The origins of Andong jjimdak aren't set in stone, but the popular belief is that the braised chicken dish emerged in the city of Andong in Korea's Gyeongsangbuk-do province in the 1970s and 1980s, in response to the growing trend of fried whole chicken (tongdak) being sold in the food markets.
For the uninitiated, jjimdak is an irresistible braised chicken dish, made even better with the addition of potatoes, carrots, scallions, and glass noodles that help to soak up the sweet and savory sauce. The braising liquid is soy sauce-based, with sweetness coming from both sugar and either corn syrup or Korean oligo syrup (aka oligosaccharide), which helps give the dish a glossy finish. The addition of both dried and fresh chiles adds a nice heat to the jjimdak, which balances out the sweet.
There are several versions of jjimdak out there, with varying levels of spiciness and soupiness. Some versions include dried shiitake mushrooms; some contain slices of cucumber or small bunches of spinach. All this said, my take on jjimdak nods to the traditional, but veers from it in in a few notable ways:
1. It is on the mild side of the spectrum, leaning more heavily on the soy sauce and sugar, with just a hum of heat in the background from a couple of dried chiles. That said, you can adjust the heat level to suit your taste. If you decide to include fresh chiles, try to keep an eye out for the green Korean variety: Cheong gochu are longer and milder than cheongyang gochu, which are quite spicy. Otherwise, a jalapeño works as well.
2. It is a bit more “dry” and saucy, rather than soup-like with a lot of liquid.
3. I go off-roading and add a bit of balsamic vinegar for tangy sweetness and color. I’ve always enjoyed vinegared sweet and sour braises found in Chinese, Filipino, Italian, and French cooking, and took inspiration from them. But don’t worry, this does not taste like a vinaigrette chicken dish! The balsamic vinegar lends balance more than anything.
This recipe starts with the important Korean cooking technique of blanching the meat. Koreans will often blanch or parboil their bone-in proteins in dishes like this or galbi jjim (braised short ribs) before introducing the rest of the flavor components. This is said to remove impurities and scum from the meat, and give the dish a cleaner taste and look. I take this a step further and recommend that you remove the skin and excess fat from the chicken pieces as well before cooking the meat. (There’s no waste: I like to save the chicken skins for a tasty, salty pan-fried snack with beer afterwards!)
And even though this is at first blush all about the chicken, the unsung hero of the recipe is the potato, which soaks up all of the irresistible sauce as it softens. As jjimdak is bold-flavored and highly seasoned, be sure to have a pot of steaming white rice at the ready before you dig in. —Hana Asbrink
- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 35 minutes
- Serves 4
to 4 ounces dangmyeon, Korean cellophane/glass noodles made of sweet potato
2 1/2 pounds
to 3 pounds bone-in chicken (I like thighs and drumsticks), skin and excess fat removed
mirin or sake
oligo syrup or light corn syrup
dark brown sugar
freshly cracked black pepper, plus more for garnish
to 6 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
to 2 thin slivers fresh ginger
to 3 dried red chiles, cut into pieces if you like it spicier
firm potatoes, such as russet or Yukon Gold, peeled and quartered
medium carrot, peeled and cut into large chunks
small yellow onion, cut into large chunks
scallions, white and green parts both roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces
toasted sesame oil
toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
- In a deep baking dish or large bowl, cover the cellophane noodles in cold water and leave them to soak for at least 30 minutes while you prep your ingredients.
- Next, prep your chicken: Remove the skin and excess fat (save the skins for a tasty, salty pan-fried snack later). Cut the bone-in thighs in half, along the bone. Score the drumsticks with a knife in 2 or 3 spots on the fleshy part. Rinse with cold water, drain, and set aside.
- Bring a medium heavy-bottomed pot filled halfway with water to boil. While the water is coming to a boil, make the sauce: In a glass measuring cup or medium bowl, add all of the sauce ingredients. Whisk well until the brown sugar dissolves and everything is well combined. Set aside.
- Add chicken to the pot and blanch over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Drain the chicken and lightly rinse off any scum with cold water. Rinse your pot and return to the stovetop.
- To the pot, add the parboiled chicken, garlic, ginger, dried chile(s), and sauce. Add 1 cup of water to the pot and give everything a mix. Cook, partially covered, over medium-high heat for 15 minutes, stirring every so often.
- Remove the lid and add potatoes, carrot, and onion. Lower the heat to medium and cook, partially covered, for another 15 minutes, until the potatoes are nearly done. Gently stir occasionally as needed.
- Drain the soaked noodles. (Optional step: After they’ve soaked and drained, cut the noodles in half with scissors.) Add the drained noodles and scallions to the pot, pressing the noodles down into the sauce as best you can. Cook, fully covered, over medium-low heat for 2 to 3 more minutes.
- Remove the lid and garnish with sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, and freshly cracked black pepper. Enjoy hot with steamed white rice. Leftovers will taste even better the next day.