Kim chi chigae is a Korean stew that uses kim chi, a spicy pickled cabbage, as its main ingredient. There are dozens of variations to this stew depending on what other ingredients are used: seafood, tofu, beef, pork, etc. It’s the thing to cook when your kim chi has fermented way past its peak to eat as a condiment. We throw just about anything we find left over in the fridgte into the pot. That’s what so great and versatile about chigae–it’s like the Chinese’s fried rice or the American’s casserole.
Chigae is often cooked in a clay pot which is said to bring out the flavor of the stew. Also, the older (and inevitably more fermented) the kim chi, the better. Fresh kim chi has not ripened enough and will not add as much flavor to the food. While there are innumerable versions of chigae, the recipe I’ve posted here is the kind John typically makes in our house. Some would call it budae chigae, which is a army-based stew so called for its particular ingredients: canned meats, hot dog wieners, ground meats, and so on. Budae chigae’s origins stem from the post-Korean War times when meat was scarce, therefore whatever leftovers from the military were thrown into the stew. It’s simple, but I find it tastier than many of the ones I eat in restaurants. That’s the funny thing about me–I prefer John’s homemade “poor man’s chigae” to any restaurant’s fancy ones. There’s something about slurping spicy hot stew over a bowl of rice within the comforts of your own home, especially during a cold winter’s day, so save this recipe for the upcoming cold months.
I am lucky that my mama-in-law makes the best kim chi, so we always just use hers for the main ingredient. One of these days, I’ll get her to teach me her kim chi-making methods. Till then, we need to get over our language barrier first.
Recipe: Spicy Korean Stew
Summary: Kim chi chigae or budae chigae
- 2 c. extra fermented kim chi
- 2 tbsp. dashida
- 12 oz. medium tofu, diced
- 1 medium potato, peeled & diced
- 1 can Spam, diced
- 1 (6 oz.) can tuna
- 1 stalk green onion, sliced
- In a medium clay pot or saucepan, combine kim chi and dashida, filling with water until water level is 2 inches from the top. Bring to a boil.
- Add remaining ingredients, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through. Serve hot with steamed rice.
Dashida is a Korean stew or soup base that comes in powder form. We have both a beef flavor and an anchovy flavor dashida, depending on which stock we feel like that day. You can find this in any Korean supermarket (e.g. H-Mart).
Because John’s recipe uses dashida, it is obviously not a chigae made from scratch. If you’re looking for that, we can’t help you there. Life is busy. Sometimes we need a shortcut.
You can add just about anything to your chigae. Try mushrooms, onions, zucchini, ground meats, shellfish, slices of beef or pork. We’ve even added pieces of Costco‘s rotisserie chicken to the chigae. The dish that time actually turned out to be the best chigae John had ever made. Go figure. Butter makes everything taste better.
Cooking time (duration): 35
Meal type: dinner
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