Korean Spicy Chicken (chiken?)

In NYC there are food establishments I call mega-delis.  These monstrosities serve everything you’d expect: sandwiches, soups and salads, but also a few things you wouldn’t: sushi, pizza, udon, smoothies, mongolian BBQ, etc.  Unfortunately more effort seems to be spent on managing how to get people in and out as fast as possible instead of making great grub.  They make Mickey Dee’s look like slow food.

Well, right near work, we have a mega-deli that also has a small Korean counter in the back.  It’s always mobbed with people waiting, so I decided to give it a shot.  I went for #2: “Spicy Chiken” (sic) and in 30 seconds a steaming container was shoved at me with a little kimchi for good measure.  When I got back to my desk, I cracked it open and gave it a taste.  Wow, this stuff was great!  Like, sell drugs to pay for Spicy Chiken great.  While I’ll only admit to eating it 3 times that week, it may have been more.  Dominating the dish was a really distinctive taste that I couldn’t place, a super-umami flavor and a slightly gritty, but not unpleasant mouthfeel.  It wasn’t really all that “spicy”, the mega-deli legal team must have forced a disclaimer.  The only downside is that occasionally the chiken was swimming in a puddle of grease.  Since it wasn’t consistently greasy (greazy?), it must be related to where in the big pile they scooped from.

Just like my old friend and obsession street meat, I needed to learn to make this.  There was no Korean name listed for this dish, just “Spicy Chiken“.  How do I find that?  Where do I start?  Wouldn’t  it have been really great if the googster said “Did you mean Spicy Chiken?” when I looked it up with the proper spelling?  In either case, I think I found the missing link.   Repeatedly, a fermented pepper paste called gochujang kept cropping up.  I checked my local Korean fruit and vegetable stand, and they had no idea what I was talking about.  Most likely they know what it is, it’s seemingly in every recipe like some kind of Korean ketchup.  If only I could pronounce it correctly.

Finally, when checking a local asian grocery store, Nicole and I located the elusive sauce in the refrigerated section.  At least I think we found it, the label is all in Korean but the letters and jar shape match the picture in wikipedia.  The closest way I could describe the taste would be a blend of miso paste and roasted red peppers.

If I ever do get to name a sports team, it will have to be “The Chujangs”, because I walk around the kitchen chanting as if its my favorite sports team: goooo —- chujangs!   No wonder Nicole thinks I am nuts.

Anyway, after a few tries, I think I have it down:

Ingredients:

(Serves 2, but scales well)
  • 10 oz chicken breasts, chopped or ground (see Engineering Weeknight Meals)
  • 1 red onion, or 2-3 shallots, sliced from root to tip (hard to explain, but not into rings)
  • 1 bunch of scallions, sliced
  • 6 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced.  You don’t have to use this kind of mushroom, but hey, shiitake happens.
  • 1 stalk broccoli, chopped.
  • 2-3 teaspoons sesame seeds.  I use a mix of white and black ones, just ’cause it looks cooler.
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (sweetened sake).  If you don’t have mirin you could probably fake it out with 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar.
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of gochujang (gooooo-chujangs!)

Directions

  • Make the white rice in your favorite manner.  I like my new 5 minutes in a pressure cooker trick.
  • Use a little non-stick spray, and crank up the heat in a large pan.  If you don’t care about calories a little peanut oil would be better.
  • Stir fry up the mushrooms
  • Add the chicken (chiken?) and when seared (but still raw)
  • Add all the veggies
  • When everything is almost done, add the soy sauce, mirin and gochujang (you know what to say at this point, don’t you?)
  • Stir it around really quick and remove from heat.  The gochujang should thicken up the remaining liquid a bit.
  • Serve over the rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds

Gooooo–Chujangs!!!

PS:  If you know how to pronounce gochujang can you clue me in?