Budae Jjigae 부대찌개 (Army Stew)

The other day we made a unique Korean stew incorporating the best of Korean and American staples: kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), rice cakes, Spam, and hot dogs. Yes, you heard me right, Spam and hot dogs are cooked alongside a healthy dose of kimchi and other “stuff” that make up a hearty dish called budae jjigae, famously known as Army Stew in Korean. This is a popular dish that conjures up memories of Korea’s past when the country was devastated by war and food remained a scarce commodity. Shortly after the war, there was a surplus of foods like canned ham, Spam, and hot dog varieties from the US Army bases, so a few food stalls put them to good use by making them into a spicy soup flavored with gochujang (red chili pepper paste) and gochugaru (red chili flakes). McDonalds and Burger King are common fast food fixtures for the young today in Korea, but budae jjigae has remained a nostalgic and sentimental dish favored by older generations. However, this soup has also attracted foreigners in recent time.

We made this dish specifically for our food blog, so it was fun scouring and purging the fridge and pantry for needed ingredients. For the more traditional stew, you will probably want to stick to Spam, hot dogs, kimchi, rice cakes (tteok), ramen noodles, and cheese. But as long as there’s canned ham or Spam along with kimchi, you can be sure to say that you’ve eaten Korean-style Army Stew (or least a variation of it).

 

Servings: 4 people

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15~20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Spam, thinly sliced
  • 2 hot dogs or sausages, diagonally cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup well-fermented kimchi (+1/2 cup kimchi liquid)
  • 1 instant ramen noodle (sauce packet optional)
  • 1 cup rice cakes (tteok)
  • 1/2 onion, thinly diced
  • 1 package firm tofu, cubed or thinly sliced
  • 1 handful glass noodles (dangmyun)
  • 5, 6 cups of water, enough to cover
  • 1 scallion/green onion, thinly sliced (garnish)

Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp gochugaru(red pepper flake)
  • 1 tbsp gochujang(red pepper paste)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp rice wine (Mirin) or soju

Optional:

  • 1 lb. ground beef or pork, rolled into meatball-sized shapes
  • 1, 2 slices of processed cheese
  • ½ can of baked beans

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, add all the sauce ingredients together to make a paste.
  2. In a large pot, add the sliced Spam, hot dogs, kimchi, onion, tofu, rice cakes, glass noodles, and seasoning paste. Add water to cover and boil for about 10 minutes to soften the kimchi and enrich the broth.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and then add instant ramen noodles and scallions.
  4. When noodles have separated and softened, taste the broth of the stew and season according to taste preference. This might be too spicy for some so adding extra water or slices of cheese will help alleviate this problem.
  5. Serve individually into separate bowls. Eat with rice and available banchan side dishes.

 

*Many Koreans will also include some of the spicy sauce packet from the instant noodles (Shin Ramen being the most ideal) that can surprisingly add more depth and flavor to the stew. If time permits, cook the soup longer to develop more tense flavors, as most Korean soups and stews taste exponentially better when cooked for longer periods.

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