Look at this. Look at it. This is Bull Dak from Bonchon in Allston. According to Bonchon’s website this is what Bull Dak is:
“Spicy chicken stir-fried with rice cakes in a fiery sauce, topped with thinly sliced scallions, onions and mozzarella cheese. Served with white rice and steamed vegetables.”
That description makes sense. It also sounds appetizing. Although I didn’t really know about the use of Mozzarella cheese in Korean cooking. But still, none of the flavors seemed like they would clash, and I was in the mood for something spicy. I had a $50 credit for Postmates, the third-party delivery app, and Ellie had written great things about Bonchon, so I went for it.
When the delivery guy finally got here, having been misdirected by the app (not his fault at all), I thought the food would have cooled off. It hadn’t. My Bull Dak was still steaming hot in its black plastic takeaway container, and the mozzarella cheese was still melted. The scallions hadn’t wilted, either. The chicken appeared to be breasts or thighs chopped into little bits, all of it drowned in this deep, vibrant red sauce that had a slick of orange oil. Orange oil, like chili oil. It looked so delicious.
I now understand what Hell is like.
My first bite of the Bull Dak went down fine. But, good Lord, was it spicy. I try to pride myself on handling spiciness pretty well, but this Bull Dak was in for a fight, and it did not want to lose. About ten bites later, I was in full-blown pain, rocking back and forth in my chair with a tall glass of milk that didn’t even begin to mitigate the heat. I didn’t finish it during that sitting. I, defeated, put the remaining half back in the fridge.
I could feel it burn in my stomach, the Hellfire scalding my insides.
The next day, I looked Bull Dak up. By what sorcery is this infernal dish made, I wondered. I had to find out. I found this how-to video on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9uI1-6Ac6A
And through the video I realize two things: it’s actually spelled buldak (bul=fire, dak=chicken), and also I never stood a chance. In another video, the chef puts in straight capsaicin powder. This was a recipe meant to hurt you.
The next day, though, I found myself craving it, craving the burn and the pain, craving the sweet/spicy red fire brew that coated the chicken. It was all I could think about. During class, I’d daydream about getting back to my buldak, about how good it would taste cold. And it was brilliant cold but still an ungodly level of spicy. It fought through the physical temperature to light my mouth ablaze. I left some for the next day; I wanted to savor it.
The picture you see above is what was left on the third day atop a little bit of rice. The deep red of the hellsauce had faded, and the cheese had reset, but it was still so delicious. Finally, I had acclimated to the spiciness, and I was enjoying it. I was winning the fight. Or maybe I was just joining the dark side. Maybe it wasn’t that I had conquered the buldak. Maybe I had simply submitted to it, to the inferno that swallowed up entire souls in Dante’s journey.
It was the food of Satan himself.
And I liked it.