The other day, I worked from home. I sat on the couch surrounded by papers and stared at my laptop screen and wrote for 12 straight hours. Afterwards, my eyeballs felt swollen, my brain was fried, and my butt was sore. All I wanted was a beer and the last thing I wanted to do was cook. I was thinking about asking R to pick up pizza on the way home when I got this unrelenting craving for kimchi jjigae. There was no quieting it, so I sucked it up and started cooking (while drinking that beer, of course).
Now, you might recall that I didn’t get my Korean cooking skills from my momma, so I’ve always just kind of winged it when it came to a lot of dishes. Kimchi jjigae is one of them, so I know mine isn’t the most authentic, but I think it’s still tasty. While I do subscribe to the “just throw it in” philosophy of cooking, I will usually Google around for a bit to get an idea what other people do and adjust if I think it’s worth it.
Secret Ingredient Kimchi Jjigae
1/2 onion sliced, 1/2 lbs pork belly sliced, 2 pieces tofu chopped, 1/2 Korean squash sliced and halved, couple handfuls of dduk (rice cakes), 1 1/2 C kimchi and 1/2 C kimchi juice, 1/2 package of enoki mushrooms
2 Tbsp (or to taste) gochujang (red pepper powder), 2 tsp doenjang or miso (soybean paste), 2 tsp gochujang (red pepper paste), 2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 Tsbp minced ginger, 4 cloves garlic minced, 1 green onion diced
1 Tbsp secret ingredient (keep reading to find out what it is!)
- Get yourself a nice big pot and get it nice and hot.
- A heavy cast iron one is good, but anything works.
- Throw in the onions with the sliced pork belly and keep it moving so the fat gets rendered and the onions don’t burn.
- I only had a couple pieces leftover from when we grilled some, so I put those in there and cut up a couple thin pieces of pork loin with just a bit of vegetable oil.
- Throw in garlic, ginger, and kimchi. Let that cook until it starts smelling so delicious you want to eat it right there.
- I usually keep it moving with a wooden spoon so nothing get burned, but this might be a novice cook thing I do.
- Next, add kimchi juice, enough water to cover everything (about 1 1/2 to 2 C), soy sauce, soybean paste, and red pepper paste and stir everything together so it’s all mixed up well. Let that come to a boil.
- Taste it and, depending on how spicy you want it, add as much red pepper powder you want.
- Add the tofu and then turn down the heat and let it simmer.
- I put the lid on the cast iron pot and turned the heat down real low and let it cook for 30 minutes. But, that was only because I was waiting for R to come home. It’s pretty much done after 15-20 — just whenever the kimchi and pork are tender.
- In the last five minutes I added the squash, mushrooms, and rice cakes.
- This is just what I happened to have in the fridge and needed to be used. You can skip it or get creative with other vegetables. Like I said, I like to wing it.
- Now here’s the good stuff: when you’re ready to eat, turn off the heat and add a Tbsp of butter and the green onions.
- Yes, butter! The butter thickens the broth and adds a rich and creamy deliciousness that isn’t greasy. I couldn’t get enough of it. But make sure not to add too early or apparently it’ll just be oily.
- Serve up with a bowl of white rice and you’re ready to go!
I adapted this recipe from the one I found on No Recipes. So glad I came across this blog. I will forever be putting butter in my jjigae. Also, that blog has way better pictures of the dish, so check them out.
My old boss used to always say, “Korean people need to eat Korean food.“
It’s true. And, what Paula Deen has probably said is also true: Butter makes everything better.