Sunday, September 16, 2012

Doenjang Jiggae - Korean Basics

In Korean cuisine, there are two main types of soup:  guk and jiggae.  Guk is very brothy, while jiggae is more like a stew and is more substantial.  Doenjang jiggae is one of the most basic and traditional Korean soups, and is named for the fermented soybean paste that is the center of the stew - the doenjang.

There are many different brands.  I don't read Korean, so honestly, when I buy a tub of doenjang, I read the ingredients and hope I pick a good one.  I'm sure they can't vary that much between brands, but some varieties include other flavorings and ingredients, like anchovies, so read the ingredients list carefully, or look for illustrations on the label to make sure you buy just regular, plain doenjang.

Doenjang roulette - I picked a tasty one!

Once you buy the doenjang, you're set for a while.  It's already fermented, and will last a good year in your fridge.  The other ingredients in doenjang jiggae are readily available and won't require a special trip to the Korean grocery store. 

Enjoy this healthy, richly flavored soup with rice for a first foray into Korean cuisine at home!

Doenjang Jiggae


  • 1 block tofu (I like firm, but you can use any kind)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 cups water (if you are making rice to go with the jiggae, save 2 cups of the starchy water from rinsing the rice.  This will give your broth a little more substance.  If not, no biggie.)
  • 1/4 cup doenjang
  • 2 zucchini or other summer-type squash, sliced
  • 1 or 2 hot peppers, diced (optional - I don't use them because I'm kind of wimpy)
  • 1 bunch enoki mushrooms (I didn't have any, but they're very cute, so pick some up if you see them)
  • 2 or 3 green onions, sliced very fine

  1. Unwrap tofu and drain away water.  I also like to press the block of tofu between two bowls and get out as much water as possible.  In a soup it doesn't matter as much as if you were frying it, but still, squeeze that baby for all you're worth!
  2. In a large pot, heat over medium flame and add sesame oil and the tofu.  Saute the tofu in the oil, breaking it up into small pieces.  After a few minutes, add the garlic.  
  3. When the garlic gets golden, add water and the doenjang, stirring to dissolve the doenjang.  It will still have pieces of bean; don't worry about those.  You just want to make sure the doenjang gets incorporated and doesn't sink like a stone to bottom of the pot!
  4. Add the zucchini (and mushrooms and hot peppers, if you are using them), turn the heat down to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Taste for seasoning - you can add more doenjang if you want a deeper flavor, or you can add soy sauce too.  Serve hot, sprinkled with green onion.

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