Most of my friends and colleagues know that my favorite Korean food is a salty and spicy stew called Dwen-Jang-Jigae (된장찌개). Made from peppers and fermented soy bean paste (dwen-jang), it can range anywhere from mildly spicy to ass-kicking hot. It’s hearty, healthy, full of vegetables and absolutely delicious.
I eat this amazing stew every chance I get – often making a meal of it at restaurants. This is a bit odd as it is generally served as a shared side dish, but I’m willing to be a bit unconventional because it is both delicious and cheap. A bowl of soup with a cup of rice can range from 2,000-5,000 won ($2-5).
I wanted to make this stew for a long time, but it always seemed like an intimidating endeavor. Some Korean coworkers told me that it is difficult to make. Despite this warning, I finally decided to try my hand at making a pot of Dwen-Jang-Jigae last weekend.
I was surprised to find that it was incredibly easy to make. Not only was it not difficult, but I learned that the recipe is quite flexible. It’s OK to add an ingredient, adjust the thickness of the stew or experiment in other ways. Most Korean mothers who make this stew tend to cook by feel rather than strictly adhering to a recipe.
Let’s get started:
The first step is to gather the ingredients. I went to the street market near my apartment, but most of these ingredients can be found at any grocery store. The only thing that might require an Asian grocery is the Dwen-Jang.
- Dwen-Jang – 2 or 3 heaping tablespoons
*Any Asian/Korean grocer will have Dwen-Jang. Also available online.
- Dubu – One small package, cut into squares.
*Most Americans know this as Tofu. Same stuff.
- Dried Anchovies – About 1/4 cup
*You can replace these with 2 cups of anchovy broth.
- Green Pepper – 1 or 2, sliced thin
*The best pepper for this is called Go-Chu (고추)
- Green Onion – 1 or 2, sliced
- White Onion – 1 diced in thick pieces
- Zucchini – 1/2, sliced
The first step is to boil the anchovies. I used four cups of water and a handful of dried anchovies – about 1/4 cup. Simply place the anchovies in the water and bring it to a boil for 8-10 minutes. Feel free to adjust the amount of water and number of anchovies.
While the anchovies are boiling, cut the vegetables and dubu. This is pretty simple. Most stews have thick-cut onions and thin slices of zucchini, but it’s OK to cut them however you like. It’s also OK to add other vegetables or mushrooms.
When the anchovy broth is complete, remove the anchovies from the water with a strainer. Add two or three heaping tablespoons of dwen-jang to the water and stir it in. Reapply heat and allow it to return to a boil.
As the water is returning to a boil, add the peppers and the green onions to the pot. Allow these ingredients to boil for five minutes, then add the remaining ingredients (white onion, zucchini and dubu). Let the stew boil for 10-15 more minutes before serving. This soup is great with rice. I like to mix about a half cup of rice right into my stew bowl before eating.
As I mentioned before, there are plenty of variations to this recipe. You really can’t go wrong as long as you include the basic ingredients (dwen-jang, anchovy broth and gochu). I suggest that you check out this post for another version of the same recipe. The author, Hyosun Ro, is a Korean-American who shares Korean recipes on her blog, Korean Bapsang. Thanks to the addition of meat and dry pepper flakes, I think her recipe will be even more flavorful than mine!
Until next time.