Cheesy fiery chicken-y sandwich

Recipe: ๐Ÿง€ + ๐Ÿ”ฅ + ๐Ÿ— + ๐Ÿž


Buldak is a Korean phrase that’s interpreted to mean: fire chicken (bul = fire, dak = chicken). Buldak is a heavily sauced chicken dish including course gochugaru (Korean chili flakes) and gochujang paste (Korean chili paste) in the recipe to bring the heat and spice.

Cheese buldak action shot!

In researching buldak for this post, I found a 2015 article from CNN Travel claims that for some South Koreans, eating spicy food is a stress reliever. After the year we’ve all had, I believe we can use some stress relief so I think we should make and eat more buldak.

This week we’re making cheesy buldak sandwiches inspired by a recipe from Maangchi. If you don’t know Maangchi, she’s a YouTube personality that cooks primarily Korean based food. She’s super wholesome and fun to watch. Here’s her video for Spicy fire chicken with cheese (Cheese Buldak: ์น˜์ฆˆ๋ถˆ๋‹ญ) – she’s great, go watch it and try her recipe.

Maangchi’s buldak recipe is super spicy, but still very flavorful. It is a bit sweet and savory all at the same time and it leaves you with a pleasant lingering spicy heat that will keep each bite interesting. My wife and I both get excited when we make the decision to cook this dish again.

I altered the recipe to be whole boneless skinless chicken thighs which I prefer in a sandwich, but you can use chicken tenderloins or thin sliced/butterflied chicken breast if you’d like. The rest of the recipe is similar to Maangchi’s but I change the proportions and instructions to better fit sandwich making.

I like the idea of a larger, whole piece of chicken in my sandwich, but if you want to make a batch of cheese buldak with the chicken chopped up into bite sized pieces and put some leftovers in in a bun for sandwiching later, that’s a fantastic idea too.

There’s hot chicken and love beneath that beautiful layer of cheesy goodness. This is Maangchi’s recipe, click the links above for that.

As you’ll see in the photos below, I’ve made a ton of cheesy buldak sandwiches over the past year. I like it because you can whip up the sauce and cook the chicken within just a few minutes and then broil the cheese to melt and sandwich time comes super-fast after that.

The buns

I wanted a soft bun for these sandwiches, so I fell back on my potato bun recipe that I’ve been baking and tweaking for the past year or so. I whipped up a batch and sesame seeded most of the buns. I’ve explained this before, but if you want to add sesame seeds to a bun, you simply need to apply an egg wash (one whole beaten egg mixed with a tablespoon or so of water) and then sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds right before adding the buns to the oven.

2 hours and 45 minutes
Super soft potato buns

Need six super soft perfectly sized burger buns? The kind of bun that is slightly smaller than your burger patty so that you get a solid burger to bun ratio? Try this recipe.

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Do you prefer naked buns or sesame seed dressed buns?

The special ingredients

There are three special ingredients in this recipe that you might not be able to get at your local grocery. One ingredient isn’t quite as special as the others, but I still wanted to speak about it a tiny bit here.


First you add your chicken to this very spicy paste. Course gochugaru and gochujang paste are key ingredients for success.

Gochugaru

AKA: red pepper flakes or powder

I believe that the gochugaru is the least likely ingredient that you might find at your grocery store. I get mine at our local Korean market, but it’s easily available on Amazon (link below).

Make sure you buy the COURSE grind. I bought the fine grind the first time we made cheese buldak and it does make a big difference.

Gochugaru is the magic ingredient that you can use to adjust the heat in this recipe. Add more for more heat and less for less heat.

Buy Gochugaru (Amazon affiliate link)

Gochujang comes in tubs like the one here and squeeze tubes. We use it frequently, so we buy the tub.

Gochujang

There are many brands of gochujang, the one pictured is the one available at our local grocery and we enjoy it, but we have tried a few others. Gochujang is a great addition to marinades, stir frys and even things like mayonnaise for an extra flavor kick.

In our house we add gochujang to a few of our steak marinades and it has become something we just add a small or large spoonful to a lot of sauces and even soups if we want to add depth of flavor or spice.

Buy Gochujang (Amazon affiliate link)

If you’re making the main Cheesy Buldak dish, dice up a lot of low moisture mozzarella into half inch cubes. If you’re making Buldak sandwiches, you will want slices of cheese not cubes.

Low moisture mozzarella

Blocks of low moisture mozzarella should be at most large grocery store chains, but just remember, we’re not talking about the balls of fresh mozzarella here.

In a pinch you can use the shredded stuff for pizza, but I don’t really like pre-shredded cheese when you’re hoping for a good melt. Pre-shredded mozzarella has starches tossed in with the cheese to keep it from clumping.

If you can find a block of low moisture mozzarella, buy that.

Reheating leftovers

This recipe is quick to whip up once you have all your ingredients together. You could get it on some buns in half an hour or so. If you don’t eat all your sandwiches the first meal, you can easily reheat these for future sandwiches.

For reheating, I place a piece of chicken with a little scoop of sauce on a foil lined sheet pan and I bake it for about 7 or 8 minutes at 350 degrees F (175 C). After 7 or 8 minutes I remove the sheet pan, flip the chicken pieces (add more sauce if you have some) and cover it with cheese and return it to the oven. You can cook it another 3 minutes to melt the cheese or if you like your cheese to brown you could set it under the broiler for a minute or two.

In my experience with chicken thighs, the leftover sandwich is just as tasty as the first day.

Cheese buldak sandwiches

Here’s the recipe to try:

Cheese buldak sandwiches view printable page for this recipe

This is a spicy sandwich. The cheese and bun both help to cool things off a little, but you can adjust the heat by changing the amount of Gochugaru chili flakes. Inspired by Maangchi's Cheese Buldak recipe.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs or breast pieces
  • 14 cup gochugaru (course pepper flakes)
  • 2 tablespoons gochujang
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
  • 14 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons corn syrup (or honey)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 14 cup water
  • 12 lb low moisture mozzarella cheese cut into slices
  • sliced green onion (garnish)
  • 6 soft hamburger buns or rolls

Directions:

In a medium bowl add gochugaru, gochujang, soy sauce, canola oil, black pepper, corn syrup, garlic and ginger. Stir well to combine. 

Add your six chicken thighs and mix everything up very well. You want all the chicken coated in the marinade. 

Place a large skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Swirl the pan around to coat the bottom of the pan with oil as much as possible. 

When pan is hot, use tongs or a fork to place each chicken thigh in the hot pan. If your pan isn't large enough to cook all six thighs, you can cook in batches. 

DO NOT get rid of the bowl that has any leftover marinade in it. We will be using that to make our sauce

Cook each chicken thigh 3 minutes on the first side, flip and then cook 3 more minutes on the second side. Remove all chicken to a plate. 

Once all the chicken is done, add a quarter cup of water to the bowl where you marinaded your chicken. Mix the water around to loosen the marinade from the bowl. This will allow you to get it all into the pan. 

Pour all the leftover marinade with the water back into the pan where you cooked the chicken. Reduce the heat to medium. 

Add all of your chicken to the pan with the cooking marinade and nestle everything in together. 

Cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes. 

Remove pan from heat. 

Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and add your pieces of chicken. If you're using large pieces make sure they're separated from the other pieces, if you're using small bite sized pieces make sure you place them in sandwich sized piles. If you're only making one or two sandwiches you can just add one or two pieces or chicken piles and use the rest for leftover sandwiches. 

On top of each piece of chicken add slices of mozzarella. Place sheet pan under the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes. Pay very close attention though, everyone's broiler is different and things can burn very quickly. 

Once the cheese is broiled and melted to your satisfaction, remove the sheet pan. Allow the chicken to cool for a minute or so and then add each piece to a bottom bun. Add a little extra sauce if you want and garnish with the sliced green onion. 

Top with the bun top, serve and enjoy. 

Some cheese buldak sandwiches to stare at

Here are four more examples of cheesy fire chicken sandwiches I’ve made over the past year or so.

Glorious spicy, melty goodness
Boneless chicken thigh cheesy buldak on a toasted sesame seeded bun.
A batch of chicken thighs or chicken breast pieces can be cooked in buldak over the weekend and reheated to create quick sandwiches during the week. I do this often.
If you like spice and cheese, I have the sandwich for you.

Try Maangchi’s recipe. Buy gochujang and gochugaru and keep them in the fridge for longer shelf life and you can make this recipe very quickly whenever you crave it. And believe me, you’ll start to crave this dish and sandwich.

Check back next week when you can Sea more of my Food!


Alice Springs chicken sandwich

This might or might not be the National sandwich of Australia.


Alice Springs on the map.

G’Day, sandwich enthusiast! According to google and wikipedia, Alice Springs is a remote town in the Northern Territory of Australia. Home to 25,000+ mates and ZERO Outback Steakhouses, Alice Springs is located right around the middle of the country.

Alice Springs also happens to be a chicken dish on the very beef heavy Outback Steakhouse menu. I first encountered this dish back in the 90s when I frequented chain restaurants a bit more than I do today. My wife (then girlfriend) and I were both fans of Alice Springs chicken and we even bought a cookbook that had a copycat recipe for it.

Pulled from the online Outback Steakhouse menu. Look at all that broccoli. That’s too much broccoli. All this for 16 Dollerydoos.

The copycat cookbook

In 1997 “Top Secret Restaurant Recipes” by Todd Wilbur was released. This is the first cookbook I had seen at that time that showcased “copycat” recipes. The cookbook had many recipes that attempted to duplicate flavors of existing dishes from chain restaurants. Applebee’s, Chili’s, Outback and Red Lobster are just a few of the restaurants that were showcased in the cookbook. As late-20-something, novice cooks, we tackled the Alice Springs chicken recipe from this book and my memories are of us enjoying it a lot and the result being very similar to the actual restaurant menu item.

When writing this blog post, I dug through some old boxes and found my copy of the cookbook and compared it to the MANY Alice Springs chicken copycat recipes on the internet. Spoiler alert: almost all of them are very close to the same recipe from this book.

Released in 1997. A few of the restaurants recreated in the book no longer exist. True copycat recipe history.
The Alice Springs chicken layering technique presented in Top Secret Restaurant Recipes.

Looking back on it I realize why this recipe is easy to copycat correctly and why so many online recipes are so similar. It’s because it’s an easy entrรฉe. Alice Springs chicken is grilled chicken marinated in honey mustard, with cooked mushrooms and bacon on top and then you melt cheese on it. Very few ingredients and easy to put together.

If you’re handy in the kitchen, the hardest part of the recipe is getting your ingredients together to make the honey mustard sauce/marinade. If you wanted to cut some corners, you could even buy honey mustard dressing off the shelf and it would work.

Once you have the honey mustard marinade your next steps are grilling chicken, cooking bacon, cooking mushrooms and then layering everything and sticking it all in the oven for a few minutes. If you were having a dinner party, you could technically cook your chicken, bacon and mushrooms hours before you planned to eat and assemble the dish in a baking pan and bake right before serving. This would leave you lots of time to enjoy the company of your guests and talk to them about how cool my blog is.

Reheating tip: because this dish is finished in the oven to get the cheese melty, it makes it super easy to reheat as well. Just pre-heat your oven to 350 F and cook a leftover Alice Springs chicken stack for 8 to 10 minutes and you’re all set. If you’re cooking Alice Springs for one or two people, you could even refrigerate all the parts (cooked mushrooms, bacon, chicken) separately and assemble, covering with cheese when you’re ready to cook them.

The Alice Springs chicken

Here’s a photo of our finished Alice Springs chicken. My recipe (down below) differs from most of the online recipes you’ll find because it uses my wife’s favorite honey mustard recipe as the base for the marinade.

Our homemade Alice Springs chicken and side salad with tangy tomato dressing.

Below is a slideshow of my Alice Springs building action. As I was saying above, if you have all the pieces, but only need two servings per night, you can store the cooked components in the fridge and bake just what you need per night.

45 minutes
Alice Springs chicken copycat recipe

An easy recipe meant to replicate the flavors of Alice Springs chicken. Honey mustard marinated grilled chicken with grilled bacon and mushrooms covered in melted cheese? Yes please.

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The bread

Add some honey to some softened butter and then go to town on this sweet bread.

I could have served up an Alice Springs chicken sandwich on any type of bread. But I decided to make a sandwich with bread that I remember from Outback Steakhouse.

When you eat at Outback, they bring you a very dark bread with a big knife to munch on before your meal. I haven’t eaten it in many years, but I remember it being somewhat dense and sweet and great with a little butter spread on top.

If you search King Arthur Baking’s website for “outback,” you get nothing. But if you search google for “King Arthur’s outback bread” you get their recipe for Honey Wheat Black Bread which is clearly a very similar recipe to the bread you find at Outback Steakhouse. This is the recipe I used.

I had to order some Black Cocoa Powder from Amazon, but everything else was ingredients I had on hand or could pick up at my grocery store. The black cocoa powder is different from regular cocoa powder, and it is supposed to help with the dark color. I haven’t tried this recipe without it, but I might do that soon to see if it makes much of a difference.

I can taste hints of cocoa in the bread. It makes me think of a very dark chocolate brownie in some ways.

This bread is fantastic for snacking or to accompany a meal. I would certainly suggest trying this recipe if you’re a baker looking for something new to bake.

I don’t own a nice thick wooden handled knife, but I remember that’s how they served the bread at Outback.

I baked both round buns and 5-inch-long rolls with the same recipe. Let us slice up one of the round buns and get down to sandwich action.

The crumb shot. This bread is good for snacking, slicing and spreading with butter (or even better, honey butter). It’s a bit dense for most sandwiches. But it still didn’t fall apart. It would probably be great in loaf form sliced for patty melts or grilled cheese.

The other copycat book

After I had already photographed all these sandwiches and written this whole sandwich blog post, I found the original Top Secret Restaurant Recipes cookbook in a box in my garage and then I decided to buy the second one. Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 was published in 2007 and has a recipe for the Outback Bread which is VERY different than the King Arthur recipe that I used.

The recipe from the 2007 book uses blue, yellow and red food coloring to get the darkness instead of the black cocoa that I bought. There are other recipes online for this bread and many of those use food coloring too, but most seem to call for caramel food coloring. I’m guessing that things like black cocoa and caramel food coloring just weren’t as readily available as they are now.

The sandwiches

Here we go, it’s sandwich time.

Instructions:

  1. Take some Alice Springs chicken and put it between buns or bread
  2. Add extra honey mustard as needed
  3. Eat and enjoy
Grilled chicken, mushroom, bacon and cheese. What’s not to like?
The full Alice Springs chicken sandwich with Outback black bread and side salad with tangy tomato dressing.
The final Alice Springs chicken sandwich on a 5-inch-long honey wheat bushman bread roll.

Hopefully Australia won’t try to Boot me for this one.

The sandwich is good so the punishment would be worth it probably.

Alice Springs chicken is easy and super tasty. Honey mustard coated grilled chicken, bacon, mushrooms all covered in melted cheese is fantastic.

Earlier I wrote about how you can turn this dish into a fast-to-prepare dinner party recipe. And I also wrote and showed you how you can turn it into a sandwich. I think my work is done here. Add it to your list of dishes to make for a quick weeknight dinner and maybe put the leftovers on a bun. Check back next week when I pit one sandwich against the same sandwich somehow.


Caesar Sandwich

Caesar’s sandwich must be above suspicion

Eat a salad with your hands!


Caesar salad dressing is an amazing condiment. It has umami savoriness from the anchovies and worchestershire, citrus zing and zest from the lemon juice, and the garlic and dijon tang are always welcome additions to any sandwich. If you don’t mind a little arm workout it can be prepared in just a few minutes with a good whisk and bowl. This week I made some and put it to use in a few sandwiches.

The bread

King Arthur Baking’s Hearth Bread loaf in more of an Italian style shape

I made caesar salad sandwiches in three different ways. For the first two, I used King Arthur Baking’s Hearth Bread recipe. This is a super easy recipe that is written for folks who know how to make dough and for people new to the process as well. They have good instructions for how to knead the dough with and without a stand mixer. If you follow the recipe, you’ll end up with two shaped Italian or French style loaves (meaning the loaves aren’t baked in a pan). If you are new to making bread, I suggest you read the accompanying hearth bread blog post that King Arthur’s team wrote up.

This recipe leaves you with two loaves. If that’s too much bread for you to eat in four or five days, you should slice both loaves when it has cooled and package one loaf in a plastic freezer bag and store in the freezer until you’re ready to eat it. Bread freezes and thaws very well and the frozen loaf will be just as good as the fresh one. When ready to eat, pull a few slices out in advance to thaw or you can thaw it in a toaster or oven.

“Bread” number two

The other sandwich adjacent ceasar thing I made were chicken caesar salad wraps. I used the flour tortilla wrap recipe below. This recipe is also how you’d make flour tortilla’s for burritos or breakfast tacos. Keep it in your wheelhouse. This recipe is making 4 large burrito sized tortilla wraps but if you were just making taco sized tortillas it would make between 6 and 8.

1 hour and 35 minutes
Flour tortilla wrap

Tortillas aren't just for burritos. Get wrappin!

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The dressing

This is the important stuff. The heart of a caesar sandwich is the dressing (some might say the heart is the romaine hearts, but they’d be wrong – but still kinda right). You could stop here and buy dressing at the store, but it’s fun and a bit of a fulfilling workout to make your own. The process is similar to making mayo, but with a little less arm action.

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20 minutes
Caesar dressing

Great for a salad or used as the spread on a sandwich. Caesar dressing is a super garlicy and tangy sauce to dress your sandwich veggies.

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Sandwich one

Here’s the set-up for my chicken caesar sandwich with parmesan frico.

For the first caesar sandwich variation, I made a parmesan frico. This means I cooked up parmesan cheese until it melted together and became crisp. You do this in an oven at 350 F (175 C) degrees for 8 to 12 minutes. This is super fun to watch cook. It expands and bubbles and is constantly moving in the oven while it bakes. Take a minute out of your busy life and watch.

Make sure you use parchment or a silpat on your baking sheet so that nothing sticks. Once you’ve got a round disk of tan cheese, let it cool fully and it’ll add nice texture to your salad or in this case, salad sandwich.

On all of my sandwiches I used pan seared boneless and skinless chicken thigh. I simply salted and peppered the chicken and cooked in a medium high skillet for 5 minutes on the first side and then flipped and cooked for another 4 or 5 minutes. I often use an instant read thermometer to make sure meat is done. If you have a thermometer you need to get to 165 F or 74 C.

Caesar sandwich
Pan seared salt and pepper chicken thigh, parmesan frico and caesar dressing tossed romaine

Sandwich two

The second sandwich I made was very similar to the first one, but a little bit more of a classic “chicken lettuce tomato” style. I added salted tomato slices and this time I also tossed my chicken in the dressing. We had gotten Chinese delivery the night before and my order of chow mein came with lots of fried chow mein noodles so I stole some of those and slipped them in with my romaine lettuce before dressing for added crunchy texture.

Caesar Sandwich
Chicken thigh, tomato slices and caesar dressing tossed romaine leaves with fried chow mein noodles

The Wrap

Caesar salad wrap with bacon and homemade croutons

The third “sandwich” I made this week was in wrap form. This is the version that you’ll see on a lot of deli/sandwich restaurant menus. You can eat a salad with your hands!

The wraps I made had chopped bacon and croutons made from a couple of leftover sandwich buns (cut bread into bite sized pieces, toss in olive/canola oil and spices and bake in a 400 F (200 C) degree oven for 7 to 10 minutes – start checking at 7 so you don’t burn them).

I think the biggest thing I am walking away with from caesar sandwich week is how great caesar dressing is in a sandwich application. I want you to try a sandwich with caesar dressing on it and let me know how yours turned out.


Chicken Bacon Ranch (CBR) sandwich

Which came first: the chicken, the bacon or the ranch?

Everyone loves chicken. Everyone loves bacon. Not everyone loves ranch and those people are wrong.


A better writer than myself would try to explain why chicken, bacon and ranch work so well together or why this combination has become so popular in spots like fast food menus, Hot Pockets and Pillsbury casseroles. But instead I will just tell you how I made my version of this sandwich.

The rules for the Chicken Bacon Ranch sandwich are pretty simple. It’s chicken plus bacon plus ranch. I’m actually quite surprised I had to tell you guys this, but here we are. Sometimes there’s cheese and in sandwich form you’ll usually have some veggie options and either a bun bun or bread sandwiching the whole thing together.

The bun

The bun I chose to bake for my Chicken Bacon Ranch sandwich was King Arthur Flour’s Harvest Grain Bread recipe. This recipe is solid but if you follow it exactly, you’ll end up with a loaf instead of buns. To turn this into buns, you either need a scale or you can just try to divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. For those using a scale, I tested with 90 grams and 100 grams and they’re both a pretty good size for a sandwich. I like my buns to be smaller than the meat/patty so when I do this again, I will stay in that range.

To make buns, you follow the above linked recipe, divide your dough (after the first 1 hour rise time) into 8-ish portions and you then should roll each portion fairly tightly into balls and place on a parchment lined sheet pan. Let rise again for 1.5 to 2 hours and then bake at 350 F (175 C) for between 15 and 20 minutes. Before I put my buns in the oven, I cracked an egg into a bowl and added a little water to create an egg wash and then I brushed each bun with wash and sprinkled some of the harvest grain mix on top. This gives you the very optional seeded look.

It’s not called a Chicken Bacon Ranch Lettuce Tomato, but maybe it should be. CBRLT rolls off the tongue.

The chicken

This is the marinade recipe I came up with for my chicken. I named it spicy because there is a noticeable level of heat, but it’s not so spicy that it’ll knock your socks off. You can easily fix that though by simply adding more sriracha or cayenne. You also could choose to add more honey if you like your marinades to be a bit sweeter.

I chose to grill my chicken, but you could easily cook it in a skillet or grill pan on your stove.

35 minutes
Spicy Grilled Chicken

A quick and easy chicken marinade recipe for the grill. It\'s very easy to adjust the level of heat by adding or subtracting the sriracha.

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The bacon

If you need to make a lot of bacon for sandwiches here’s my technique. Almost not even enough to create a recipe for it, but I did it anyway and will probably reference it in a lot of future sandwich posts. The oven technique is just so convenient to make too much bacon and store it in a container in the fridge for future quick sandwiches.

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30 minutes
Oven baked bacon

Want a super easy way to make a lot of bacon for sandwiches with very little effort or cleanup?

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The ranch

You won’t believe this, but I actually like my ranch dressing recipe better than the real thing and I’m a fan of ranch. It’s the MSG. The addition of MSG brings this recipe a lot closer to buying the Hidden Valley Ranch dust packets and mixing with mayo and sour cream/buttermilk at home (this is the best way to make HVR – bottles aren’t as good).

The difference in this ranch recipe with and without the MSG is stark. The glutamate just adds an extra savoriness that makes me think we’ve located the real Hidden Valley. I use Accent brand which is 100% monosodium glutamate, but you can find straight M.S.G. in the spice aisle at grocery stores too. Or you can definitely find it online.

10 minutes
Homemade ranch dressing

The valley isn't so hidden, when you know the secret recipe. This recipe allows you to vary the consistency of the final product.

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I added lettuce and tomato and put them all together into this very tasty sandwich. To answer the “which came first” question posed in the title. The chicken and then the bacon and then the ranch. It’s right there in the name!

Chicken, bacon and ranch sandwich
Grilled Chicken Bacon Ranch