Guys! It’s the first day of February! We made it! High fives all around! It doesn’t matter how many Canadian Januarys I live through, I am always surprised when I find myself on the other side of one. To be honest, I’m feeling shaken by this January in particular. I started the month with a cold I caught in Nova Scotia and I’m finishing it with a flu I caught on the subway. But I’m on the mend, the month is dead, and solid food is starting to become a daily thing again. Yes, I’m finally well enough to enjoy the one redeeming feature of winter: comfort food. And I’m celebrating my triumphant return to steaming, cozy carbs with this Gochujang Chicken Bog and Green Onion Salad.
Want to know something strange? These Pho Soup Dumplings are my most popular recipe to date. You may not think it’s strange, but I do. When I first made those babies, I agonized over them. I paused many times and wondered if I was nuts. The flavor wasn’t the issue – I knew they would taste good. My primary concern was how they would be received. Were they too weird? Would people even want a mash-up like that? And most pressing of all: Are these dumplings culturally insensitive?
Again, I find myself asking this question. Today’s Gochujang Chicken Bog is another culinary mash-up. This dish is a hybrid between the Lowcountry classic Chicken Bog and Korean mainstay Budae-jjigae or Army Stew. The connections between the dishes, although not immediately apparent, are there. They are both one-pot affairs, the make use of simple and easily obtainable ingredients, and they can feed, well, an army.
The Chicken Bog is native to the South Carolina Lowcountry and is rooted in Carribean cooking traditions. There is contention over what it’s peculiar name references. Some say it’s called a “bog” because the chicken is bogged down by rice, while others say it refers to the boggy conditions of the Lowcountry itself.
The chicken bog occupies a proud place in South Carolina because it doesn’t exist outside of it. It bears similarities to Louisana’s Jambalaya but it’s definitely not the same. The chicken bog hints at South Carolina’s past. Back in the 1700s and up until the Civil War, South Carolina was the largest producer of rice in the United States. Rice, while the pride and joy of the state, was consequently easy to come by and therefore perfect for bulking up a meal. Rice, in this case, Carolina Gold rice, made it possible to feed a large family with a single chicken. Kinda genius, right?
Budae-jjigae occupies a similar place of comfort in the minds of South Koreans. Budae-jjigae is a relatively young dish as dishes go. The dish was created from what could be scrounged from American army bases following the armistice that ended the open hostilities of the Korean War. Meats, such as ham, SPAM, and hot dogs, were added as bulk to a soup intended to feed many mouths. What I find particularly captivating about this dish is the reinterpretation of what we (North Americans) consider ubiquitous food items. Who knew a canned Vienna sausage simmered in gochujang and kimchi could be so addictive. And this stew became so much a part of the lives of Koreans that a black market sprung up around the import of SPAM and other American products.
So, these two dishes, cooked in a similar “throw-whatever-you-have-in-a-pot” kind of way, are surprisingly similar. They aren’t difficult to prepare, they feed a lot of people, and they make the best of times of want. This happens far more often than people notice. The similarities in culinary techniques across cultural divides are quite astounding. The incentives that motivate us to cook what we cook are basically the same, particularly when it comes to dishes of scarcity. The more I know about food and food preparation, the more I know about the universality of human nature. So, to me, fusion represents a celebration of these similarities. A celebration of what unites us. But I accept that not everyone feels this way.
Today’s Gochujang Chicken Bog may seem like “cultural misappropriation”. The dabblings of a privileged white girl. But please know, this privileged white girl thinks about this kind of a thing a lot. It’s my enthusiasm for food, culture, and people that motivates me, not a desire to claim anything as my own. Perhaps this is an overreaction and nobody really cares what comes out of my kitchen, but I think the subject of fusion can push a lot of buttons and, as with most issues that push buttons, I think it’s best to talk about it.
So tell me what you think? How do you feel about fusion? Oh and by the by, this Gochujang Chicken Bog is really quite excellent, so if you have the inclination to give it a try, I think you should see it through.
Discuss and enjoy!
- 1 whole chicken
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 1 (2-inch) knob ginger, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
- 3 teaspoons salt, divided
- 6-8 cups water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 strips bacon, coarsely chopped
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 cup rice wine
- 1 cup jasmine rice
- 1/4 cup bamboo shoots, drained (I used chili bamboo shoots)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons gochujang
- 1 1/2 tablespoons mirin
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes or gochugaru
- 2 teaspoons demerara sugar
- 5-7 green onions, washed
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or gochugaru
- Black sesame seeds for sprinkling
- 6-8 crispy fried eggs (optional
- Black sesame seeds
- Red pepper flakes
- Remove the breasts, legs, and wings from the chicken and set aside. Reserve the carcass to make stock at a later date. Pat the chicken parts dry with paper towel and toss them in a large heavy-bottom pot.
- Using the base of a mug, bruise the lemongrass stalks until flexible. Tie each stalk in a loose knot - it doesn't have to be perfect - and add them to the pot with the chicken. Add the dried shiitakes, ginger and water. Add enough water to cover the chicken completely.
- Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring the water to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons of the salt to the water and reduce to a simmer. Poach the chicken for 30 - 40 minutes.
- Remove the chicken, mushrooms and ginger from the pot. Drain the cooking liquid using a fine mesh strainer and discard the solids. Reserve 4 cups of the cooking liquid and set aside.
- When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and pick the meat from the bones. Place the meat on a plate and set aside. Next, slice the rehydrated mushrooms and mince the ginger.
- Wipe out the bottom of the pot with paper towel. Add the olive oil to the pot and place over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the bacon. Cook until the bacon is crisp and caramelized, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the onion and season with the remaining salt. Sauté until lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and ginger back to the pot and sauté briefly. Add the rice wine and deglaze the pot.
- Pour the reserved cooking liquid into the pot and stir in the jasmine rice and bamboo shoots. In a small bowl, whisk the gochujang, garlic, mirin, soy sauce, demerara sugar, and red pepper flakes together. Add the mixture to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Let the bog cook for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. Stir in the reserved chicken and cook for 5 minutes more.
- Remove the green parts of the green onion from the white stalks. Cut the greens lengthwise into ribbons. Slice the white stalks on a diagonal.
- Place the green onions in a bowl of ice water and let sit for 10 minutes. Transfer the onions to a colander and rinse under cold water. Give them a vigorous shake before transferring the onions to a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk the garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, honey and red pepper flakes together. Pour the mixture over the green onions and toss to coat. Garnish the finished salad with black sesame seeds and additional red pepper flakes.
- Divide the bog amongst 6-8 bowls and top each with a spoonful of green onion salad, a fried egg (if desired) and a sprinkling of black sesame seeds and red pepper flakes.