Kimchi Jjigae

Kimchi Jjigae Recipe

It’s been seven years since I started this blog, and nearly five since I posted my Kimchi Jjigae (김치찌개). If I kept track of such things, I’ve probably cooked this dish more times than any other. It’s not just about using leftovers, or having a good taste to effort ratio, this stew delivers the perfect amalgamation of umami, heat and substance which both literally and figuratively warms the soul.

When I’m not developing recipes for work, I tend to wing it in the kitchen, which is why my favorite dishes evolve over time. I’ve made a number of refinements to the recipe since i posted it, which is why I’ve decided to share an update with you. Below is the original post along with my revised recipe:

Given my recent sojourn in Korea I thought it only appropriate to do a post I’ve been meaning to do for a very long time: Kimchi Jjigae. Depending on who you ask, you may see it transliterated as Kimchi Chigae, Kimchi Soup or Kimchi Stew, but it all refers to the same bubbling, red hot cauldron of soul satisfying soup made with kimchi, pork and tofu.

I wasn’t able to find a ton of information on its origins, but it’s not a stretch to imagine this dish was conceived back in humbler times as a way to use old over-fermented kimchi along with a few scarce scraps of meat. When paired with a bowl of hot rice, it will jump start your internal furnace and chase away even the most frigid of winter chills.

Like its German cousin sauerkraut, the various strains of Lactobacillus in kimchi convert the sugars in the cabbage into acids over time. At some point, most people find that kimchi gets too tart, making it unpleasant to eat straight out of the jar, but this is the perfect time to turn it into Kimchi Jjigae. The tartness mellows out as it stews with the pork belly and it helps to balance the rich fat from the belly.

For those that have never had it before, Kimchi Jjigae may look like it packs a face-melting punch, but it’s not nearly as spicy as it looks. Unlike some Latin American chili peppers, Korean chilies are less potent, contributing sweetness in addition to heat. Of course if you like things scorching hot like me, you can crank the volume by adding more gochugaru.

Kimchi Jjigae Recipe

While every household has their own secrets for making their kimchi jjigae, here are mine:

  • Marinate the meat – It may seem silly to marinate something that’s going to be cooking in a liquid but the marinade caramelizes as you fry the meat, which gives the soup more depth.
  • Use the kimchi juice – This is the red liquid that is released from the cabbage as it’s being pickled. Every package will have some at the bottom and you can squeeze the kimchi with your hands to get more.
  • Add a bit of doengjang – Doengjang is a fermented soybean paste similar to miso that packs a wallop of umami and adds a wonderfully earthy taste to the jjigae.
  • Add butter at the end – This may sound really odd, but it thickens the soup and gives it a wonderful richness without being greasy. The key is to add it just before serving so it emulsifies in the soup (if you add it too early the milk solids and fat will separate and make the soup oily).

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    Kimchi Jjigae
  • A hearty soul-warming stew made with kimchi, pork belly and tofu.
ServingsPrep TimeCook Time
2 people 10 minutes 30 minutes

Ingredients

Servings: people
Units:

Instructions

  1. Marinate the pork belly with the garlic, ginger, gukganjang and soju while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Heat a heavy bottomed pot until hot and then add the pork belly. Allow some of the fat to render out of the pork belly, then add the onions and kimchi. Sauté until the mixture is very fragrant.
  3. Add the kimchi juice, water, gochujang, and doengjang, stirring everything together to combine.
  4. Bring to a boil and taste for spiciness, adjust with gochugaru to increase the heat to where you want it.
  5. Add the tofu, turn down the heat to a simmer and let it cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the pork and kimchi are tender.
  6. When you’re ready to serve the kimchi jjigae, add the green onions and butter and give it a quick stir to incorporate. Put a trivet on the table and serve it straight out of the pot along with a bowl of rice.
  • KD

    Lovely, but I prepare & eat this alone as hubby has yet to understand the need to eat kimchi. That being said, how does one displace the odor? I only ask because of the groaning I hear after cooking w/it. While I’m 1 to dab a bit behind my ear ’cause I love it so…. I wonder for those not so inclined, is there a method of clearing the air for their benefit? Ya ought to hear the whimpering when I’m simply caramelizing onions &/or garlic….

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      There’s not much you can do aside from getting him to eat it:-) On that front, what about the kimchi does he find offensive? Is it the spice? Garlic? Or the fermented taste? If it’s the garlic or spice you could make your own kimchi and cut back on either ingredient. If it’s the latter, kimchi is actually great unfermented as well, which makes it taste more like a spicy garlicky salad. Here’s my recipe for making kimchi http://norecipes.com/recipe/kimchi/

      • KD

        I think it’s the fermentation. I haven’t (sinful I know), made my own kimchi. Given that unfermented might help to sway him: game on! Many thanks for the suggestion. He also doesn’t like garlic. And he’s Italian/German to boot. I could roll in garlic, onions & kimchi all day long like a kid at a water slide park!

  • sarah

    Oh man, I just made this last night with your old recipe! Didn’t have any gochujang so replaced it with tobanjan, it still turned out tasty. I can imagine this new one is much tastier, so I’ll be sure to try it next time. One thing though, the Korean chili flakes you mentioned in the recipe, do you mean gochugaru instead of gochujang?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Oops, typo!

  • http://www.noshon.it/ Vijay – Editor @ NoshOn.It

    Love the idea of adding doengjang. I often add miso to my kimchi jigae to give the broth more body!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      I actually used to use miso as well, but I decided I like the bolder flavor of doengjang with this. But if you add too much, it ends up overpowering the kimchi, which is why I only use a bit. It adds a subtle fermented nuttiness and lots of umami, but there isn’t enough of it to be immediately recognizable.

  • Joanne

    I’ve cooked your recipe about 4 times now and everyone i cook it for ABSOLUTELY LOVES IT!

  • Andrew

    Just wanted to say thanks for the recipe. I’ve used it for years now, with some variation. My secret is that I use beef stock instead of water, gives the stew some extra depth (but I might recommend reducing the doengjang in this instance). Also instead of butter I whip an egg (or 2, depending on the pot size) into the mix to thicken it up. If you ever try those variations, let me know what you think!

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I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!