[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]
(As advised to Sonja Swanson.)
I first began to experiment within the kitchen whereas I used to be finding out overseas in Oxford, England, once I lived with a number household of sort however reserved professors. I made all types of meals, however I held again on one specific Korean dish: doenjang jjigae (된장찌개). Doenjang jjigae is about as traditional because it will get with regards to Korean consolation meals. It’s one of many nation’s hottest stews, eaten at any time of day, whether or not for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s one of many first belongings you learn to prepare dinner if you transfer out of your mother and father’ home—it’s simply tailored to no matter greens and proteins you may have available it’s comparatively easy to make, and it doesn’t require lots of banchan (small facet dishes) to go together with it. It’s a whole meal, filled with greens and fermented soy proteins, which was particularly vital a very long time in the past when there wasn’t lots of meat within the Korean eating regimen.
Doenjang, the soybean paste that varieties the bottom of this broth, can be certainly one of our strongest-smelling fermented merchandise: It’s just like miso, however darker, extra pungent, earthier, saltier, and wheat-free. For Koreans, it’s a nostalgic scent that makes our mouths water. For folks unfamiliar with doenjang, it may be a little bit of a shock. (Be sure you learn this text on Korean pantry staples for tips about what manufacturers of doenjang to search for.)
Proper earlier than I returned house from my 12 months in England, I made a decision to prepare dinner doenjang jjigae for my host household. My host mother sniffed the air exterior the kitchen, the place the jjigae was boiling away, frowned, and left in a rush. However at dinnertime, she had one chew, then one other, and fairly quickly she had scraped the bowl clear. It’s simply that flavorful and addictive.
A jjigae is a form of stew that’s loaded with scrumptious stuff: greens, seafood or meat, tofu, and extra. It shouldn’t have a number of small bits of solids floating and swirling round within the broth—it ought to really feel fuller to rely as a jjigae. Enhance the broth ratio and also you mainly get a doenjang-guk, or doenjang soup; there’s nothing improper with that, it’s simply not a jjigae anymore.
On that be aware, I wish to level out that each house has a barely totally different tackle doenjang jjigae. If you would like a very thick, robust broth you’ll be able to add extra doenjang, and in order for you a really gentle broth that’s good for sipping, go for utilizing much less. The recipe I put collectively is predicated on a quite common type of doenjang jjigae, however it may be simply assorted. You need to use totally different sorts of protein, like seafood, for a extra refreshing stew, or beef, for a extra wealthy and earthy type. If you would like, you may make a quite simple vegetable jjigae utilizing tofu because the protein (or omit the tofu and simply use greens). And although will probably be much less flavorful, you should use water as an alternative of inventory in a pinch. Doenjang jjigae is forgiving. You may experiment and discover the recipe and ratios that give you the results you want.
That being stated, I do have a number of ideas I’ve picked up over time from each culinary college and from my mother.
The recipe begins by making a inventory utilizing dried anchovies and dashima (kelp, or what the Japanese name kombu). You wish to put your inventory substances in chilly water, then deliver it to a low simmer, and hold it there for at the very least 15 minutes. Don’t drop them into boiling water and do not deliver them to a tough boil, which blanches and cooks your anchovies and dashima, stopping extra taste from popping out. A pleasant sluggish simmer will assist the flavors soften proper out.
Retaining the pot half coated whereas simmering the inventory permits among the stronger fish aromas to prepare dinner off whereas stopping an excessive amount of discount of the liquid. You may verify in case your inventory is prepared by reaching in and tasting an anchovy. If it nonetheless tastes savory, meaning there’s extra taste to be extracted from the fish. Maintain simmering.
I additionally like to make use of the starchy water leftover from rinsing rice as the bottom for my inventory. It is not required, however it provides a mellow and comforting taste to the pot, plus, when you’re making rice anyway, there isn’t any hurt in making use of its rinsing liquid. Simply be sure to not use the water from the primary rinsing, which might have mud and impurities in it. The water from the second or third rinsing is preferable.
As soon as the inventory is prepared, it’s time to pressure it, then add all of the greens and proteins and doenjang to the pot. The precise sequence relies upon a bit on what’s entering into, however one factor you don’t wish to do is put the doenjang in first. Once you do, you create an additional salty broth that then picks up much less taste from the greens. If you happen to add the greens first and prepare dinner them till they’re tender and have totally flavored the broth, then the doenjang can go in with no hassle. So keep in mind: Veggies first, then doenjang.
My recipe right here requires rehydrated dried shiitake mushrooms, summer season squash, onion, scallion, garlic, clams, and slightly buzz of warmth from some contemporary chilies. You may simply fluctuate this, including potatoes, spinach, cabbage, Swiss chard, and extra.
When your stew is prepared, serve it piping sizzling with a bowl of sizzling rice and a facet of kimchi—it’s just about one of many easiest, most satisfying Korean meals you may make. And when you have leftover doenjang jjigae in your pot from, for instance, breakfast, simply hold it on the range and boil it once more for lunch or dinner. It will get thicker and saltier with every boil, so be at liberty so as to add slightly water when you really feel prefer it.
Final however not least, cooking your jjigae in a ttukbaegi, or heavy clay pot, retains it sizzling longer and the pot might be taken straight from the range to the desk for serving. However be sure you by no means wash it with cleaning soap, as a result of the cleaning soap stays within the microscopic pores of the clay and offers you bubbles the following time you prepare dinner with it. Nobody needs to eat a soapy doenjang jjigae, not even buttoned-up college professors.

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