Monday, May 30, 2011

Korean Food: Jjigae

Jjigae means "stew," more or less, and it's served literally boiling hot in a special earthenware bowl.  I like most kinds of jjigae, especially after I've shoveled in a heap of rice to eliminate the soupiness.  All jjigaes, with the exception of doenjang jjigae, are made with gochu (red pepper) in either paste or flake form.  (They're spicy.)  They often share other ingredients, e.g. you're likely to find dubu and cabbage in other jjigaes, not just the sundubu and kimchi varieties.  Kimbap Paradise will serve you a bowl of jjigae with a side of rice for 4-5,000 won (like $4.50 tops).  You can do a lot worse.

This here's budae or "army base" jjigae.  I think "spam, spam and spam" or "hot dog jjigae" more apt.  Vegetables, ramyeon (ramen) noodles, tteok medallions, spam and slices of hot dog.  It tastes like spicy hot dog stew with ramen in it, appropriate given its constitution.  Not recommended.

Sundubu jjigae is made with sundubu (uncurdled tofu), an egg (tossed in while the pot's still boiling) and assorted vegetables.  I approve.

Kimchi jjigae, containing kimchi, some other vegetables and often a little pork, is more pleasant than it sounds; like most kimchi-flavored things it doesn't really taste like kimchi.  It's just a spicy cabbage stew.  It's made with the over-ripe kimchi (yes, there's such a thing) no ajumma wants to waste.  Really it's the French bread of fermented cabbage.  Playing around with old kimchi is a dangerous game though.  The stuff turns sour and vinegary and if your kimchi jjigae was made with some well over-the-line kimchi it can be quite awful.

This is kimchi jjigae after I've shoveled rice into it.  Much better!

Doenjang jjigae is made with fermented soybean paste, which is not as vile as it sounds.

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