Budae Jjigae (Korean Army Stew)

Budae jjigae may be a fusion food that was borne out of war-time food scarcity, but it's become one of the most beloved national dishes of South Koreans. A bastard child of American military food supplies and South Korean produce and local flavours, it's a wonderful melange of all preserved and canned things bad for you, in a nutritious comforting soupy base.

My rendition of Budae Jjigae is a mish-mash of anything in the pantry I can muster, dunked into a base of stewed kimchi and whatever homemade stock I have tucked away in the freezer. A tip is to serve it steamboat-style, for a more communal atmosphere (plus, it's less prep work!).

I do this as a change-up from the usual local-style Chinese steamboat, and its sour-spicy-savoury-sweet flavours seem to appeal to my friends. Seeing as Chinese New Year is round the corner, homecooks planning reunion dinners at home may find this idea perfectly timed.

Soup base for about 8L (it's like making kimchi jjigae):
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp heaps gochujang (add up to 8 tbsp heapfuls if you prefer the heat)
300 gm minced meat (chicken, beef, and/or pork will do just fine)
2 cans champignon mushrooms, sliced
1kg kimchi, roughly sliced (the "older" the kimchi, the better, so don't get the "fresh" ones, get the oldest, most pungent kimchi you can find)
10 cups homemade stock (I generally use a combination of vegetable, shrimp, and chicken stock)
10 cups water (you want the soup base thin, so it doesn't get too sweet after dunking in all your steamboat ingredients)
2 tbsp canola oil

Traditional budae jjigae ingredients:
spam, luncheon meat, bacon, and/or hotdogs
cheese (like Kraft singles)
baked beans
instant ramen noodles
tteokbokki (Korean rice cakes)
tofu (I prefer the silken beancurd, but you can use the firm or egg-based ones)

Other suggested ingredients borrowed from local Chinese-style steamboats:
pre-made balls: fishballs, meatballs, cuttlefish balls, prawn balls, beef balls, mushroom balls, cheese-filled meatballs
yong tau foo ingredients, imitation crabsticks, fish dumplings
fresh seafood: prawns, squid, clams, mussels, scallops, white fish fillets, salmon, abalone
fresh meats: chicken fillet, beef sukiyaki, shabu shabu pork belly strips (marinade these in spicy bulgogi)
fresh vegetables: daikon, tomatoes, corn, carrots, spinach, cabbage, and/or watercress
fresh mushrooms of the enoki, shitake, shimeiji, and/or oyster variatals
carbs: glass vermicelli and/or fresh udon noodles

1) Fry onions, and garlic in oil, till fragrant, about 2 minutes on medium heat.

2) Add gochujang, and toss until toasty, about 1 minute.

3) Add minced meat, and fry till cooked through.

4) Add kimchi, and fry for 5 minutes.

5) Add mushrooms, and fry for about 1 minute.

6) Add stock and water, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 40 minutes.

7) Transfer to steamboat, and dunk away!

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