I was in Korea about a month ago and an aunt mentioned this dish to me in passing. Although I was instantly intrigued, I left the country without getting to try it and it’s haunted me ever since.
Padak comes from the Korean words pa which means spring onion and dak which means chicken. Coincidentally, padak is also the Korean onomatopoeia for flapping wings so that’s a cute touch. It seemed like a dish well-liked by everyone. My aunt’s kids were having it delivered for dinner but a quick search online revealed that it was also a popular dish in bars. It was also during said quick search that I learned the pa in padak is not spring onions but leeks. There are slight variations to the dish, mostly on the sauce, but I narrowed it down to a preparation that I thought I’d like. I was done losing sleep over padak.
For my first ever padak, I used:
6 chicken breast halves
1/2 T salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper
2 T rice wine/mirin
a heaping 1/2 cup of potato starch (you can substitute with cornstarch)
1/2 a medium onion
About 4 cups canola/peanut oil for frying
For the Asian dressing:
1 T soy sauce
1 T oyster sauce
1 T mustard
1 t minced garlic
1 t grated ginger
1 t Korean chili powder (gochugaru, available in Korean grocery stores)
1 1/2 T vinegar
2 T rice wine/mirin
1/2 T sugar
3 bird’s eye chilies
a dash of freshly ground pepper
1. Cut the chicken breast halves into bite-size pieces. You can use different chops of bone-in chicken if you want but after having tried this dish, I recommend the nuggets. Season with rice wine, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside to marinate for 20 minutes.
2. While the chicken is marinating, thinly slice the onion and leeks. Leeks are such a big part of the Korean diet and are very often eaten as a slaw or salad dressed with a spicy sauce. They’re sold in bags pre-sliced at the grocery store. There’s also a nifty knife solely for the purpose of slicing leeks. I want one baaaaad. Slicing leeks into very thin long strips isn’t the easiest thing to do. For the stalk, I learned that it’s much easier when you just slice it in half and then drag the tip of your knife from top to bottom, top to bottom instead of holding the entire thing down and slicing as you normally would. As for the leafy part, you can roll it up and slice thinly.
3. Transfer thinly sliced onion and leeks into a medium bowl and fill with water. This is to take the edge off since they’ll be eaten raw. But that’s not to say you should have this before a date or telling someone a secret. Nohohooo. Set aside.
4. I still had a few minutes on my chicken so I whipped up my Asian dressing. Just put everything in a bowl, add in chopped bird’s eye chilies and mix well. The recipe up there doesn’t make much so I doubled it and it turned out to be the perfect amount. Set aside.
5. By now, the chicken should be ready for frying. Heat oil on medium heat. Move the chicken aside a little bit in the bowl to make room for the egg. Crack it in and whisk it with your hand. Add in the potato starch (or cornstarch) and mix everything with your hand again. So liberating to just dump stuff in and use your hands!
6. I fried my chicken twice to achieve that really crunchy exterior. When the oil is ready, transfer the dredged chicken pieces and fry for 2-3 minutes. Of course, if you’re using bone-in chicken pieces you’ll have to fry them longer. The idea is to cook the meat first before making it crisp up outside. When done, transfer to a strainer to drain.
7. Crank up the stove to high heat and fry the chicken pieces for a second time until golden brown.
8. Transfer chicken back to the strainer to drain. Also strain the onion and leeks that have been submerged in water. Toss them, use a salad spinner if you have one, blot them with paper towels – get them dry. Transfer a big handful of the onion and leeks into a small bowl and dress with the Asian dressing.
9. We’re ready to plate! Spread the remaining onion and leeks on a serving plate to make a bed. Transfer the chicken pieces onto the bed. Top chicken with dressed onion and leeks.
Serve with Asian dressing on the side. Oh, and ice-cold beer or soju. Mmmmm.
Loads more delicious when you make a mess.
Okay. Padak is deeeelish. I love the texture of crisp chicken that’s soft inside with the crunchiness of the onion and leeks. The pungency of the latter with the dressing that’s spicy, tangy and slightly sweet all at the same time infuses the chicken with so much flavor that you won’t tire of eating it until you’re too full and it’s humanly impossible to eat any more.
Also, a most pleasant surprise. I had quite a bit to drink with this, enough to fully expect a hangover, but I woke up feeling freakishly normal. I can’t think of anything I did that was out of the ordinary other than eating two week’s worth of leeks in one sitting. Can anybody make sense of this?
Oh my. Looking at these pictures and I wanna padak-padak over to my kitchen and make this again. Maybe I will.
Fun Food Fact: Leeks belong to the lily family along with garlic, onion, chives and asparagus.