Kimchi Jjigae 김치찌개 (Kimchi Stew)

Kimchi Jjigae, the ultimate Korean comfort food, finally perfected to my liking (i.e. tart, hearty, and comforting) after years of test kitchen and tips from the top kimchi jjigae restaurants in Seoul, including my personal favorite Gwanghwamun Jip 광화문집. I’ve tried every possible combination of ingredients and boiling time, so it’s great to have a final recipe that I’ll be using from here on out.

The directions might be long and complicated for novice cooks—but if you’re willing to put in the time and effort—I can confidently say you’ll be rewarded with restaurant-quality kimchi jjigae in the comfort of your own home. And apologies for omitting an ingredient list; it’s much easier for me to remember the complete recipe as I recreate the steps in my head from start to finish. Please don’t hesitate to comment if you need any clarification—I’d love to help out!

1️⃣ Two-person serving. In a large pot, sauté 1 tbsp saewujeot (salted baby shrimp) in 1 tbsp sesame oil, until fragrant. Tip: If you don’t have saewujeot, fish sauce can be substituted.

2️⃣ Add 500 grams of diced pork, any cut that has a nice ratio of fat to meat (neck meat, pork belly, shoulder, loin, etc.). Sauté until brown or cooked through.

3️⃣ Briefly sauté 3 cups of mugeunji kimchi 묵은지김치, kimchi that’s been aged a minimum of 6 months. Well-aged kimchi will be translucent and should be super sharp in taste and smell. Pictured kimchi was two months old, so it was set out at room temp for two days before use. Saute until kimchi sweats out excess water; 5 mins maximum.

4️⃣ Along with one cup of kimchi liquid, add 2 tbsp of dadaegi 다대기 a special seasoning paste made of 6 tbsp red chili flakes, 2 tbsp minced garlic, 2 tbsp minced onion, 1/2 tbsp minced ginger, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp rice wine, 1 tsp brown sugar. Ferment a minimum of one week (more the better) in fridge; save remaining paste for future soups.

5️⃣ Fill water to cover, or more depending on preference. Cover and slow boil on medium heat for 45 min. (one hour for firmer, fresher kimchi). Remove from heat, rest 20 min uncovered to release moisture. Season to taste with dashida (beef stock powder) or mat-sogeum (salt w MSG), or sugar if the broth is too tart and sour.

6️⃣ Boil for 5 min, add slices of tofu, then remove from heat. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving with a bowl of rice.

Note: This recipe can also be used for kimchi jjim, a braised dish using whole kimchi (not chopped) with pork chunks. Simply boil uncovered until broth has reduced down to a thick and savory sauce. 

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