5 things you need to know about Korean dish buldak

Patricia Hului

Have you had buldak before? Buldak, or literally translated to “fire chicken” (bul means fire and dak translates as chicken) is a heavily spiced, barbecued chicken dish.

Unlike other Korean dishes like kimbap whose history can be traced back a hundred years, buldak is relatively new in the Korean cuisine.

Famous Korean food blogger Maangchi only came across it a few years ago when she found a truck on the street selling barbecued chicken.

The owner set up a homemade grill and barbecued huge chunks of chicken covered in a thick, spicy paste. Next to his truck, he put up a banner that said “buldak” and that was the first time Maangchi heard of the name.

So what is so interesting about buldak? Here are five things you should know about this Korean chicken dish.

Buldak topped with cheese.

1.It was a stress reliever during the economic downturn

Buldak became popular in South Korea reportedly during 2004. At that time, the country was going through long-term recession and economic downturn.

The people started to seek out spicy food in order to release their stress.

Since then, the dish gained in popularity and the country saw a rise in buldak franchise restaurants.

But is it true? Does spicy food helps to relieve stress? Apparently true. Spicy food boosts production of feel-good hormones such as serotonin. This can help to reduce stress and anger.

2.The patent dispute over the name

In April 2001, a company called Buwon Food filed a patent on ‘buldak’ claiming copyright to the name.

However, many opposed the move claiming the term is a general noun.

On Apr 30, 2008, the Korean patent court declared the term buldak is free for public use.

3.The ingredients

The general ingredients to make buldak are bite-sized chicken meat, gochujang (Korean chilli paste), gochutgaru (chili powder), soy sauce, jocheong (Korean starch syrup), garlic and ginger.

Maangchi suggested to use corn syrup, sugar or honey if there was no jocheong.

Other additional ingredients that can be added are sliced rice cake, mozzarella cheese and green onion.

4.It is the inspiration behind the famous buldak-inspired Korean ramen

Hot Chicken Flavour Ramen

The dish is the inspiration behind one of the most famous Korean instant noodles or ramyeon, Hot Chicken Flavour Ramen (buldak-bokkeum-myeon).

In 2014, the noodle became instantly viral when the main host of YouTube Channel “Korean Englishman”, Josh Carrott challenged his friends in the UK on who could finish the noodles. And they had to do it as fast as possible without drinking any water or beverages to fight the spiciness.

After that, many YouTubers took up the challenge, posting their videos attempting it in what mostly became known as The Fire Noodle Challenge.

The noodle is also became a hit among Muslim consumers after it obtained a halal certificate from the Korea Muslim Federation Halal Committee.

According to Korea Times in 2019, China is the biggest exporter of buldak ramyeon, accounting up to 50 per cent. This is followed by Southeast Asia, which accounts for about 35 per cent of the overseas market.

5.There is a buldak-inspired make up and toothpaste?

As this spicy ramyeon is inspired by buldak, this spicy ramyeon then inspired more unconventional products.

In 2018, South Korean cosmetic company Tonymoly launched a limited edition makeup line. And it was inspired by the famous ramyeon!

In collaboration with Samyang Food’s Buldak Spicy Chicken Ramen, the makeup line is based on the instant noodle’s packaging and the character.

The line includes the Hot Coverdak Cushion, a cushion-compact foundation that comes with a refill made to look like a sauce packet. A blusher called Noodle Blusher, which comes in a bright red called Bad Red and a super-pale pink called Carbolighter. Then, a lip balm called the Lip Care Stick as well as Lip Sauce Tint, which comes in Spicy Red and Cheese Red.

Everyone has to give it up to Samyang Food as they know how to constantly reinvent their products. Besides a makeup line, the company also released toothpaste and chewing gum inspired by their buldak ramyeon.

Watch where KajoMag team had their buldak in Kuching: