clear.  I then leave a little water in the bowl with the rice and allow it to soak until I am ready to use the rice.  I have found using washed and soaked rice results in a cleaner taste and allows my crappy little rice cooker to do a MUCH better job of cooking the rice.

On the left is a picture of the water at the beginning of the washing, on the right is a picture of the final result.

Once the rice is cleaned and soaking it is time to move on to the chicken itself.  I washed the bird thoroughly inside and out, discarding the giblets.  Some of the recipes I read suggested you lightly salt the bird at this point however the recipe I was following made no mention of this so I skipped it.  When the bird was clean I returned my attention to the rice, draining it and mixing the garlic cloves and jujubes to the rice.  I pinched the rootlets off of the ginseng roots and set them aside.  The ginseng roots went into the chicken first followed by the rice combination.  At this point I was a little concerned since the rice mixture filled the cavity pretty well and I knew the rice would expand as it cooked.  With visions of an exploded chicken in my head I decided to leave a bit of the rice out to allow some space for expansion.  As it turns out I did not leave enough room and there were some escapees during the cooking.  Rather than sew the cavity shut I tacked it shut with some toothpicks, which will go right through chicken and my finger thank you very much.  I placed the stuffed chicken in my pot and poured the requisite 9 cups of water over the bird.  The chicken wanted to float a little so I went ahead and added another cup or so of water and then tossed the ginseng rootlets in the pot, covered everything up and turned on the heat.

I checked the bird at about 10 minutes and ladled some of the fat and schmutz off the top of the water.  At 30 minutes I checked again, removing more of the goop from the top of the water.  At this point I was a little concerned about how well my cooking was going.  In C(h)ristine’s recipe she notes that after 30 minutes the broth should have reduced by half however mine had barely reduced by a quarter.  At this point I was torn between the “need” to have the broth reduce and the worry about over-cooking the bird.  I decided to leave the heat where it was for another 15 minutes or so and then reduce the heat and let the bird simmer for another 45 minutes.  Here are the before and after pictures:

All in all I am pleased with this first attempt however I was shocked at how bland the dish ended up being.  In the future I think I will try the following:

  • Massage a little salt in to the bird right after cleaning
  • Score and cut up the ginseng root a bit more to expose more surface area
  • Have the heat at a higher setting for the first 30 minutes of cooking to properly reduce the broth

As I was writing this culinary adventure I discovered there is a local Korean place which serves this dish so I am going to go and check it out to see, perhaps I did everything right and the dish is just a bit bland.