Spicy Braised Chicken (Ddak Jjim)
My grandparents used to run a small restaurant in their own home nestled in their quaint mountain village. They were often visited by famished tourists or business men who were ready to let loose with some soju and karaoke. I remember peering behind the sliding doors and giggling at ruddy-faced grown men dancing about to the outdated songs on the karoake machine in the dining room, beating silver spoons to the tables. My grandparent’s humble little restaurant had a specialty- chicken. The happily raised feathered darlings were killed and prepared fresh the day of, making their establishment highly sought after. One of the most popular dishes was a dish called ddak dori tang, a bubbling spicy stew made from cut up bone-in chicken, potatoes and carrots. It was served up in a shallow pot over a portable butane gas stove right at the table, ladled out into bowls while it was piping hot and bubbling over the sides.
Reminiscing on that dish, I decided to make a simplified version without compromising any of the flavor for busy weekday dinners. I am not using bone-in chicken in this dish to minimize cook and prep time and using chicken thighs instead. I highly recommend chicken thighs over white meat since it is more flavorful and maintains tenderness even after being braised in liquid. I used a very wide (12 in.) stainless steel skillet with a lid for cooking this dish and I recommend you use something like this as well. This is for optimal reduction of the braising liquid. This is a great dish to make ahead as well, and tastes even better after reheating it.
Prep time: 45 minutes
Serves : 3 to 4
1.5 lbs chicken thigh meat, cut up into bite-sized chunks (1 to 2 inches)
2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly cut up into chunks (~1 cup)
1 medium onion, cut into wide slices (~1.5 cups)
10 golden baby potatoes, skin on but trimmed off of any black spots
2 Korean peppers, sliced
2 cups Korean perilla leaves, washed and hand torn into small pieces
2 tbl vegetable oil
1.5 cups water
Sliced green onions for garnish (optional)
(For the seasoning paste)
3 tbl gochujang
2 tbl gochugaru
1 tbl soy sauce
1 tbl sesame oil
3 garlic cloves minced (1 tbl)
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
How to make it
Bring a small pot of water to a boil, adding in a generous pinch of salt. This is to boil your potatoes for 7 minutes. After boiling, immerse in cold water to stop the cooking process and drain off excess water in colander. Set aside.
While your water is boiling this is a good time to prep your chicken and veggies and seasoning paste.
3. To make your paste combine gochujang, gochugaru, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
4. Heat your skillet over medium high heat until hot or it becomes warm to the touch if your palm is placed a few inches above the skillet. Add in vegetable oil.
5. Once your oil becomes very shiny and shimmery add in your chicken, evenly distributing them across your skillet with space in between them so they can achieve a good golden sear on each side. Sear each side for about 5 minutes, or until crispy and golden.
6. Add in your potatoes, onions, pepper and carrots. Stir well until well combined. Then add in your water.
7. Add in your seasoning paste, stirring into the water but you don’t need to get too into this since the seasoning will evenly distribute anyway during the simmering process.
8. Bring your liquid to a strong simmer then cover partially with a lid. Lower your heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
9. Halfway during cooking, stir around the veggies and chicken to ensure even cooking and flavor absorption.
10. After 30 minutes, remove lid and bring back up the heat to medium high. Once liquid is at a strong simmer again, throw in your sesame leaves and stir them in.
11. Turn off and remove the skillet from heat. Garnish with sliced green onions and serve piping hot.