Korean Braised Chicken Thighs with Root Vegetables
Let me state from the start: this dish is spicy! It made me flush while eating it but most spicy foods make me flush a little. I didn’t think the kids would enjoy it because of the spiciness but both did.
My youngest daughter Maddie had a bad cold so maybe that’s why she enjoyed it. It was the first meal in days that she could actual taste or at least taste the spices. You could tone it down by reducing or eliminating the spicy but then how could you call it “Spicy” Braised Chicken?
The two spicy ingredients in this dish are red pepper flakes and gochujang. We are all familiar with red pepper flakes, you know, the stuff you add to recipes to bump up the hot level or sprinkle on a pizza -- but what about gochujang?
I've never heard of it before trying this recipe and we were lucky to find some at our local farmer’s market; but it is also available at Amazon.com.
Gochujang is a Korean red pepper paste made from red chili, rice, fermented soybeans and salt. It is believed it was first used in Korea sometime in the 18th century. Traditionally, it was fermented in large earthen jars in people’s backyards but now most people are buying a commercial version of it.
When I first pulled the cover off the package, I noticed a very dark, reddish paste that looked hot and spicy but after tasting it, I noticed a little sweetness too. That may be from a little sugar or honey that’s added to give it a bit of sweetness.
Besides potatoes, carrots and onions, this recipe uses another root vegetable called kohlrabi. I don’t remember ever cooking with or eating kohlrabi but is in the same family as cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
Its taste is similar to the stem of broccoli only sweeter. I learned from my Facebook friends kohlrabi can be eaten cooked or raw and the stems can be sautéed and served.
If you are not familiar with braising, it is a technique where you slowly cook ingredients with a small amount of liquid in a covered pot in the oven or on the stove top. A great technique for tough cuts of meat but just as good with fish, poultry or vegetables. You can learn more about braising in my post, How to Braise Everything.
This recipe was adapted from the one we found in the newspaper and comes from Korean chef Hooni Kim who has two restaurants in New York City. He recommends in the article to “let the dish rest before serving - overnight, if possible.”
I agree and find with many braises or slow cooked meals, they taste better the next day. I also noticed this dish didn’t seem as hot the next day. Even though I say braising is a slow- cooked technique, this dish only takes 35 minutes to prepare and cook.
Yes, it is possible to “slow cook fast” when the ingredients are cut up into small pieces so they cook fast. It’s sort of like a stir fry but instead of cooking in oil, this dish is cooked in chicken stock.
One other exception, the original recipe does not call for covering the pot when cooking. I’m not sure if this disqualifies it from being a braise but next time I prepare this dish, I’m going to cover the pot right after I return the chicken to the pot and see if the results are the same or different.
Spicy Braised Chicken Recipe
- 2½ pounds chicken thighs boneless skinless , cut up into bite-sized pieces
- salt and pepper freshly ground
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 medium potatoes peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 2 medium carrots peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 2 small kohlrabi peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger minced
- 1 cup sake Japanese rice wine made from fermented rice
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons gochujang
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes less to reduce spiciness
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 scallions thinly sliced for garnish (optional)
- cooked white rice for serving dish with
- Start by heating a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. While the pot is heating up, season the chicken with salt and pepper.
- Once the Dutch oven is hot, add oil and let it heat up some before adding the chicken pieces. Sear the chicken pieces until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot with a slotted spoon and reserve.
- Add the potatoes, carrots, kohlrabi, onions, garlic and ginger to the pot. Stir.
- Add the sake, raise the heat to high and scrape up any brown bits left in the pan from browning the chicken. Cook for a few minutes until the alcohol in the sake burns off.
- Add the chicken stock, gochujang, red pepper flakes, soy sauce and sugar. Give the pot a stir and bring it to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium.
- Add the reserved chicken back into the pot, stir and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. This should take about 15 minutes.
- We served this dish in bowls because of the lovely, fragrant (spicy) broth the ingredients are cooked in.
- Add rice to the bowl, cover with chicken and vegetables and then spoon in some of the broth. Top with the sliced scallions and serve. Or if you can, wait a bit before serving to let all the flavors meld together and then serve.