Tuesday, February 12, 2013

a simple kimchi jjigae


Stews or soups are just as much a staple to the Korean meal as rice is. Whether served as the main dish or on the side along with a plethora of banchan (side dishes), there's got to be some kinda liquidy goodness on the table to call it a genuine Korean meal. 

I made a simple kimchijjigae (kimchi stew) to serve on the side with the samgyupsal (pork belly) we had for dinner on Sunday night. I didn't put meat in the stew because its purpose was to be a clean, spicy soup to complement the grilled pork. In a medium-sized earthenware pot, I sautéed some chopped up kimchi, thinly sliced onions, and lots and lots of minced garlic and a sauce made of 1tb gochugaru (chili powder), 1tb gochujang (chili paste) and a little bit of brown sugar with seasame oil. When all the seasonings were well incorporated into the vegetables, I poured dashi stock to fill the pot 3/4 full. I used dashi in this vegetarian rendition instead of water to make up for the heartiness that pork or spam could have brought if this stew if it had meat in it. Here, I adjust the spiciness of the soup (NOT the saltiness) by adding more gochugaru to give it more heat or diluting the soup with water for the opposite effect, etc.

The trick to good kimchi jjigae is to let all the ingredients mesh and marry. The flavor's gotta be deep and every spoonful's gotta taste the same. So I let that shit stew on low for a few hours with the lid on. Well, at least one hour. About thirty minutes before I serve, I taste and adjust the seasoning with a little bit of chicken or beef bouillon (or stock), soysauce, or whatever salty ingredient I have on hand, but NEVER with salt itself. Using plain salt is cheating because I'll be missing out on an opportunity to introduce another layer of flavor to the stew. Ground pepper is okay though, I use lots. Ten minutes before serving, I add tofu cut up into bite sized pieces and maybe green onions if I have some on hand. I usually have some in the fridge, but if it's not an arm's length to me, I skip it. That's how lazy I am and how needless this step is. Aesthetically, the freshly cut green onions sprinkled on top of the spicy, red soup looks good though. 

I remember going off to college and asking my mom how I can make kimchi jjigae like hers. Annoyed, she answered by telling me to just put some spam, onions, tofu in a pot and boil it in water. Needless to say, it came out so gross! She didn't have to patience to explain to me about how important it was to get the flavors out of all the ingredients and seasoning than it was to get all the right ingredients and measurements together. Even kimchi, water and gochugaru can make a great jjigae if you give it the right treatment.  

Anyway, I placed the earthenware pot with the sizzling jjigae in the middle of the table for people to share (omg please don't forget the trivet). Korean families use communal bowls often, but individual bowls are fine too.

I love having Korean BBQ nights at home. It's a great excuse to bring out the tabletop burner and grill, get some people together and have everyone else (but me) do the work of actually cooking. All I have to do is prep the food and set the table, hand the tongs over to the Dude and I just chill for the rest of the night. 

For other prep work, I just cut up some onion (into rings), took caps off mushrooms and peeled whole garlic to grill it next to the pork. And I cut and washed a bunch of red leaf lettuce for people to make their own wraps filled with the grilled meat and veggies. Bring out whatever's banchan that's already in the fridge (anything or nothing is fine), some roasted seaweed and sometimes I make gaeranjjim (steamed egg) to complete the spread. Easy. Easy. Easy. 

I did everything so far in advance that I was relaxing and right before dinner time I forgot that I didn't make the rice. It was okay because we just put a pot on and chilled for another 30. But don't let that happen to you. 

Btw, the kimchi jjigae tasted even better when I reheated it for breakfast the next morning. 

2 comments:

  1. "I remember going off to college and asking my mom how I can make kimchi jjigae like hers. Annoyed, she answered by telling me to just put some spam, onions, tofu in a pot and boil it in water. Needless to say, it came out so gross!"

    Aww! Made me smile. And your jjigae looks amazing! There's nothing like it to warm you up from the inside out. ^^

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  2. i want some of your kimchi jjigae!

    ReplyDelete