Kimchi Jjigae – Kimchi Stew

If you are Korean, please stop reading right now and save me the embarrassment. Here’s what happened: The fully Korean mother of a semi-Korean friend of ours gave us a tub of wonderful, homemade kimchi, so we’ve been munching on it for a while and there was some left over in the chiller. There were also two little pieces of leek a half an onion, a soon to expire block of tofu and some roast Chinese pork siew yok, so all put together read Kimchin Soup! Hearty, but still light enough for a dinner after a big Sunday Lunch at Strato. A quick scan through a few recipe books and I felt qualified to make my very own kimchi soup. I mean I’ve eaten it many times, so what can possibly go wrong?!

The only thing I didn’t have was Gochujang, the Korean chilli paste, which would have really spiced things up. And that’s why I have added it to the recipe anyway. I just used some chilli flakes instead (not in the recipe), so if you like to get all heated up, use both the paste and a good tablespoon of chilli flakes (not powder, unless you have a death wish).

You want to use aged kimchi for this, not freshly made one, which doesn’t have the depth of flavour you need.

Now about the meat; traditionally it should be pork, but if you’re not thus inclined, don’t worry, you can really use anything at all. This is a kimchi soup of leftovers, so rummage around in your chiller or freezer and use up those bits and pieces that are too small to make a meal, but too good to throw away. A good kimchi will marry it all together and make it delicious. But let’s get started:

Kimchi Soup

  • 250g kimchi, preferably aged
  • 1 Tbsp gochujang Korean chilli paste
  • 100g siew yok or other leftover roast
  • 180g-200g minced meat of any kind
  • 1 Tbsp mirin or rice wine
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • white pepper
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 200g-300g firm tofu
  • 2 spring onions
  • ½ brown onion (about 100g)
  • ½ leek (the lower white half)
  • 30g rice
  • 600ml water or stock
  • oil or fat for frying

Wash the rice just once in a traditional rice bowl, then fill the bowl with water and leave the rice to sit until you need it. And now you are ready to cook. Slice your siew yok, or leftover meat into fine slices. Mix the mince with the mirin, soy sauce and pepper and leave it to marinate for 15 minutes. Slice your onions fine and your leek thick. Cut the spring onion into 4-5cm lengths and dice or slice the tofu any way you like. Now slice your kimchi into about 1cm strips. Some people like to chop it, but I think the larger bits of kimchi are quite attractive in the soup, so that’s my way of doing it.

Bring your stock or water to the boil, add the rice with the water and simmer for 10 minutes, which is just enough to get your soup base started. Heat the oil in a pot, fry the mince until it just starts to change colour. You don’t need this to be brown. Add the sliced meat and the onions and fry for another minute, then add the kimchi and fry one or two minutes. Add the Gochujang chilli paste, just sir to mix in evenly and pour the stock or water with the rice into the soup base. Leave to boil at a rapid boil for ten minutes.

Traditionally, you wouldn’t use stock, just the water from the washing of the rice, but I wanted mine to be a one dish meal, so it all goes in together. When your soup has simmered for ten, add the tofu and leek, turn down the heat and simmer for another 5 minutes. Turn up the heat and just bring your kimchi soup to a rolling boil, turn off the heat, put the spring onions on top and serve piping hot.

Don’t you just love a recipe where the list of ingredients takes longer to read than the instructions for cooking. It normally means it’s impossible to screw up, which is the case for this soup. You could just throw everything into the pot and boil it up and still get a pretty good meal out of it.

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