Dakjjim- Andong Style (Korean Braised Chicken)
The first time I ever tried Andong dakkjjim (which means braised chicken) was on a business trip in Gangnam, South Korea. My host took me to a small little restaurant with lacquered wooden tables and requested an order right away. He demanded one order, moderately spicy, but oddly still formal in the usual Korean way of requesting service.
"I bet they don't have Korean food like this over in the States miss!" said the twenty something Korean businessman assuredly. I just nodded my head politely.
The waitress shouted to the kitchen "one order of dakjjim, spicy!" over to the kitchen and soon after our table was laden with a HUGE steaming platter of braised dark meat chicken swimming in a dark and sweet soy sauce. I was mesmerized by the glossy sweet potato noodles weaving throughout the chicken and root vegetables. The dish was garnished with sliced cucumber as well, which I didn't really care for but I could not get enough of the soft carrots, bursting with flavor from the sauce.
I wasn't used to eating Korean chicken dishes without the use of spice from gochugaru or gochujang. This mild yet flavor-packed dish left a lasting impression on me though.
In fact there was a subtle heat from the addition of dried chiles, but seeing that you could order the dish with your preferred level of spice, this dish does not necessarily have to be spicy at all.
My host explained the dish to me a bit as we ate:
"So this dish is from Andong, do you know where that is? Andong is a city well-known for their historical museums, you know like you see in sageuks (historical Korean films)? They are known for milder seasoning and using lots of ganjang. They even eat their bibimbap with ganjang. This dakkjjim is very popular from that region and now everyone makes it! Even here in Gangnam," he said chuckling.
I nodded my head again politely as I bit into tender pieces of dark meat chicken and spooned some of the dark sauce over my hot rice. I gnawed at the cartilage on the bone that had softened and were pleasantly gelatinous. The only banchan was perhaps some kimchi and radish pickles. My sense of awkward formality became less uncomfortable as we ate. Eventually our table was filled with laughter and mini English/Korean lessons.
Zoom out to a table seating two young Koreans, raised in two different cultures, born in Seoul yet sharing a rural-ish dish from a distant and historical Korean town. How ironic it was a single dish drew a connection between us, which simply began with an appreciation for good food.
(Serves about 4)
2.5 lbs bone-in dark meat chicken (I used drumsticks and thigh meat)
1 large carrot, cut into rounds
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 dried shiitake mushroom caps
6 oz dangmyun or sweet potato noodles
3 green onions, sliced into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup soy sauce (preferably yangjo type Korean soy sauce)
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/4 cup mirin
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons brown rice syrup
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2.5 cups water
3 dried chili, seeds in (optional)
3 dashes of angostura bitters (optional)
black pepper to taste
Soak noodles in lukewarm water. Set aside.
Prepare your sauce. Combine soy sauce, hoisin, mirin, garlic, ginger, sugar, syrup, sesame oil, bitters and whisk. Adjust sweetness accordingly, to your taste.
Season chicken with black pepper. Sear chicken in a pan heated over medium high heat with a neutral tasting oil. Place seared chicken in your shallow casserole pot/dutch oven. Add in shiitake, chili, onions and carrots. Spoon sauce over chicken and veggies. Add in water and bring to a boil.
Skim off any scum that surfaces. Once boiling turn down heat to low heat to a gentle simmer. Cover with lid and let cook undisturbed for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, add in your potatoes. Cover and let simmer again for another 15 minutes or once potatoes are cooked through.
Pull noodles from water and add to the pot, spooning hot sauce over the noodles. Cover again and simmer another 10 minutes or until sauce has thickened and the noodles are translucent. Add in green onions. Serve hot as a main course.
Common garnishes are cucumber slices, toasted sesame seeds and um, melty white cheese. Yeah, it's a thing.