I love braised meats, even though it can tax one’s patience, especially when it comes to briaising short ribs, which takes a few hours over low heat as it perfumes the house with the savory delicious and unmistakably magnificent odor of beef stew. Braising is an inherently slow cooking process (as that’s pretty much the definition of “braising”): the meat cooks over a low heat with a small amount of liquid under a heavy (or tight fitting) lid. But the result is so fantastic: tender meat, infused with flavor, falling off the bone…and if you include them, a cadre of tender vegetables to boot.
But if you’re looking for something a little faster than Korean braised short ribs, thank goodness there’s a poultry category for braising. Still slow, but a bit faster, and oh so delicious too. Yes, there is a Korean braised chicken (“dak jjim”) dish.
Braised chicken was a staple dish of my childhood–my mom made several variations, one of which was a hybrid dish of Korean and Filipino (“chicken adobo”) chicken dishes. The one she made least was this spicy version, which I have come to love as an adult. It was, I guess, too spicy for us as children and so she crossed it off her food rotation, long after we had grown up and embraced hot and spicy flavors. (I don’t know why she didn’t just reduce the amount of hot pepper in the recipe–you can too, if you don’t like things too spicy).
Still, I wanted to bring this dish into my own home and into my rotation of family foods today. I have too many happy memories of plowing into chicken atop sticky rice for dinner on school nights and the voice of my mother ringing, “Yummy chicken!” as she would inevitably bring out a cookpot of steaming braised chicken.
When I spotted a picture of it on a friend’s flickstream, I immediately asked her “How did you make that?” Her answer was a casual, “Ack, like for all Korean food, there is no recipe,” and proceeded to give me the rundown of the ingredients she combined. And so I proceeded forth, armed with that list of ingredients, and the memory of flavors intact in my tastebuds. You too, can vary the dish (especially the vegetables) if you please, because as you now know, there is no exact recipe for Korean food.
The result was marvelous–a bit different from that of my friend’s dish (I added to her ingredient list, as well as substituted several items), but one that sent my tastebuds ringing with good childhood memories.
Recipe follows after the jump…
Korean Braised Chicken (Dak Jjim)
- chicken legs and thighs, bone in and skin left on (about 2-3 pounds)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon of Korean hot red pepper flakes (more if you like it spicier, less if you don’t)
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup rice wine or vermouth
- handful of sugar (I use white…but my friend uses brown sugar)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2-3 turnips or Korean radishes, peeled and cut into medium cubes (approx. 1″ x 1″)
- 1-2 potatoes cubed similarly to the radish/turnip
- 2-3 stalks of celery, chopped
- 3-4 carrots, chopped
- handful of dried shitake mushrooms (rehydrated) and halved or quartered
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped in large chunks
- a few stalks of green onion, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
- water (a few cups)
- Heat the vegetable oil over high heat until hot, in a large pan (I like to use my Le Creuset enameled iron braising pan). Add all the chicken in one layer and sear it on all sides until well browned.
- Add the vermouth/rice wine to deglaze the pan. And then add the garlic and onions until they are translucent. Then add all the vegetables.
- Add the rest of the ingredients (soy sauce, red pepper, sugar)–add water if the mixture looks a bit “dry”. Mix well, and then turn the heat to low, put the cover on, and let cook until the chicken falls off the bone and all the vegetables are tender.
- Serve over rice.