20 (Sun) June 2010
Dak Galbi (WHAT)
at Ongjanggol (WHERE)
-Gapyeong, Gyeonggi, Korea-
with MtG, various members of Backcountry Camping
On our way home after two nights at Peace Dam (see previously 1.165 Grilled Milk Chicken), we had dinner together at a restaurant specializing in dak galbi.
Dak galbi is a Korean dish. Chunks of boneless chicken (dak) – even though “galbi = ribs” – with onions/cabbage/zucchini/mushrooms/etc, sometimes kimchi, sometimes rice cakes and/or noodles, marinated in gochujang (고추장), stir-fried in a large iron skillet or other flat cooking surface, where rice will be added at the end and fried in the remaining oil and tidbits to finish off the meal. Ther dish bears no resemblance to galbi involving beef or pork.
I don’t like dak galbi much. It’s usually too spicy. It takes too long to cook the chicken through. During that time, constant stirring is required to prevent sticking and burning. In the event of ordering additional portions, the raw ingredients are thrown into the same skillet, resulting in a chaos of chicken pieces that are of varying degrees of doneness internally though indistinguishable from the outside. And I’ve never been a big fan of the fried rice thing; I’ve never understood the attraction of eating rendered fat and blackened veggies.
That said, the dak galbi at this place is worth the trip. Each table, which comfortably seats 8, is essentially an immense brick oven with a stone cooking surface on top and a wood-burning furnace underneath. The wood comes directly from the surrounding land, which is owned by the proprietor. As for the food, the chicken is perfectly seasoned and balanced between spicy and sweet. Instead of the typical raw veggies, they use kimchi, which adds depth. To keep the flavors consistent throughout the meal, the nifty table design allows for the oil and burned excess to be scraped off into a refuse gutter – nice. They do the fried rice thing, of course, but it’s light and clean, seasoned on its own. If the food itself weren’t enough, their own brand of “wine,” homemade from pine needles but, somehow, tastes like lemonade, is the perfect accompaniment to the spicy chicken. Awesome.