Before moving to Korea in August, I made Korean food at least once a week, often more. From kimchi (기지) to tteokboki (떡복이) to seaweed soup (미역국), I’ve tried my hand at loads of different Korean dishes. Since moving here though, I’ve had plenty of access to Korean food at school and restaurants. Consequently, my adventures in Korean cooking came to a halt as soon as I arrived in Korea.
One thing I’ve noticed at Korean restaurants and school, is the kimchi doesn’t tend to be very old. And I like my kimchi really old and really sour. I’ve been spoiled with high quality kimchi from my friends aunt the past few years in Canada, so the new kimchi here, while good, doesn’t suit my tastes as well. After returning from vacation in Vietnam and Taiwan, I decided to make my first batch of kimchi in a long time.
The napa cabbage I used was huge and I ended up with a ridiculous amount of the spicy fermented pickle. The only solution was to make kimchi jjigae, or kimchi stew, one of my favourite Korean dishes. This spicy, sour, and veggie-packed stew is my favourite thing to warm up to on a cold day, and is my go-to comfort food when I’m sick.
The recipe I use, as with all my Korean cooking, is from Maangchi. I’ve adapted the recipe over time to suit my tastes so I decided to share my own version here. I want to emphasize that this is not “traditional” kimchi jjigae and it probably sounds like an absolute botchery of the dish to any ajumma. Rather, it’s my own interpretation of the dish!
Before arriving in Korea, I was vegetarian for about three years. Since socializing is very difficult here as a vegetarian, I’ve since started eating meat at social gatherings. However, I keep it veggie at home so my version of kimchi jjigae omits the pork and is packed with delicious tofu.
adapted from Maangchi
– 2-3 cups old kimchi, chopped
– 1/4 cup kimchi brine
– 1/2 package tofu
– 3 green onions, sliced
– 1 yellow onion, diced
– 1 tsp salt
– 2 tsp sugar
– 1 tbsp gochujang
– 2 tsp gochugaru
– 2 tsp sesame oil
– 2 cups anchovy stock (or other broth)
– 1 bunch enoki mushrooms (or any mushroom of choice)
– 1 bunch greens (like dandelion greens, spinach, etc.)
– 2-3 cups bean sprouts
– 2 cups tteok (I like the round, flat ones)
1. Make anchovy stock: boil 1/2 cup anchovies (I used mini anchovies because I already had them) in 5 cups of water. After 5-10 minutes of boiling, strain and set aside.
2. Place kimchi, kimchi brine, and onions into large pot on medium heat. When it starts to bubble, add salt, sugar, gochuchang, gochugaru, sesame oil, and anchovy stock. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
3. Stir in rice cakes and lay tofu and vegetables on top. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, gradually mixing vegetables into the stew as they soften.
4. Remove from heat and enjoy with rice!
Another great spot to learn about Korean food (and culture) is from the tv series “The Kimchi Chronicles.” This show follows the journey of a Korean-American adoptee that returns to Korea as an adult to rediscover her Korean heritage. Along the way, her famous chef husband does little cooking lessons, and their neighbours Hugh Jackman (!!!) and Deborah-Lee Furness join in a few times!