Kimchi Jjigae

KimchiStew

What is my all time favorite Korean dish? Hands down kimchi jjigae (김치 찌개). I can’t get enough of this stuff. Even when I was a wee little sprout I was all about this deliciously spicy pungent soup.  I can’t think of any better recipe that reminds me of my mother and grandmothers.

My afterschool snack at my grandparent’s house would be a bowl of kimchi jjigae with pieces of the oval-shaped chewy rice cakes submerged in all the goodness. I even remember the late night snack my mom would make with leftover kimchi stew. She would top a bowl of rice with some kimchi stew, a little chili paste (gochujang), leftover vegetable side dishes, and a sprinkling of roasted seaweed. Mix it all together and you get a spicy satisfying treat. Food always tasted better when I would steal bites from her bowl.

Even my grown-up self now makes this stew the most out of all other Korean dishes.

And let me tell you. To make good kimchi jjigae, it’s all about the kimchi.

Nothing is better than homemade kimchi from your grandmother or mother, but I’ll admit I do buy kimchi from the grocery store. Just make sure that the kimchi you have on hand can be defined with any of the following words: old, aged, ripe, tart, or sour; as kimchi at this stage of fermentation is the best to use for kimchi chigae.

I was lucky to use three different types of kimchi in this recipe. The chonggak kimchi came from my maternal grandmother when we went to Seoul in December. Yes, I brought kimchi back with me to Vietnam. Who wouldn’t? My loving grandmother made it herself and let it ferment in the ground within those earthenware pots. Though the recipe has three kinds of kimchi, you can just use one of type of kimchi for the recipe. The other two are the most common types of kimchi sold at the grocery store, kkakdugi and pogi kimchi. The kkakdugi is the cubed radish kimchi and pogi is the nappa cabbage kimchi.

Every Korean family has their own adaption of kimchi jjigae. I hope you like mine and also adapt it to make it your own.  Happy Mother’s Day!

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Kimchi Jjigae
serves 4

INGREDIENTS
1/3 cup of chopped pork belly
1 teaspoon of garlic
1/4 cup of diced onions
1/2 cup of kkakdugee (pickled cubed radish kimchi)
1 cup of chonggak kimchi (pickled bachelor radish kimchi)
1 cup of pogi kimchi (pickled napa cabbage kimchi)
1/4 cup of kimchi juice
1 3/4 cup of beef stock, pork stock, or water
1 teaspoon of Korean doenjang (miso)
1 teaspoon of red chili pepper flakes
1 jalepeno sliced (can be de-seeded)

INSTRUCTIONS
Turn the heat on to high. In a medium sized saucepan or Korean earthenware pot,  saute the pork belly and diced onions until the meat is cooked through and the onions are translucent. Add the kimchi and garlic; saute for five minutes. Add the kimchi juice, water/stock, doenjang, chili pepper flakes, and jalapeno. There should be enough liquid to barely covered the ingredients. If you want more soup, you can add more water. Let the chigae come to a boil and reduce the heat to medium. The jjigae is done when the kimchi turns translucent. Enjoy with a steaming bowl of rice!

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