When I first visited Korea, a year and a half ago, I fell in love with a dish called dak galbi. The friends I was staying with were kind enough to let me drag them to eat it every few days. I was obsessed, and upon my return to Korea, the love I have for dak galbi has only gotten stronger. Dave is now equally as passionate about dak galbi as I am. I can’t imagine anyone not adoring it.
The restaurants that serve this dish are solely devoted to making dak galbi. The tables are equipped with a large round pan in the center and a gas burner underneath. The amount of table space you have is fairly limited and it is quite crowded if you go with more than three people, but certainly doable.
Basic dak galbi consists of marinated chicken, cabbage, green onions, potatoes, onions, ddeok, and the special red spicy chili sauce they marinate the chicken in. Ddeok are known as “rice cakes” in English, but they aren’t the crispy cracker-like rice cakes you are probably thinking of. They are solid, glutinous, penne pasta shaped, flavorless by themselves, and made from rice. We always order ramen and extra ddeok to go in our dak galbi. There are different things you can add to your dak galbi order, such as cheese, but Dave and I like our typical order so much that we haven’t tried to mix it up yet.
Dak galbi is spicy, in fact it’s probably just on the verge of being too spicy for me. Because of this, it is imperative that you drink beer while you eat this dish. Water doesn’t neutralize the spiciness as well as beer does. If I didn’t drink beer while eating dak galbi, I probably would never finish the meal.
If you are still hungry after you have finished the deliciousness in front of you, order some rice to soak up the yummy remnants stuck to the pan. The staff will scrape down the pan as they stir fry the rice with more spicy sauce. I’ve only been hungry enough at the end of dak galbi to do this once. Between the beer and the main course, I’m usually much too full to attempt to eat more. Dave and I haven’t been eating dak galbi every few days, but it’s definitely hard to get through the week without having it once. We’re addicted.