Join me as we take a trip to the world of Korean barbeque with this Dak Galbi recipe.
Dak Galbi or dak kalbi in its simplistic form is Korean barbequed chicken. The word galbi literally means “rib” but generally refers to grilled meat or barbeque. If you see the word galbi alone, it’s beef. The official name should be sogalbi where the “so” means beef, but it’s rarely used in that context since beef is assumed. On the other hand, galbi can also be made using pork or chicken. In that case, the prefix is added to indicate the type of meat, dwaeji galbi for pork or dak galbi for chicken.
Justice to the complexities of true Korean barbeque could never be served in just this one post. I’d be willing to bet, though…if you give this dak galbi recipe a try, you’ll want to know more.
The flavors in dak galbi are derived from a great marinade. While somewhat spicy, it’s not overpowering. The flavors are intense, but again, not overpowering. It’s a beautiful blend that all come together as one. Many American grill masters could learn from Korea’s technique instead of drowning good meat with heavy smoke and candy-coated sauces.
Typically, galbi is only marinated prior to grilling. I take the flavor up a notch by boiling the remaining marinade until slightly reduced and using it as a final basting sauce just prior to serving. Oh, yeah!
Another great thing about dak galbi is the varieties of ways it can be served. While I prefer boneless, skinless thighs, dak galbi can be made with any portion of the chicken. It can be served as whole pieces or cut into smaller pieces. Served over rice or noodles. Dak galbi is also commonly served in a lettuce wrap with a little rice and a dollop of the spicy Korean condiment, Ssamjang. May I also recommend a great side dish? Try our Korean Sugar Snap Peas recipe. They’re awesome!
Although most of the ingredients needed for dak galbi are readily available at most grocery stores, let me make a few points about some of the ingredients I use to make this dish great.
- Gochujang A Korean hot pepper paste. This condiment is essential to dak galbi and there really isn’t a decent substitute if you’re to stay authentic. Made from fermented soybeans, salt, red chili, and glutinous rice, gochujang is rich and spicy with a moderate heat. It is available in most Asian markets. (See my online list of suppliers below.)
- Asian Sesame Oil Look for toasted sesame oil. It’s darker in color and more pronounced in flavor than the light sesame oil. Asian sesame oil is fairly common in most grocery stores.
- Seasoned Rice Vinegar The “seasoned” part is really just a sweetener. This sweeter version of rice vinegar goes exceptionally well in the dak galbi marinade. You can substitute Mirin which is a Japanese sweet rice wine.
- Ginger Paste If you’d rather use fresh peeled ginger, great! I just keep the paste on hand for convenience.
- Sesame Seeds If you look closely, you may see black specks in my pics. Those are black sesame seeds. I prefer them at times over their white counterpart. I find them to be more “earthy” and robust in flavor. I might also use them for visual purposes. Use whichever kind you have on hand.
- Ssamjang Ssamjang is a spicy Korean dipping sauce. While it’s not necessary for this dak galbi recipe, it’s a lovely addition and I wouldn’t eat dak galbi without it. It’s available at Korean and some Asian markets, but I’ll turn you onto my personal recipe to make your own. It’s easy to make and tasty. You can find the recipe here.
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 cup green onion, thinly sliced on an angle
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar or mirin
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons Korean red chili pepper paste (gochujang)
- 3 teaspoons ginger paste, or equivalent fresh ginger
- pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper, or per taste
- toasted sesame seeds
- green onion, thinly sliced
- lettuce leaves
- white rice, preferably short-grain
- In a small mixing bowl, combine marinade ingredients and whisk until well blended.
- Clean chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Trim away any excess fat. (See note below.)
- In a resealable plastic storage bag or a non reactive container, combine chicken and marinade. Seal or cover and place in refrigerator. Allow to marinate for at least 2, but up to 12 hours.
- Prepare a grill for 2-zone cooking using medium-high heat. Be sure grill grates are cleaned and well oiled.
- Remove chicken from marinade and set aside.
- Pour remaining marinade in a small saucepan.
- Using medium heat, bring marinade to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer until marinade is slightly reduced. Remove from heat and set aside. (CAUTION: Never reuse a marinade that has had raw meat soaking in it unless it has been brought to a boil and allowed to simmer for at least 8 minutes!)
- Shake excess marinade from the chicken and place directly over the flames. Grill for about 8 minutes while flipping each 2 minutes. Continue to cook chicken until slightly charred and an instant-read meat thermometer registers 165°F (75°C).
- Move chicken to the cool side of the grill and baste both sides with the remaining marinade. Allow marinade to glaze over, about 2-3 minutes. Baste again and remove from grill. Cut into desired piece sizes, if needed and serve.
Alternately, chicken can be cooked on a stove top skillet, grill pan or wok. In that case, go ahead and trim the chicken to your desired size prior to adding it to the marinade. Heat a little vegetable oil in the pan and fry chicken until slightly browned and meat reaches a temperature of 165°F (75°C). Remove from heat and toss or brush on remaining marinade.