Some of you may be aware that I'm not a fan of Korean food, despite being married to a "Korean halfling". BUT, since the very indulgent Hubs got me my dream kitchen, I, in turn, promised to learn and cook his favourite childhood comfort food of Kimchi Jjigae, a heart-warming stew centered around the Korean staple of kimchi.
Researching the recipe was a headache-inducing exercise, because everyone's recipe for kimchi jjigae is notably different! So, mine's an amalgamation of all of these recipes, tweaked to the Hubs' personal preferences, and loaded with our favourite proteins. We're partial to silken tofu, enoki mushrooms, tung hoon and chicken/pork belly/wagyu. Sometimes, we'll finish off with an egg to poach within the stew as well.
Steps 1 to 5 below will create the stew base, and you can dunk in anything other type of protein at steps 6 to 7. We've had seafood variants with sardines, clams and tuna that were delicious.
One thing to note: many recipes say that total cooking time will take no more than 20 minutes, but that will make for kimchi that still retains its crunch. The Hubs prefers his properly and slowly stewed, with kimchi that's totally simmered into the stew for a sweeter, richer, more full-bodied broth. So mine's catered for kimchi that's super soft and wilted. Depending on whether you like your kimchi still crunchy or not, you can adjust the stewing time accordingly.
Also, because here in Singapore, we don't get pungent-enough kimchi (properly authentic kimchi jjigae uses kimchi that's so pungent that you can't eat it on its own), you may want to add a tbsp of sauerkraut at step 3 or 1 tbsp vinegar at step 4 to achieve a more authentic taste.
Ingredients (feeds 2 big eaters or 4 dieters):
1 regular tub of kimchi weighing 400gm (the "older" the kimchi, the better, so don't get the "fresh" ones, get the oldest, most pungent kimchi you can find)
Gochujang (red pepper paste)
Gochugaru (red chilli flakes or powder)
1 block of beancurd
Half a bunch of enoki mushrooms, stalks separated out (you can opt to use shitake here)
1 roll tung hoon (glass vermicelli), or you can use udon noodles here too
1 cup stock (chicken and/or anchovy in place of water if you prefer your stew richer)
1 clove garlic, minced (put this through a garlic press)
Half a yellow onion, diced roughly
Sesame oil-frying oil combination (1 tbsp sesame oil as an
accent to 2 tbsp frying oil, i.e. 1 part sesame oil to 2 parts frying
1) Add garlic in sesame oil-frying oil combination in pre-heated wok, and fry until fragrant. Add onions and fry until it "sweats".
2) Add 2 tbsp gochujang and fry for half a minute till fragrant.
3) Add kimchi and fry for a minute.
4) Add 2 cups water; or 1 cup of water with 1 cup of stock (use anchovy or chicken), stew on medium heat for 25 minutes with lid on. Watch every 10 minutes and keep adding water so the stew doesn't dry out.
5) Add enoki and stew on medium heat for 10 minutes.
6) Add tung hoon.
7) Add beancurd and 1 tsp gochugaru and stew on medium heat for another 10 minutes.
8) Adjust levels of thickness and spice with additional water and/or gochugaru accordingly to personal preference before serving. As someone who ain't no fan of kimchi, I was surprised to find myself liking this very much! The sting and pungency of fermented kimchi is simmered away by the stewing process, making for a balanced, sweet, tangy and spicy soup.