Thursday, September 5, 2019

[Food] Jjimdak (찜닭, Braised Spicy Chicken)


[Food] Jjimdak (찜닭, Braised Spicy Chicken)

Jjimdak (찜닭, Braised Spicy Chicken)

Jjimdak is a common typical Korean chicken dish that is very popular to everyone. It is not a well-known dish to non-native Koreans, and it sparked a national trend almost 20 years ago when it was introduced to the public.

Its recipe is not difficutl to make. You just need to braise a chopped whole chicken in spicy soy sauce with chopped vegetables. However, the hard part of making jjimdak is making good spicy soy sauce, as other foods need a special sauce. Every cook and restaurant has his or her own special 'kick' for making jjimdak, and that's what makes every jjimdak very different from the other. The spicy soy sauce of every jjimdak actually dictates the taste (and profit) of the jjimdak made by each cook in each restaurant.

Then...where did jjimdak originate?

Andong old market alley 

Jjimdak originated in Andong's traditional market's roasted chicken alley. As the spicy-sauce chicken became so popular in the 1980s, roasted chicken restaurant owners had to find a way to survive with the chicken dish. As a result, cooks invented a new chicken dish with soy sauce and chili, which is today's jjimdak. This is the most convincing story about jjimdak's origin.

'Jjim' means 'braise' or 'steam' and 'dak' means 'chicken' in Korean.

Jjimdak's spicy soy sauce is obviously based on soy sauce. Then you have to add starch syrup, chopped garlic and ginger, green onion, black pepper and, if you have it, caramel syrup. Koreans usually put potato, carrot, shiitake mushroom, red and green chili, rice cake and sweet potato noodle (glass noodle) into jjimdak.

Jjimdak is not as popular as it was before but it is still a great and easy-to-cook dish for a house party or friends' invitation to your home. Almost every Korean loves chicken and soy sauce-based spicy jjimdak sauce. It has a mild and friendly taste for most Koreans. Moreover, Koreans love the chewy mozzarella rice cake (Koreans invented a small rice cake that has mozzarella cheese in it for jjimdak) and sweet potato noodles coated with spicy soy sauce of jjimdak. Savory, salty, sweet and spicy sauce also complements rice very well.

Melted mozzarella on jjimdak, some Koreans can die for it!

So it is not extravagant to say 'if you can make good jjimdak sauce, 80% of the dish is done'. If you can soak chicken pieces into the soy sauce as you boil jjimdak, that's the best way of cooking jjimdak. Additionally, when you finish all chicken pieces in jjimdak, Koreans love to add nurungji (crispy rice crust) into the sauce. Nurungji is also chewy, but has a crispy and savory taste.

Nurungji (crispy rice crust)

Flat sweet potato noodle in jjimdak
White short, round things are mozzarella rice cake, you must taste it once if you visit Korea. It was sensational when it first came out to market.
It's been a long time since I tasted jjimdak. I miss the taste of savory jjimdak sauce, sweet potato noodles and crispy, chewy nurungji :) I hope you can taste it too.

Bon Appétit!