The best dishes for cozy season are the ones, like Dak Dori Tang 닭도리탕 you can make by throwing a bunch of hearty ingredients into a pot then simmering on the stovetop for an hour, which heats up the kitchen in the meantime! Dak Dori Tang, also known dakbokkeumtang 닭볶음탕 or dakmaeuntang 닭매운탕, is a Korean braised chicken dish in a fiery spicy, garlicky, gingery sauce that's soft and tender, it melts into the bowl you serve it in. Shall we?
What is Dak Dori Tang?
Dak Dori Tang is a dish of bone-in chicken pieces braised in a garlicky, gingery, gochugaru- and gochujang-based sauce. The low and slow cooking method renders the meat tender and infused with flavor.
The recipe here includes naturally sweet carrots and sweet potatoes, and you can add other vegetables based on availability and your personal taste like regular white potatoes, radish (may favorite!), more onions, and squash.
Here's your Korean language lesson of the week:
When broken down, "dak" 닭 literally tranlates from Korean to English as "chicken." "Tang" 탕 means soup or stew. The "Dori" in the middle has less clear meaning. Some sources say it's the Japanese word for chicken like "tori," and others say it's derived from the Korean word "dorichida," which means "cut-up." Either way, put them all together as 닭도리탕 and you get "chicken stew."
Difference Between Jjim Dak, Dak Jjim, and Dak Dori Tang?
All the dishes—jjimdak, dak jjim, dak dori tang, and even dak bokkeum tang— are types of bone-in braised chicken dishes.
Jjimdak and Dak Jjim are the same dish of savory, soy-braised chicken, just a different order of the words. One reads as "braised chicken" and the other reads in the reverse as "chicken braise."
On the other hand, Dak Dori Tang is a similar, but different dish. Dak Dori Tang is also a braised chicken dish, but spicy with the addition of red pepper powder gochugaru, red pepper paste gochujang, and fresh chile peppers like jalapeños. Dak Dori Tang, this spicy braised chicken, also goes by a different name Dak Bokkeum Tang. You could essentially just stire a few tablespoons of each of those into this recipe and you'd get Dak Dori Tang, too.
Best Ways to Braise Whole Chickens
Health and Dietary Considerations of Dak Dori Tang
As printed, this Dak Dori Tang recipe is:
- refined sugar-free
Depending on the piece of chicken, one serving of this dish can have anywhere from 51 to 54 grams of protein!
Healthy, Modern Updates to the Dak Dori Tang Recipe
My original version, along with many older recipes, had a starchy coating on the chicken, sometimes regular wheat flour, sometimes cornstarch. The coating wasn't necessarily to make the chicken crisp like fried chicken. It is added to thicken the braising liquid into a "sauce." The braising sauce in older versions also contained refined sugar, and plain white potatoes.
The updated recipe omits the unnecessary starch coating. The braising sauce thickens in other ways. There's a small amount of rice powder in the sauce itself from gochujang, which is made with some form of grain to ferment the gochujang. The sweet potatoes and carrots break down slightly during cooking releasing their natural starches into the sauce. If you add dang myun, glass noodles, at the end, they will also release some natural starch into the sauce.
Instead of plain sugar as sweetener, there is maple syrup or date sugar and much less of it. The recipe also substitutes in nutrient-dense sweet potatoes for regular potatoes, and adds more vegetables like radishes or mushrooms when in season or in the mood!
Ingredients You Need for Dak Dori Tang
Dak Dori Tang, like most braised dishes and stews, is essentially two types of ingredients: the chicken and vegetables together, and the braising liquid.
Here are the ingredients you need:
- Chicken, 3-4 pound whole chicken or pieces
- Sweet potatoes
- Green onions
- Jalapeño or serrano pepper
- Chicken stock or bone broth
- Tamari or soy sauce
- Sake or Mirim, Korean seasoned rice wine for cooking
- Maple syrup
- Black pepper
- Sesame oil
- Sesame seeds
The beauty of Dak Dori Tang is that once you get the chicken and base vegetables down, you can add any other vegetable to the dish. Hearty root vegetables like potatoes, Korean or daikon radish, and shiitake mushrooms are personal favorites. But I have made this dish many times even with not-so-obvious for stew vegetables like butternut squash, broccolini, kale, and baby bok choy.
Is There Sugar/Sweetener in Dak Dori Tang
There is no added refined sugar in this recipe, nor in most other Korean recipes on this site!
In this recipe for Dak Dori Tang, sweetness comes from the carrots and onions in the braising sauce, as well as a few tablespoons of maple syrup. I prefer the lighter sweetness, the only downside is that the texture of the sauce is thinner and less "glossy" than sauces made with a lot of sugar.
If You Prefer a Sweeter Taste
Stir an additional 2 tablespoons of brown sugar into the braising liquid when you first add the vegetables to the pot.
Sugar/Sweetness in Korean Food in General
If you eat or are familiar with Korean food, you know that Korean marinated and braised dishes like Korena barbecues favorites bulgogi and galbi, whether grilled or braised or otherwise, can taste fairly sweet, and sometimes even veer into too sticky sweet. My family has always tended toward much less sweetness in Korean foods, and only add natural sweetness in the form of dried or fresh fruit as much as possible, and sometimes with maple syrup or honey.
What Kind of Chicken for Dak Dori Tang?
We are using the more affordable whole chicken as opposed to a package of specific parts. You can ask the butcher to cut the chicken up for you into 8 or 10 pieces. Pro-tip: save the backbone to make bone broth later! Or, you can break down the chicken yourself, which is what I always do.
You can also buy 4 pounds of bone-in, skin-on whole chicken legs or thighs.
The bone-in and skin on are important for this dish. The skin protects the meat during the cooking and provides some fat and flavor. The bones will render out some collagen while cooking, which adds body to the braising sauce, since we're not using starch or a lot of sugar.
Pro-tip: Normally, I recommend against buying meat and poultry from Costco** because of the way high-volume production increases the chance of food-borne illness. However, because we cook chicken until completely well-done rather than seared fast and furious on high heat, there is much less risk of food-borne illness. So in the case of chicken, Costco offers an unbeatable price and I say go get that bulk discount!
** I am highly in favor of buying almost anything and everything else at Costco!
Additional Ingredients Notes and Resources
Avocado Oil. Avocado oil is a neutral flavored oil with a high smoked point that's generally a little less processed than other refined oils like conventional seed oils. This is the brand I use. You can use any neutral oil with a high smoked point.
Tamari or soy sauce. Tamari is Japanese soy sauce. Regular soy sauce contains wheat, but tamari has little or no wheat. Therefore, tamari can be gluten-free, though not always. If you eat gluten-free, make sure to read labels. I use this organic gluten-free tamari. This brand is also great, though might be a little harder to find in-store.
Mirim. 미림, mirim, is Korean cooking wine, similar to mirin, Japanese cooking wine. Don't use aji-mirin; read the label to make sure there is no added sugar or corn syrup.
Maple Syrup. I use this maple syrup. If you like the deep dark color in a braised chicken dish, use a dark amber grade A maple syrup.
Date Sugar. Aunt Patty's Unrefined Date Sugar available on Amazon, I bought mine at Erewhon Natural Market here in LA, here are some other organic date sugars on Amazon
Chicken stock. I will always recommend that you make your own bone broth, but like the Barefoot Contessa says, store-bought is fine. Read the ingredients list and find one with chicken as the first ingredient, and without added sugar.
Sesame oil. Use toasted, not regular, sesame oil. Toasted sesame oil is dark brown and is used as a finishing oil, not as a cooking oil. This is the Japanese brand that everyone and their mothers' have been using for years. You can usually find organic like this one in natural and higher end grocery stores.
Sesame seeds. Use toasted sesame seeds.
Korean radish, called "mu" or "moo," is a large white radish that has a light green top near the stem. It is similar to Japanese daikon radish, though bigger, sometimes 5-inches in diameter! I have only ever found Korean radish at Asian grocery stores.
Asian pear. Pear is crucial as it not only adds natural sweetness to the sauce, but more importantly, it tenderizes the meat! These are 3- to 4-inch diameter, softball sized round, tan pears. Asian pears are increasingly available at regular grocery stores, and different varieties are called Butterscotch pears, Shingo pears, or specifically Korean pears.
All other produce from the regular grocery store or farmers markets.
Instructions for How to Make Dak Dori Tang
Dak Dori Tang is fairly straight-forward to make. You literally put everything in a large pot, bring to boil, then simmer for until the meat is so tender it can shred apart with a spoon. The "hardest" part of the recipe is just the amount of non-active time you just let the stew simmer.
Here are the high-level steps to make a gloriously rich, tender Dak Dori Tang:
Prepare the Braising Sauce. Combine the gochugaru, gochujang, tamari/soy sauce, mirin/sake, garlic, ginger, black pepper, and maple syrup.
Braise Chicken. Place chicken pieces in heavy-bottom pot or Dutch oven. Pour braising sauce and 2 cups chicken stock over chicken.
Bring chicken and sauce to a boil, then turn down heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Add cut vegetables—onions, carrots, sweet potatoes and white part of green onions—to pot, pushing them in between the pieces of chicken. Simmer with vented lid for another 20 minutes, checking on the pot every 5-10 minutes during cooking. Tilt the pot, grab some of the braising liquid, and pour over the top of the chicken so it doesn't dry out. If the braising liquid seems to be evaporating too much, add a little bit more chicken stock.
Remove the lid, add the sliced jalapeño or serrano peppers, and simmer for 5 minutes to soften the jalapeños and reduce the braising sauce.
Taste the braising sauce. Adjust seasoning with additional splashes of tamari or sea salt if needed.
Transfer Dak Dori Tang to serving platter if using. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil just before serving. Garnish with fresh sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds.
Optional: Add Dang Myun Glass Noodles
Start soaking dang myun noodles in water when you start the chicken. Let them soak for at least 20 minutes while Dak Dori Tang cooks.
The soaking step is optional, but it helps the noodles cook faster at the end so the chicken doesn't over cook.
In the last 5 minutes of cooking, push chicken and vegetables to side to make a small space. Push soaked dang myun into the braising sauce and let simmer until translucent. You may need to add an extra 1 cup of water or broth to the pot.
Pro-tip: Only add the dang myun right before serving. If you make Dak Dori Tang in advance, cook the chicken and vegetables. Add dang myun when you re-heat the Dak Dori Tang just before serving.
Level Up: Add Tteok (Korean Rice Cakes)
Modern versions of Dak Dori Tang have added tteok in addition to the noodles right into the pot toward the end of cooking. To add this to the recipe to serve 4-6:
- Soak 4-6 servings, about 2 cups of tteok in cold water before you start cooking.
- Drain, then toward the end of cooking, when there is about 10 minutes of cooking time left, stir the rice cakes into the braising liquid. If there iisn't enough braising sauce, add more chicken stock about ½ cup at a time.
- Cook until the tteok are tender about 5 minutes.
How to Make it Easier: Dak Dori Tang in a Slow Cooker
This recipe is MADE to be made in a slow cooker or crock pot!
Toss the chicken pieces and braising liquid into a minimum 6-quart slow cooker, add enough broth or stock to submerge the chicken, then cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. When there is 1 hour left on the slow cooker, add the cut vegetables and continue cooking until complete.
When ready to serve, remove the chicken and vegetables to a serving platter.
Pro Tips and Techniques
- Cook in advance. If you do have the foresight and time to cook in advance, make the recipe at least 1 day in advance. Just make sure to save the noodles for the very end right before srving/eating. See detailed notes about Advance Cooking below.
- Use the widest pot you have to give as much room to the chicken and vegetables to spread out into the braising liquid, rather than stacking up on top of each other. This will especially help the vegetables stay intact.
- Simmer, not boil. Because chicken stew is braised, the cooking temperature has to be very low. Except for the initial boil to get the pot up to temperature, maintain the temperature at a very gentle simmer. You simply cannot turn up the heat and boil it to make it faster. The whole point of a braise is to cook on low heat, over a long period of time to breakdown the collagen and fibers to make the meat super tender.
- Remove vegetables when they are tender, which may be earlier than the chicken is ready. If the chicken still needs more cooking time, but the vegetables are already tender, remove the vegetables from the pot with a slotted spoon or tongs and set them aside until the chicken is ready. If you leave the vegetables to cook for too long, they will break down too much.
Can You Cook Dak Dori Tang in Advance?
Yes! You can and absolutely should cook this Dak Dori Tang in advance! Braises and stews of any kind is actually better if you make it one or two days in advance, which is partially why it's such a great dish for meal prep or for a larger gathering.
Not only are you able to more easily remove rendered fat, but the chicken becomes even more tender after it cools then re-heats.
Cook the recipe as directed, then follow these steps to store in refrigerator for up to three days:
- Remove fully cooked chicken and vegetables from the braising liquid in the pot to a storage container, cover and refrigerate.
- Strain braising liquid through sieve as directed into a tall, narrow storage container. Discard solid bits in sieve. Cover strained braising liquid and refrigerate overnight.
- The following day, all of the rendered fat from the chicken will have risen to the top of the braising liquid and solidified. Using a fork or spoon, carefully lift off the solidified fat and discard in the trash. Do not discard the solid fat down the kitchen sink drain. You can also save this "Korean schmaltz" to use for something else.
To re-heat, place the chicken, vegetables and braising liquid in a pot, bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Garnish and serve immediately.
How to Store Prepped or Leftover Dak Dori Tang
Refrigerator. You can keep Dak Dori Tang in the refrigerator for 3 days. After the rendered fat has been discarded, you can store it in its own braising liquid. I like to use large mason jars with sealing plastic lids.
Freezer. You can freeze Dak Dori Tang for about 3 months. After the rendered fat has been discarded, you can store Dak Dori Tang in its own braising liquid, which will keep the meat and vegetables from drying out. The way that works best for how I maintain my freezer is portioning the Dak Dori Tang directly into freezer-safe quart-sized bags, squeezing out all the air, sealing, and laying flat in the freezer until it freezes. Then I stand the bag or multiple bags up and line them up like thin books on a bookshelf. If you're looking to reduce single-use plastic, these are re-usable ziptop bags.
Ingredient Substitutions and Variations
Here are a few suggested substitutions for some of the slightly harder-to-find ingredients, as well as suggested additions, and variations. I have tried all of these and the family truly does love all of them!
Dried Shiitake Mushrooms for Fresh. If you want to use dried shiitake mushrooms, soak dried shiitake mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes to 1 hour, while the short ribs are braising.
Pears or Other Fruit. If you can't find Asian or Korean pears, you can use regular pear. If pears are out of season, use 1 cup chopped kiwi, which has similar compounds that can naturally tenderize meat.
No Tamari. Substitute with regular soy sauce.
No Mirim/Mirin. Substitute with sake, Japanese rice wine, in the equivalent amount. If you don't want to use alcohol, you can leave this out completely.
Suggested Additions and Variations
Add 1-2 cups of any of the following vegetables cut into 1-inch pieces along with carrots and daikon:
- white potatoes
- pearl onions instead of sliced regular onions
- butternut squash or kabocha squash.
Tools and Equipment
- Dutch Oven. This is the large, oval Dutch oven I use for braising.
- Stock Pot: If you want a slightly lighter weight pot, I like this very large stock pot by this cookware company. It has a heavy bottom and easy-to-hold handles. Any large pot that fits the ingredients will do.
- Slow Cooker: I have this 6-quart programmable slow cooker. If you are going to use a slow-cooker, I highly recommend getting/using a slow-cooker that has a timer or auto-shut-off so you can truly "set it, and forget it," which is kind of the point of a slow-cooker, imho.
- Stainless steel tongs
- Large bowls, one that fits within the other. I use both stainless steel and glass mixing bowls.
- Quart sized mason jars
- Plastic sealing lids for jars. Get rid of those annoying two-piece metal lids that come with mason jars (unless you're doing actual canning) and get wide-mouth lids for the larger jars, and wide-mouth smaller jars
- Plastic storage containers: I keep a decent supply of these plastic quart (32 ounces) containers for any- and everything. The containers are technically "disposable," but they can be used a few times with hand-washing between uses. The best thing, though, is freezer-safe glass. Always make sure the stock is cool before pouring into any type of storage container.
- Large format ice cube trays. If you plan to make and freeze bone borth for the rest of your life, these "souper cube" trays specifically dedicated to broths and soups are great to have.
What to Serve with Dak Dori Tang
Dak Dori Tang is technically a one-pot meal, so you don't really need anything else to serve and eat with it. However, it wouldn't be a Korean dish if you didn't serve fluffy steamed rice and some kind of kimchi along with it. Ladle big tender, falling-apart pieces of Dak Dori Tang over a bowl of rice that will soak up the juices, and serve with any of these alongside:
- Oi Muchim, Korean Spicy Cucumbers
- Spicy Cucumber Salad with Avocado
- Din Tai Fung Dupe Cucumbers
- Korean Sesame Spinach
Yes, you absolutely can and should make Dak Dori Tang in a slow cooker! You can essentially throw all of the ingredients into the slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 6 hours. In order to keep the vegetables from cooking too fast and breaking down, either cut the vegetables slightly larger than you normally would, OR you can add the vegetables when there is 1 hour left on the slow cookerand continue cooking until complete.
No, you do not need to brown chicken before braising Dak Dori Tang. Because there is so much flavor and umami in the braising sauce, there is no need to develop flavor by browning the skin!
Where to Try the Best Dak Dori Tang in a Restaurant
If you're lucky enough to live in Los Angeles or Orange County, you can try Dak Dori Tang in a restaurant! Most Korean restaurants that serve Dak Dori Tang are either specialists in braised chicken dishes, or serve Korean home-style comfort foods. I don't usually see Dak Dori Tang on the menus of Korean barbecue restaurants.
Here is where you can try some really good versions of Dak Dori Tang in a restaurant:
- Jun Won Dak. Jun Won was an old-school Korean hole-in-the-wall restaurant that served very traditional Korean classic home foods. Though it closed during the pandemic, Jun Won reopened as a chicken specialist. It even added the word for chicken "dak" to its name! 4254 ½ W 3rd St Los Angeles, CA 90020
- HanEuem. Their dish is on the menu as "Spicy Chicken and Potato Stew." If you're up for some spice, try it here! 539 S Western Ave Los Angeles, CA 90020
- Jinsol GukBap. GukBap translates to "soup rice," and they're well known for their pork-based dishes, though they have a small, but solid menu of other traditional Korean comfort foods, including Dak Dori Tang. a few locations, including: 4031 W 3rd St Los Angeles, CA 90020 (213) 365-0097 www.jinsolgukbap.net
- Yup Dduk. In Los Angeles and Irvine, Yup Dduk is a new-ish Korean Street Food specialist that has the dish as DaBokkeumTang (with chewy tteok rice cakes!) on their menu. 3603 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020 @YupDduk_LA
Dak Dori Tang aka SPICY Korean Braised Chicken Recipe
- 1 whole 3 to 4 pound chicken cut into 8 (or 10) pieces, or 8-10 thighs and drumsticks
- ¼ cup tamari or regular soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sake or mirin
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup or coconut sugar, date sugar, or regular brown sugar
- 1 1-inch piece ginger smashed against the cutting board with broad side of large knife
- 3-4 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
- 2 tablespoons gochugaru aka Korean red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons gochujang aka Korean red pepper paste
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups chicken stock to start up to 3 cups, if needed
- 1 stalk green onion white part cut into 2-inch pieces, green part saved for garnish
- ½ large onion cut into ¼-inch thick slices
- 2 large carrots peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 medium sweet potato peeled and cut into ¾-inch wide half moons
- 1 jalapeño or serrano pepper thin sliced on bias
- optional: 1 cup of mushrooms, 1 cup regular radishes or chopped daikon radish
Finish and Garnish
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1-2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- Combine tamari, sake or mirin, maple syrup, ginger, garlic, gochugaru, gochujang, and black pepper in a small bowl or lquid measuring cup.
- Place chicken piecesin heavy-bottom pot or Dutch oven. Pour braising sauce and 2 cups chicken stock over chicken. If chicken is not mostly submerged, add enough water so which is mostly submerged under liquid.
- Bring chicken and sauce to a boil, then turn down heat to low. Cover pot with lid, leaving a small opening to vent steam. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add cut vegetables—onions, carrots, sweet potatoes and white part of green onions—to pot, pushing them in between the pieces of chicken. Simmer with vented lid for another 20 minutes, checking on the pot every 5-10 minutes during cooking. Tilt the pot, grab some of the braising liquid, and pour over the top of the chicken so it doesn't dry out. If the braising liquid seems to be evaporating too much, add a little bit more chicken stock.
- Remove the lid, add the sliced jalapeño or serrano peppers, and simmer for 5 minutes to soften the jalapeños and reduce the braising sauce.
- Taste the braising sauce. Adjust seasoning with additional splashes of tamari or sea salt if needed.
- Transfer Dak Dori Tang to serving platter if using. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil just before serving. Garnish with fresh sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds.
I discovered a gray hair last week.
It sent me into a tailspin.
Or a headspin, in this case.
Or maybe just a head...case.
As you can read, I haven't recovered from the discovery yet. I wanted to make that rhyme, but what is this? A poetry blog? I am still dealing with it several
hours days later because it wasn't even a gray hair.
It was white.
I could have bounced back from soft, subtle gray. I could have coaxed my sanity back from the chromatic compromise between black and white. It would have taken a few deep breaths and two glasses of wine, but I would have shaken it, like an ex's getting married before me, off.
(Ok, the ex- thing took a little more than two glasses.)
But this hair was white. It had crossed the line. It had gone all the way over to the other side, no turning back to black. Like a vampire's victim drained of all color, drained of all life. Pale. Dead. For eternity.
Curl, You Are a(n Old) Woman Now
I was getting ready for a lunch meeting. When you work from home, when you're a (pseudo) blogger, when you rarely, if ever leave the house before 4 pm, rarely, if ever leave the house at all, you don't "get ready" for the day until just before you actually have to go out.
I was just going to pull my actual nappy mess into what would look like an on-purpose nappy mess, but I decided that I wouldn't get away with it, so I decided to curl my hair. I have a brand new curling iron, a long, long, *looong* overdue-by-at-least-five-years replacement for the rusty, broken-hinged burnt-product-coated model that I had to throw away before going to France because the French border patrol would not have let me into their gorgeous Parisian French Vogue country with the beauty equivalent of a sawed off shotgun.
(Did I mention that I went to France? No? Ok. I went to France! But can we talk about that later?)
Had I not been curling my hair, it would have remained hidden under the tangles layers of the rest of my hair. Had I not been curling my hair with a brand new curling iron, it would have gotten lost in the camouflage of mottled rust and burnt hair gel. But it wasn't hidden. It wasn't camouflaged.
In that lock of hair just back beyond the top of my head, pulled straight and flat then wrapped like a smooth, tight ribbon around the 1¼" barrel, it stood out, it shone, it being the single white hair against the rest of my deep, dark ebony hair, gleaming like a bright white glittering ray of geriatric fucking sunshine.
I fucking found it! Goddamit, why did I have to find it? Wait, thank god I found it.
Lose Your Illusion
I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, which certainly make sense since eyesight is the second thing "to go," after the color in your hair, and just before your sanity. The optical illusion has happened to me before. When your hair is this glossy, when your hair is this slicked over with three days worth of grease, a black strand can catch fluorescent light in way that makes it shine like it's white. On more than one occasion, I have seen what I thought was a gray hair, gasped, yanked it out out of my head, only to find myself cursing for pulling yet another perfectly good hair out of my thinning head that can't really afford to lose a single strand.
When I saw this one, I pulled a crazy maneuver, unrolling the curling iron without losing sight of the single white hair with one hand, and reaching across the bathroom counter as far as the curling iron cord would let me go without electrocuting myself, tore apart my cosmetics case looking for my tweezers because I couldn't — no just could NOT — risk trying to grab it with my bare hands and losing it. I fished my lifetime warrantied tweezermans out from between a pack of flosspicks and an eyeliner sharpener, then slipped them under the hair to pull and isolate it — it, it, *ick* capital I capital T, IT — from the rest for visual verification.
I had it standing straight up from my head.
I might have squeaked. Like Alfalfa. But Asian. And female. And in full screaming drained-of-color color. So not Alfalfa, but you get what I mean.
It was white. Confirmed. The entire hair was ghost-white, wiry, and kinked toward the ends where hair always gets a little damaged.
When I saw it, I freaked. I am talking full on Psycho 101 textbook with full color photographic illustrations Freaked. Out. I went through the 12 — is it 10? — steps or phases or stages of grief or mourning or post-trauma, all of them, really in about 30 seconds. Shock. Disbelief. Denial. Anger. Sadness. Every step, all of them for every type of emotional bad thing like loss from death, alcohol, whatever that would require a number of steps after, the worst of which is...Gray Hair Discovery.
I screamed like a banshee (screamed in my head, since we're still in the honeymoon phase in which I couldn't let on in any way that something was amiss while in the bathroom). Then, poised like the hunter gripping his weapon overhead, right before he's about to take the final, screaming, thrust down into his fallen prey, I grabbed that white hair by its root and yanked the vile weed from out of the top the top of my head.
I got it.
But I didn't feel good about it. Removing it from my physical being doesn't mean it hadn't been there in the first place. There was a white hair in my head. It's not there anymore, but the point is that it was there! IT WAS THERE. How long had it been there? How could I have not seen it? How many other people have seen it? Was it the only one? Oh my god. OHMYGOD but ohmygod, wait, OH MY GOD, what if it wasn't the only one? What if there are more?!
See Spot? Run!
I couldn't stop touching the pinpoint on top of my head from where I had plucked it. It didn't hurt, but that was the spot. I wanted to remember it forever because that's what I do when I freak out. I remember every fucking detail, like where I was lying, crying, curled up on the right side of my bed, when you broke up with me (over the phone, no less). See? Every fucking detail, like where, exactly, down to the longitudinal coordinates of my anatomical globe, I Found. The. White hair. Some people suppress traumatic memories, block them out completely. Me? I remember everything.
In front of the mirror, my body was contorted, probably matching my twisted, contorted, distorted face. I was trying to see The Spot on the top of my head in the mirror, The Spot, supposedly empty of a white hair now, The Spot, which is now a proper name because battlefields and scenes of crimes get full proper capitalized names. I wanted to see if I had gotten it all out, every last molecule, so that like some alien propagation, it couldn't grow back into its freakish translucent white.
I will not let it grow back.
(Do Not Read This Paragraph About What I Do With Things I Pluck From Myself)
I held the hair about three inches from my face, inspecting it.
Do you do that? I always do that. Please skip ahead to the following section if you don't perform nanoscopic-level examinations of things you pluck from your body because you won't understand this as anything but "omg. ew gross."
But if you do, then you know exactly what and how and why I was doing. I whipped my glasses off, because yes, I do wear glasses because like I said, eyesight is one of the first things to go. I whipped my glasses off so that I could resort to supernatural farsightedness and touched with my fingertip the root end, covered in a sticky, translucent little tube, even whiter than the white. I always get a weird sensational thrill, a feeling of accomplishment, seeing that soft, sticky root end of the hair because I know I got all of it out, all the way down to the follicle.
I get the same feeling when I examine the sebaceous stalactite farm on a biore strip peeled off my nose.
Ok, I'll stop now.
(Nor This Paragraph About My Childhood)
As a side note, this kind of psycho-obsessive behavior, I am sure, is bred from childhood summer after childhood summer when Dad "I Believe in Child Labor, At Least My Own" Delicious made us pull weeds from the lawn, our tiny little hands able to reach down between the blades of grass, down to the soil-level. We'd tug gently first to loosen, then yank — this the sure-fire method of extracting the weed and every thread, every strand of its root hairs fully intact. When we presented something that we had just plucked in its entirety from the ground, it was a confusing moment of pride, seeking approval, fascination, and relief knowing that in two days, an invisible root would not blossom into certain punishment for a job notwell done.
Ok, Back to The
Gray White Hair
I had no idea what to do with it. It wasn't my first white hair. But it was the first in a very long time. Do I twirl it like a strand of spaghetti? Make a pretty little teardrop shaped loop tied up with a tiny ribbon? Tape it into a "My First..." scrapbook along with all those other souvenirs of aging like a smooth, un-lined inkblot stamp of my first botoxed forehead? My first set of dentures?! My first fucking so-gray-it's-actually white hair?!
You might be wondering why I had such a violent reaction to a single gray hair. I'm old, right? (Don't answer that, at least not to my face, at least not right now.) I should have gray hair, right?! But that is exactly the point. For a person my age, my non-gray hair is just about the only blessing I have, the only thing in my life of "gypped of all the good genes" from my charming and beautiful mother and brilliant father. In fact, I have finally convinced myself that having an enormous Hello Kitty head lollybobbling on a grossly disproportionate, but skinny, almost boyish, body suggests "youthful."
Or "pre-pubescent Sanrio hermaphrodite."
And now a pre-pubescent Sanrio hermaphrodite with a bobblehead full of gray hair.
No More, Never
Ok, so I know it's not like I suddenly grew an entire head of gray hair, but I may as well have. That's what it felt like. I had one white hair. One. And I exterminated it. But that doesn't mean that there won't be more! That's the future "more," not the present "more" because you best believe I performed a full-scale search with a fine toothed comb, literally, over my entire head and found... no more.
Thank god. Do you know how much longer this painfullyselfindulgentbullshit of a blog post would be if I had found more gray hairs?!
I threw the hair away. Along with a little bit of my golden youth and innocent sanity.
I've spent the entire weekend with my hair in two braided pigtails, bangs pinned back with a Hello Kitty barette. I am eating an orange flavored lollipop right now.
Even Though Gray Hair Has Nothing to Do with Anything, At Least Not Any Food Thing
So whatthepluck does finding this gray hair have to do with food?!
I wasn't even going to attempt it — cherrypicking some subtle point in the "story" that has some tenuous association with somefoodthing, extracting some moral, some life lesson, some cookie of fortunate wisdom, bringing it altogether in a real life application with a recipe or a restaurant review — no, I had no intention of incorporating anything because I've kinda of given up.
Because I just wanted to hear myself blog.
Because really. Really? Isn't "finding hair," of any kind or any color, kind of gross in the context of food?
But at least I wrote something on my blog!
(And...did you really think I would post something that has to do with nothing? You know I bring it all back! You know I always do! It might be a really sketchy stretch, but there will be a connection. There will! Scroll down past the recipe and you'll see. Unless, as I said above, you get easily grossed out by stuff. Just, you know, know that I have many pairs of tweezers.)