Dwenjang Jigae 된장 찌개 (Soybean Paste Stew)

This is another traditional Korean soup usually served with a main dish. It has a distinct pungent smell at first whiff (due to the fermented soybeans) but most people, including myself, find it fully invigorating and satisfying after a few tries. You could say it is an acquired taste. Regardless, it’s a very healthy soup that can be made rather easily without much prep and cooking time. When I make the dish, I change the ingredients according to what vegetables are available, but as long as you have dwenjang (soy bean paste) it is still considered dwenjang jjigae. This is slightly similar to its distant cousin, Japanese miso, but imagine 10 times stronger in taste and smell. I still remember back during my college days when my roommate (a Korean study abroad student) made this dish with ground pork and simple veggies. Not only was it the best dwenjang I’ve ever had, there was such depth to the broth even though it took him no more than 20 minutes to make. I’m not sure what he did exactly, but I’ve tried to copy that version but only in vain. [sigh] Anyways, the usual suspects for this recipe include plenty of tubu (tofu) and shellfish including clams, mussels, and shrimp, all which add another dimension to the already tasty broth. You won’t be disappointed so give it a try (nose plugs for the newbies).
Servings: 4 people
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Ingredients:
  • 1 package firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 squash variety, cubed
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 1 red or green pepper, seeded and diagonally sliced
  • 3, 4 tbsp dwenjang (fermented soybean paste)
  • 1 tbsp gochugaru (red chili pepper flakes)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • shellfish varieties (if available)
  • salt to taste
  • 6 cups of water

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, saute the ground pork until browned, 5 minutes.
  2. Add 6 cups of water plus dwenjang and gochugaru, bring to a rapid boil, 5 minutes
  3. Mash dwenjang through a strainer if you dislike whole beans in the soup.
  4. Add minced garlic and veggies, cook on a medium heat, 7 minutes.
  5. Add chili peppers and tofu cubes, 2 minutes.
  6. Ladle in soup bowls and serve with rice and banchan.
*This is really a no-fuss dish that can be made easily home. If you are pressed for time, simply gather all the ingredients listed above in a large pot, cover, and let boil for a good 10-15 minutes. There will be little or no difference in the taste. Many traditional recipes call for dashima (kelp) and dried anchovies (myulchi) for the broth, including dwenjang jjigae, but it’s totally unnecessary when using protein (meats) in the soup. Many restaurants that I’ve reviewed and worked for often leave these out for the same reason.

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