that dish: give me my jjimdak

Many tourists don’t travel to Korea and many of those that do, go for the food. The perfect culinary destination, the dishes offered throughout the country are authentic, unique consistent throughout. Often served hot- both temperature and spice wise, Korean food is healthy and will awaken ones taste buds.  One of those dishes, and probably my favorite, is jjimdak: braised chicken, vegetables and noodles served in a spicy soy based sauce.

scrumptiously spicy jjimdak

Unlike most restaurants in the states, those in Korea specialize. Traditional eateries only serve their specialties- one or two dishes they make best. When going out in a group for dinner, what you’ll eat must be decided on before. To say the least, it makes ordering once your there pretty quick and easy. Jjimdak restaurants are easy to find in Seoul but finding your favorite can be a much harder task. Though most jjimdak served is fairly similar, the slight variances down to which vegetables or size of noodles a restaurant uses can really make the personal difference. Luckily for me, my favorite was right around the corner from my apartment. Unluckily for you, as far as I could tell, my jjimdak joint had no name. From my old apartment I could direct you there but for those reading this, that is of no help. Instead, you’ll have to go out and find your own jjimdak and sample a few places til you’ve picked your favorite.

natty and steph at my fav jjimdak resto, the menu

If you do not live in Korea, that will be the hard part. I have been back from Korea for almost four years and in that time have been unable for find any restaurant that serves my beloved dish. Every time I meet a Korean food insider I ask, but to no avail I am still unsuccessful in my journey. At this point I’m considering flying back to the jjimdak homeland just to have a bite. If someone can tell me where to find some jjimdak in the tri-state, a dinner there for the two of us is on me.

what was left at the end of our meal

I have a sneaking suspicion my mission may not be completed so easily. In that case I guess I’ll have to attempt to make mine own. If you want to give it a whirl, here’s how:

Ingredients:
1 medium size chicken cut up (about 2 pounds of cut pieces)
2 medium potatoes
1 medium carrot
1/2 large onion
3 -4 mushroom caps (shittake, white, or baby bella)
2 scallions
3 – 4 dried whole red chili peppers (optional)
1 – 2 green chili peppers or jalapenos (optional)
3 ounces starch noodles

Sauce:
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/3 cup soy sauce (preferably dark) – use more if using light soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (if not available – use a little more soy sauce )
2 tablespoons rice wine (or mirin)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2-1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Soak the starch noodles in warm water while preparing the other ingredients for at least 20 minutes. Drain before using.

Clean the chicken and cut into small pieces (2 to 3-inch sizes). Trim off fat. Cut the vegetables into large chunks. Mix all the sauce ingredients up to the water. The last three ingredients are to be added at the end of the cooking process. Set aside.

In a large pot, place the chicken pieces in a single layer. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Add dried whole red chili peppers if using. Cover, bring to a boil, and cook over high heat for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and add the potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and onion. Continue to boil over high heat, covered, for an additional 10 minutes until the liquid is reduced to about 1/3. This seems like a lot, but the potato and starch noodles will soak up a lot of the liquid. Stir in the corn syrup, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. Gently mix in the green chili peppers (or jalapenos), scallions and starch noodles and continue to cook for an additional 2 – 3 minutes.

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