Addiction. I have without a doubt a serious Dak-gangjeong addiction. I am ashamed to admit that I have eaten this insanely delicious mutant mixture every day for the past two weeks. I just can’t stop, but to be honest I don’t want to stop. This dish just makes me so fucking happy. The restaurant owners laugh ever time they see me coming. I have tried many times to translate “addiction” to them, but the translation comes out as “poisoning”. I don’t want to confuse them anymore than I already have. Recently I have been paying more attention to how they are preparing and cooking this dish up,since I will be leaving to go home to Florida very soon and want to make this for myself and others. They have taken noticed and have assisted me more than I could have ever hoped for. One time, one of the owners actually called his son up at 8 a.m. in the morning to translate a recipe for me. Customer loyalty can go a long way, plus I’ve easily spent 400$ over the past few months. Maybe they feel more in debt to me than I them.
Dak-gangjeong is a unique fusion of eastern and western cuisine, although admittedly much more eastern. The dish consists of fried yummy chicken bits bathed in a sweet, tangy, and spicy sauce. It is occasionally served with tteok, rice cakes. The combination of the flavors and textures is truly a new experience. The chicken sauce has some strong heat to it. It will make you sweat to say the least. Although there is some fire to it, there is also a nice sweet tinge. The sauce reminds me of General Tso’s chicken sauce. This syrup-like sauce is glazed over the chicken and tteok. Imagine firey- hot thin molasses with some chicken tossed in and you will have the general idea of this dish. It may be one of the most unhealthy dishes I have had in South Korea, but it is also one of the most delicious. I guess you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Even though the sauce is spectacular, I think the true star of this dish is the chicken. Dak-gangjeong is not made with chunks of deep fried chicken, instead it is made up grounded chicken mixed with grinded down gangjeong (강정). Gangjeong is a mixture of glutenous rice, honey and malt then this mixture is boiled down and a cereal is added. It is a low-calorie snack that is quite delicious on its own, but I never would have thought that if mixed with chicken and a sweet-spicy sauce, it would take you to heaven and back. The mixture of chicken and gangjeong creates a strange paste that must be flung into the fryer. Strange or not, this dish has raised my quality of life.
I have always believed there is magic in food. The way a dish can brighten a day for both the eater and cooker is uncommon, but what doesn’t stand out to us is that some meals can actually create relationships, friendship and bonds. This simple, yet elegant dish has given me new friends, a glimpse into a new culture, and new ideas of what food can be. There is no doubt that this dish has changed the way I look at food and, indirectly life. I wonder when I go home and attempt to make this dish for family and friends if it will bring them as much joy as it has brought me. Even if I fail at my attempt and others do not see the light, I have found real truth in Dak-gangjeong.