‘Tis the season to bundle up and eat hot soup, so I thought I’d post about another traditional Korean dish that I like particularly like when it’s cold out. Doengjang jjigae is a stew made with fermented soy bean paste, or doenjeang, which is an essential element in Korean cuisine. I think many foreigners are initially turned off by this dish, mostly because doengjang is so pungent. Fermented soy bean paste doesn’t necessarily sound too appetizing, either. However, the hearty flavor of this dish is unlike any other soup or stew I’ve tried, and I love it.
The broth is usually comprised of doenjang, anchovy stock, garlic and Korean red pepper powder or flakes (gochugaru), which creates a perfect blend of spicy saltiness. Onions, zucchini, tofu, mushrooms and potatoes are added to the broth, making a deliciously balanced stew (clams, pork or beef are also sometimes included, depending on the recipe). Doenjang jjigae is often served as a side dish at barbecue restaurants, but lately I’ve been ordering it on it’s own with a bowl of rice for a cheap, healthy and quick dinner. If you ever have the opportunity to try it, I highly recommend doing so.
Doenjang jjigae is served sizzling hot in a stone bowl along with a side of rice.
This version was made with onions, zucchini, mushrooms, and tofu. I have yet to try a version with clams or any other type of meat. I also haven’t tried making it on my own yet, but I plan on doing so soon as I know this will be one of the dishes I’ll miss when I leave Korea.
Bibimbap was one of the first traditional dishes I had after arriving in Korea (I even had an airplane version on the way over, and though it was quite tasty for airplane food, it didn’t compare to the real deal). It basically translates to mixed rice and traditionally consists of warm rice topped with seasoned vegetables, an egg and a modest amount of thinly sliced beef. Bibimbap is famous in the city of Jeonju where it was first found in a cookbook—Siuijeonseo from the 19th century—and is believed to have been a royal dish/snack from the Joseon Dynasty. (I was lucky enough to enjoy a large bowl of traditional Jeonju bibimbap during my EPIK orientation, but unfortunately didn’t get a picture of it.)
Usually, bibimbap is served either cold with a fried egg on top or in a sizzling hot stone pot with a raw egg which cooks when you mix everything together. The latter, called dolsot bibimbap, is my favorite. The stone pot is lightly coated with sesame oil and because it’s so hot, the bottom layer of rice gets slightly crispy. Gochujang (spicy red pepper paste) is typically served right on top in the bowl alongside the vegetables and the egg. Once mixed together thoroughly, you’re in for spoonfuls of deliciousness (yes, Koreans eat bibimbap with a spoon, not chopsticks).
Dolsot bibimbap is served in a sizzling hot stone pot. The raw egg starts to cook when you mix everything together.
Before eating bibimbap you must thoroughly mix everything together.
David’s first time enjoying bibimbap, which was of course accompanied by an array of side dishes (banchan), as well as beer (maekju) and soju.
Kimbap, also known as gimbap, is the ultimate picnic food of Korea. It’s cheap, easy to make (or purchase) ahead of time and easily eaten on-the-go. The two main ingredients are dried seaweed (kim or gim) and white rice (bap). Various veggies and meats accompany the rice which is wrapped in sheets of dried seaweed. It looks very similar to sushi, however raw fish is not used in kimbap, and the rice is seasoned with sesame oil and sesame seeds rather than rice vinegar. The most common ingredients in basic kimbap are cucumber, carrot, fried egg, radish, imitation crab and spam (yes, spam is everywhere in Korea). You’ll also see canned tuna (chamchi kimbap), cheese (chijeu kimbap), beef (soegogi kimbap) and of course kimchi as ingredients as well.
Basic kimbap with carrots, cucumber, fried egg, spam, imitation crab, radish, and rice seasoned with sesame oil and sesame seeds. Unlike sushi, it’s served by itself without any sort of soy sauce, wasabi or ginger.
Kimbap to go, all for just $5!
You’ll often see Koreans enjoying kimbap on picnics in the park or while resting on a hike in the mountains. You can even buy it in any convenient store at all hours of the day, either in rolls or triangles which are called samgak kimbap.
A fancier version of kimbap (excuse the blurriness) with my co-teacher and another English teacher in Cheongju. Big fat rolls with bulgolgi (marinated beef) were accompanied by pickled radish, kimchi and bean sprout soup.
This healthy Korean dish is another one of my favorites so far, and I haven’t even tried it in its originating city yet. Dak galbi, which translates to chicken ribs despite the fact that chicken thigh or breast is usually used, is a specialty of Chuncheon in Gangwon Province. It consists of marinated diced chicken cooked in gochujang (hot pepper paste) along with green onions, sweet potato, cabbage, and tteok (rice cake). It’s quit spicy (surprise!) but oh-so-flavorful. Like many Korean dishes, it’s cooked at your table and is meant to be shared. Oftentimes dak galbi is served with leaves of lettuce as well as ice cold bowls of pickled radish for when the heat really gets to you.
Dak galbi at a restaurant in Eumseong, served with kimchi, seasoned mung bean sprouts, onions, garlic and pickled radish.
I love that you you get to enjoy the smell and site of it cooking AND get to skip out on all the prep work and clean up.
What do you do when your fermented cabbage becomes a little too fermented? Make a soup! At least that’s what Koreans do and it’s delicious. Kimchi jjigae is one of my favorite Korean dishes so far. Right now I’d say I could eat it everyday and not get tired of it (ask me again when summer comes).
Kimchi jjigae, accompanied by more kimchi, pickled radish, and white rice.
Jjigae, meaning soup or stew, is a regularly consumed dish in Korea and there are many different varieties, although kimchi jjigae is the only type I’ve tried so far. The more fermented the kimchi the better, as it creates a fuller flavor. Tofu, green onions, and pork are often included and it’s seasoned with garlic and dongjang (bean paste) or gochujang (red pepper paste). As you can imagine, it’s quite spicy. You also might think it would taste quite sour (you are eating aged kimchi), however I don’t find it to be at all. In fact, I forget that I’m even eating kimchi by the spoonful. The combination of the pork, veggies, gochujang and kimchi boiling in one pot creates an awesome flavor.
Kimchi jjigae is served bubbling hot in a stone dish and usually comes with rice (helps with the heat).
Sometimes I eat more than a pocketful of kimchi in one day.
Gamjatang, a traditional Korean comfort food, is a spicy pork bone soup usually made with mushrooms, cabbage, potatoes, onions and perilla leaves. It gets it’s hearty flavor by boiling pork spine and seasoning it with plenty of chili paste and garlic. Gamja means potato and tang is a type of soup, so the name is a bit misleading as potatoes are not the main ingredient and sometimes nonexistent in the dish all together. I prefer gamjatang with potatoes but it’s delicious either way. So far this has been one of my favorite dishes.
While it’s commonly referred to as hangover soup, gamjatang is also believed to prevent snoring. I don’t snore–I don’t think–so I can not vouch for it’s ability to cure snoring but I can say it is indeed even tastier after an evening of consuming a few too many beers and sips of soju (don’t worry, Mom, that only happens occasionally).
Gamjatang accompanied by traditional sides: kimchi, pickled radish, peppers and onions.
Korea’s hangover soup.
Gamjatang sometimes contains tteok (rice cake) and is usually served with a bowl of rice.