Cheonggukjang 청국장 (Fermented Soybean Soup aka Stinky Soup)

One of the dishes I used to abhor as a child because of the pungent smell, it’s now one of my favorite soups: Cheonggukjang 청국장 (Fermented Soybean Soup aka Stinky Soup). My mom used to make this from scratch when I was really young and I would be amazed (and slightly terrified) that something so foreign and sticky (think spider web) could be eaten. Furthermore, the smell was something that could only be described as a combination of rotting garbage, stinky socks, and as some 

For those curious about the difference between this soup and its closely related brother, Dwenjang Jjigae 된장찌개 (Fermented Soybean Paste Stew), they’re practically the same. The only difference is the beans used in Cheonggukjang are sometimes uncrushed and are fermented for a shorter period of time. As with most fermented beans, they are considered quite healthy and rich in fiber, therefore helping you lose weight and prevent constipation (perfect for me!). We usually make one of these two soup varieties because they’re easy to make and provide the perfect complement to any traditional Korean meal. 🙂

If you’re fascinated with Korean food (like me) and want the full details of Cheonggukjang, check out the following link fore more information:

“I will marry you if you promise not to make me eat eggplant.” ~ Gabriel García Márquez
Here are the basic ingredients here for my Cheonggukjang. I usually like to add mushrooms and zucchini to the mix, but this combination worked out fine.
The Cheonggukjang paste can be strong in taste and smell, so use sparingly and adjust as you cook.
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Cheonggukjang 청국장 (Fermented Soybean Soup aka Stinky Soup)
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2
  • 1 block firm tofu
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thin
  • 3, 4 tbsp cheonggukjang paste
  • 1 tbsp gochugaru (red pepper powder)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 green onions
  • 2 green and red chili peppers, diced
  • 1 small zucchini, diced (optional)
  • 1 bunch enoki mushrooms (optional)
  • Broth (optional):
  • 1/2 cup anchovies
  • a piece dried sea kelp
  • a piece of Korean radish
  • 10 cups water
  1. Making the traditional broth with anchovies and kelp is optional. However, I usually forego this step since the cheonggukjang paste provides plenty of the main flavor needed for this soup
  2. Cut the tofu in cubed pieces, mince the garlic, and cut the onion into strips. Set aside until use.
  3. Saute the ground pork, onion, and minced garlic in a frying pan until browned, 5 minutes.
  4. Bring a pot with approximately 6 cups of water to a rapid boil. Add all the ingredients except for the green onions and cook on medium heat, roughly 10 minutes.
  5. Taste and adjust accordingly with more paste depending upon preference.
  6. Garnish with green onions and enjoy!
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 cooking instincts to provide comfort food at its best. This concept of “son-maat” is pretty important in Korean cooking, so I’ve always wanted to keep that tradition alive even with the blog. 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.”

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