After finding myself (and my partner too) licking the last remaining bits and pieces of yet another kimchi jjigae (spicy kimchi stew) experiment, I think I finally perfected this simple yet hard-to-master dish. And perfect timing too. The temperatures here in Jeju have dropped considerably (making us regret our scooter purchase in the summer) but we’re still riding around the island like it’s summer. Luckily, we usually have this comforting, invigorating soup that’s been our go-to dish when we need a quick warm up. Made with a simple combination of super ripe kimchi, pork, and tofu, it’s the perfect stew paired with a bowl of hot rice (or cold rice if you’re like me).
Kimchi jjigae is a staple in the Korean household and each home has their own version. These are my personal tips for this awesome dish, but don’t hesitate to tweak to suit your taste buds!
- Stir fry the kimchi and meat along with the seasonings. This allows the kimchi to sweat out excess liquid and absorb the seasonings, ultimately resulting in a deeper broth.
- Use overly fermented kimchi and liquid. This is a must to create a deep, invigorating broth. The stinkier, the better.
- Let the soup rest. Just like a good steak, allow the flavors to settle and merry for some time. For those who’ve experienced leftover or next day kimchi jjigae, you know what I mean.
- Don’t be afraid to use dwenjang (soybean paste) or sesame oil to tone down the taste. Some may not be able to handle the pungent, sour kick often associated with this stew. Adding dwenjang and/or sesame oil will fix that problem during the boiling stage.
No time to cook? Head over to the nearest Saemaeul Sikdang 새마을 식당. They serve a darn delicious “7-Minute Pork Kimchi Jjigae” that won’t disappoint. http://www.newmaul.com/newmaul/index.asp
“The devil has put a penalty on all things we enjoy in life. Either we suffer in health or we suffer in soul or we get fat. ~ Albert Einstein
- 200 grams pork (any non-fatty cut), cut into small pieces
- 600 grams pork belly ideal
- 2 cups kimchi (riper the better)
- 4 tbsp gochugaru (red pepper flakes)
- ½ cup kimchi liquid
- 1 block firm tofu, cubed
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp crushed sesame seeds (mortar n pestle ideal)
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- ½ tsp salt and pepper
- In a large pot over high heat, sear the pork belly on all sides until slightly charred, about 10~15 minutes depending on thickness. Remove pork and save remaining oil.
- Add sliced kimchi, small pieces of pork, and seasoning, saute for 10 minutes.
- Add the large chunk of pork back into the pot, refill with water to cover kimchi and pork. Bring to a soft boil about 20~25 minutes. Add water as needed.
- Add cubed tofu and remove pork. Bring to a rapid boil and then turn off heat, let sit for a minimum of 10 minutes. Let pork sit for a few minutes before slicing into thin pieces.
- Serve hot with rice and banchan (side dish). Garnish with scallions, toasted sesame seeds, and gim jaban (roasted seaweed) if available.
Note to readers: All recipes, or more specifically seasoning and spice measurements, contained in MYKOREANEATS are approximations. Growing up in an old-school Korean kitchen where everything was measured by hand, there was a strict but important rule called “son-maat” (손맛), literally meaning “taste from one’s hand.” My mom would swear by this and always cooked all the dishes using her raw, culinary instinct to provide comfort food at its finest. This concept of “son-maat” is pretty important in Korean cooking, so I’ve always wanted to keep that tradition alive despite starting the blog a few years back. Another aspect that I love about “son-maat” is the idea of putting one’s signature or stamp on a dish. What makes your food taste like yours, not like anyone else’s, is literally and figuratively the “taste of one’s hands.” As a side note, most Korean dishes like stews, stir fries, and banchan (side dishes) are cooked to taste, meaning that the addition of extra spices is, more often than not, added during the cooking process itself. In that sense, don’t fuss and worry about exact measurements, but rather focus on developing your own “son-maat.”