Korean Fire Chicken (Cheese Buldak)

I call this fire chicken “Korean pizza”. It features chunky, juicy chicken swamped in a chili sauce with chewy rice cakes and melty cheese. It contains all the essence of a pizza and it’s addictively good. It’s extremely easy to put together and takes no time to make. If you’re looking for a quick one-pan dinner recipe, look no further! {Gluten-Free adaptable}

Buldak with strechy cheese

I had never heard of Korean Cheese Buldak, or Fire Chicken, until I came across it in a recipe by Maangchi. It’s one of my favorite Korean blogs and my go-to place whenever I’m researching a Korean dish. When I saw the arresting colors and the tantalizing ingredients, I knew I had to try my hand at it.

From the appearance alone, this authentic Korean street food recipe could be mistaken for an upscale Italian dish. Perhaps it is because of all the gooey cheese involved. But don’t be fooled, this is actually a pretty modern addition. The creamy cheesiness balances out what is in no way an exaggeration: the epic fierceness of the chicken!

I’m not sure if the “fire” in the name comes from the way it was historically cooked over a flame pit, or from the hefty amounts of mind-blowing Korean chili flakes and chili paste. Probably both, but either way, if you are expecting something mild, think again!

Korean fire chicken with cheese

Maangchi’s new cookbook

I just love how Maangchi has upgraded this timeless Korean classic into a truly modern masterpiece. Like so many recipes in her fantastic new book, Maangchi’s Big Book of Korean Cooking: From Everyday Meals to Celebration Cuisine, it conjures up images of community parties and festive spirits. More importantly, her recipes are so approachable and easy to make for home cooks. Such as this cheese buldak. I can’t believe how easy it was to put together when I was cooking, and the result was absolutely delicious.

As the definitive expert on Korea’s food-crazy culture, Maangchi is one of YouTube’s most popular chefs. Her output spans from age-old Buddhist meals to internationally-influenced street food served up in Seoul. She’s an incredible artist whose cooking transcends eras. I am so inspired by the way that she does everything herself, including all the content in her book. Just watch any of her videos to see how effortlessly cool she is — quirky, fun, and super passionate about sharing Korean food with the world.

Cheese buldak in a pan

How to cook cheese buldak

Of course, there’s no need to worry if you don’t have a fire pit at home. Maangchi has adapted all of her recipes to be made easily in any modern-day Western kitchen. I was blown away by this Cheese Buldak, and I know you will be too!

To cook cheese buldak:

  • Mix the spices in a bowl. Add the chicken and coat it with the spices.
  • Lightly saute the rice cakes to crisp them up, so it creates a chewy texture.
  • Cook the chicken mixture. Add the rice cakes. Cook a bit more until the chicken is cooked. The whole process will be done in under 15 minutes.
  • Add the cheese and melt it under the broiler, 3 minutes.

That’s it!

Cooking Korean fire chicken step-by-step

Can you believe how easy it is to make the dish? And the result is so good that I could eat the whole pot in one sitting.

Cooking notes

1. What pan to use

It’s important to pick the correct pan for this dish. It should be oven-safe (if you plan to melt the cheese using the broiler) and just big enough to hold all the ingredients.

I used a 10” Finex cast iron pan (smaller than a 10” round pan) and it was the perfect size. A 9” round pan is perfect for the dish, as well. You can use a 10” pan, but the chicken will form a very thin layer. Avoid using a pan bigger than 10”, because the chicken won’t be enough to cover the bottom of the pan completely.

What if you only have larger pans? The best solution is to double the recipe. The result is so good that I could finish the whole thing myself. If you want to cook enough for 4 people or have some leftovers (they hold up well), making a bigger batch is the way to go.

If you do not have an oven-safe pan, no worries! Keep reading and see how to melt the cheese without using a broiler.

2. Favorite cuts

Although the original recipe calls for chicken breast, I used chicken thighs and I loved how it turned out.

A side note to myself, I think this dish is perfect for seafood, as well. I’d totally replace the chicken with shrimp (or fish, or squid, or a bit of everything!) and make it again and again!

3. How to melt cheese without a broiler

Once you spread the cheese (step 6), cover the pan again and let it cook on the stove top until the cheese melts. It’s that simple! I know, it’s more perfect when the cheese is lightly browned (like on pizza!). But if you don’t have a broiler, melting the cheese on the stove top will create a great result, as well.

4. How to serve Korean fire chicken

The Korean fire chicken is a perfect standalone dish. Especially after slightly increasing the amount of rice cakes in the recipe, I think it has the perfect amount of protein and carbs to serve as a one-pan meal. However, if you want to make your meal more substantial, you can serve it with some steamed rice (or bread) to soak up the sauce.

A simple veggie side or appetizer would also be a great addition to the meal, to make it healthier. For example, Chinese pickled cabbage, easy cucumber salad, Chinese coleslaw, four-ingredient fried cabbage or fried okra are great options.

Cheese buldak close-up

More delicious Korean recipes

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

Korean Fire Chicken (Cheese Buldak) - It features chunky, juicy chicken swamped in a chili sauce with chewy rice cakes and melty cheese. It contains all the essence of a pizza and it’s addictively good. It’s extremely easy to put together and takes no time to make. If you’re looking for a quick one-pan dinner recipe, look no further! {Gluten-Free adaptable}

Korean Fire Chicken (Cheese Buldak)

I call this fire chicken “Korean pizza”. It features chunky, juicy chicken swamped in a chili sauce with chewy rice cakes and melty cheese. It contains all the essence of a pizza and it’s addictively good. It’s extremely easy to put together and takes no time to make. If you’re looking for a quick one-pan dinner recipe, look no further! {Gluten-Free adaptable}
The recipe is slightly adapted from the Cheese Buldak from Maangchi’s Big Book of Korean Cooking: From Everyday Meals to Celebration Cuisine.
It yields two big servings, or 4 small servings if you intend to serve it with various other dishes, family style. Although I could eat the whole thing myself. Double the recipe if you need to serve 4 people, or if you want leftovers (believe me, you want leftovers).
To make the dish gluten-free, use tamari or coconut aminos to replace the soy sauce. Make sure the Gochujang brand you use is gluten-free.
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main
Cuisine: Korean
Keyword: comfort food
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 2 to 4 servings
Calories: 466kcal
Author: Maggie Zhu

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Korean hot pepper flakes gochu-garu (*Footnote 1)
  • 2 tablespoons Gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil , seperated
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (*Footnote 2)
  • 3 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger , minced
  • 1 lb (450 g) boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts) , cut to 3/4” (2 cm) cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (use 1/4 teaspoon if using shredded cheese) (*Footnote 3)
  • 1/3 cup mochi rice cakes , sliced (*Footnote 4)
  • 8 oz. (225 g) mozzarella cheese , sliced thin (or shredded mozzarella cheese)

Instructions

  • Combine the hot pepper flakes, hot pepper paste, soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, black pepper, sugar, garlic, and ginger in a large bowl. Mix well. Add the chicken. Mix with a spoon until it’s evenly coated.
  • Heat a medium-sized oven-safe skillet (*Footnote 5) over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and the rice cakes. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, turning with a spatula, until the edges of the rice cakes turn light golden. Transfer the rice cakes to a small bowl.
  • Add the chicken, salt, and 1/4 cup of water into the same skillet. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 8 minutes.
  • Add the rice cakes and stir to mix well. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked.
  • While the chicken is cooking, preheat the broiler in the oven, with the rack positioned on the middle level.
  • Spread the mozzarella cheese over the chicken. Transfer the skillet into the oven under the broiler. Broil until the cheese is melted completely, bubbling and lightly charred. You should keep an eye on it closely. It took me 3 minutes to melt the cheese, but you should check on it every minute or two.
  • Remove the skillet from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes to let the cheese set. Serve hot as a main dish.
  • The dish can be made in advance and warmed up in a 350 °F (176 °C) oven. You can heat up the leftovers in the microwave or in the oven.

Notes

  1. It might sound like a lot of chili pepper flakes. But as long as you use the Korean chili flakes, the result won’t be too spicy. If you do not have Korean chili flakes, I would use a combination of paprika and some other type of chili flakes as an alternative. The blend will depend on the type of chili powder you use and the desired spiciness. As a general guide, I would use 3 tablespoons of paprika powder, and 1 tablespoon or less of chili flakes (or powder).
  2. Maangchi’s recipe calls for 1/4 cup of rice syrup or 3 tablespoons of sugar. I’ve tried both but ended up liking the result made with sugar more. Rice syrup is hard to find and can be expensive, even in a grocery store. So I highly recommend you save yourself the trouble and use sugar instead.
  3. The original recipe doesn’t use any salt. However, I think the salt is very important to bring out the flavor of the chicken and sauce. You should use less salt if using shredded cheese, which usually tastes saltier than fresh mozzarella.
  4. The original recipe calls for 3 ounces of rice cake, which is only a few slices. I love the rice cake texture in the dish and increased the amount.
  5. I used a 10” Finex cast iron pan (smaller than a 10” round pan) and it was the perfect size. A 9” round pan is perfect for cooking this dish, as well. You can use a 10” pan, but the chicken will form a very thin layer. Avoid using a pan bigger than 10”, because the chicken won't be enough to cover the bottom of the pan completely.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 466kcal | Carbohydrates: 17.7g | Protein: 39.8g | Fat: 26.2g | Saturated Fat: 9.6g | Cholesterol: 101mg | Sodium: 875mg | Potassium: 213mg | Fiber: 1.1g | Sugar: 10.6g | Calcium: 58mg | Iron: 1mg
Korean Fire Chicken (Cheese Buldak) - It features chunky, juicy chicken swamped in a chili sauce with chewy rice cakes and melty cheese. It contains all the essence of a pizza and it’s addictively good. It’s extremely easy to put together and takes no time to make. If you’re looking for a quick one-pan dinner recipe, look no further! {Gluten-Free adaptable}

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Omnivore's Cookbook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
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Meet Maggie

Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my New York kitchen.

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4 thoughts on “Korean Fire Chicken (Cheese Buldak)

  1. Kat

    What kind of rice cake are you using and where did you buy it? To me, “rice cake” is that very crunch, dry almost cracker cake made from puffed rice. This looks like some kind of soft thing that you can slice. Looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it!!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Kat, these are Korean rice cakes that are made with glutinous flour and water. They are hard when it’s uncooked, but turns chewy after cooking. You can find them in Korean and Asian market, usually at freezer section or sometimes you can find fresh ones at refrigerated section. You can also find them on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2L5vWS7
      Happy cooking!

      Reply