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Dak-galbi: South Korea’s most fascinating dish

(CNN) — While all eyes are on South Korea’s Gangwon Province for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, the promise of spicy, stir-fried South Korean rooster has turned our gaze to the regional capital of Chuncheon.

As the area’s most widespread dish, dak-galbi is a type of warming winter meals that is greatest shared with the complete household.

Prepared atop a cast-iron skillet within the middle of the desk, the jumble of elements consists of marinated rooster, cabbage, candy potatoes, perilla leaves (from the mint household) and tteok bokki (Korean rice muffins) — all topped with candy and spicy gochujang sauce (a fermented Korean chili paste).

But dak-galbi is not only a low cost, ubiquitous meal. Emerging within the 1960s after the Korean War, “commoner’s galbi” has change into a logo of town’s resilience.

“I hope people don’t come to Chuncheon just to eat dak-galbi without understanding its history,” Choi Jeong-Yern, proprietor of a second-generation dak-galbi restaurant in Chuncheon, tells CNN Travel.

“I hope people learn that Chuncheon’s iconic dish was created out of the pain that people carried after the war. This is a local food that has a history and a story.”

The dak-galbi story

On June 25, 1950, the Korean War started with the Battle of Chuncheon, the place a sequence of assaults all however leveled town.

“After the war, chicken farms became the livelihood of people who were poor and almost begging on the streets,” says Jeong-Yern. “There was agony and pain, even after the conflict was over.”

During this darkish period, dak-galbi was a cheerful discovery. The dish made use of low cost, copious elements, creating one thing comforting and communal that introduced individuals collectively.

“This is a local food that has a history.”

Joeng-Yern Choi, dak-galbi restaurant proprietor

“The story of dak-galbi started from a couple who were running a popular pork restaurant in the 1960s,” Park Sung-Soo, a Chuncheon tradition tour information, tells CNN Travel.

“One day, they ran out of pork and determined to make use of rooster, which was cheaper and extra plentiful. They stir-fried the rooster in the identical approach because the pork, and the dish was a success.

“Other individuals began serving the identical dish, one after one other, and ultimately there have been many dak-galbi eating places in Chuncheon.”

Where to seek out it

A stir-fried chicken dish, "dak galbi" is best enjoyed in the northeastern city of Chuncheon.

A stir-fried rooster dish, “dak galbi” is greatest loved within the northeastern metropolis of Chuncheon.

Graham Holliday

Dalk-galbi turned so symbolic of Chuncheon that town devoted a whole highway — MyeongDong Dakgalbi Street — to the purveyors.

Travelers can wander the fragrant lane, selecting between tiny family-run eating places.

Even although there are dozens of eating places on MyeongDong Dakgalbi Street, Jeong-Yern says each has its personal fashion.

“Every restaurant in this historic alley contributes its own special taste to the dish,” she notes.

“Our restaurant’s dak-galbi is light and not too spicy, which is something we’re proud of. I think of dak-galbi as my own history. My parents started this restaurant, handed it to me, and now my son will run this place after me.”

How to eat it

The dak-galbi expertise is interactive, and infrequently messy, therefore the optionally available aprons offered at most eating places.

Usually, eating places present a cast-iron plate constructed into the center of the desk, the place teams can stir-fry the mess of elements collectively.

“Dak-galbi has a common taste that every member of the family can enjoy,” says Jeong-Yern. “This iron plate dak-galbi has a bonus of many individuals with the ability to share it.

“That’s why everybody likes it … It’s a style that is good for group eating, and even little children can eat this.”

Some benefit from the combination by itself utilizing chopsticks, others wish to wrap it up inside perilla and lettuce leaves to devour it like a taco.

“Part of the enjoyable is cooking with your loved ones. When you eat the meat itself, you’ll be able to benefit from the style and tenderness of the rooster,” says Jeong-Yern.

“But while you wrap the mat within the lettuce, it comes collectively as a brand new style. I might describe it as refreshing — it is one other approach to get pleasure from dak-galbi.”

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