Hangul: 불닭; bool-dak
English Name: Spicy Chicken
Literal translation: Fire Chicken
Buldak, chicken that bites back! If your one of those who is fond of spicy food, this dish will be right up your alley. Grilled chicken covered in a thick sauce combine to give diners a sweet, tangy, and spicy experience sure to have every the resident tough guy guzzling water and sweating though his T-shirt.
The key to this dish is really the sauce. Gochugaru and gochujang are obvious key ingredients along with soy sauce, garlic and other savory additions. But if you’ve eaten other spicy Korean food, you’ll know there has to be another special ingredient responsible for the increased heat.
In a lot of cases, that special ingredient is Cheongyang chili pepper. This slightly altered version of gochu is named after the region in which it originated and tends to be hotter than those you normally see.
In addition to the spicy aspect, buldak has another characteristic that adds to its distinct taste. It is always grilled over an open flame to give it that “touched by fire” flavor which Koreans refer to as “bulmat”.
If you’re not particularly fond of punishing yourself, you can still partake in the dish by ordering milder versions. Restaurants will control intensity by limiting the number of peppers added or including other ingredients tteok or cheese.
Unlike other meals covered in previous SeoulWeaver Dish Descriptions, buldak doesn’t have a deep seeded history in Korea. In fact, the dish only became popular shortly after the turn of the century. Some site the countries financial woes a few short years earlier as a main contributors to the widespread popularity of the dish because Koreans tend to relieve stress by eating spicy food.
I am not terribly huge fan of spicy food and avoided buldak like the plague when it was most popular. However, I’ve seen so many buldak bokkem myun (aka “fire noodles” that are based on this dish) challenges on YouTube , I figured I’d take a trip to the nearest buldak restaurant and do the challenge with the actual meal. Here’s a link to how things went.