During my college days, my friends and I would find ourselves at some Korean bar almost every weekend (and some weekdays). Soju was the only alcohol on the menu but the prices were cheap and the food always hit the spot. I haven't been to a Korean bar in ages but I was recently reminded of how good Korean bar food is. Whenever we went, my friends and I would always order budae jjigae, also known as Korean army base stew. The stew is a hodgepodge of ingredients from spam to ramen noodles to kimchi and it's oh so delicious!
- 3 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 3x3 inch dried kelp piece
- ½ onion peeled, left whole
- 2 whole garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon dried shrimp
- 5 dried anchovies guts removed
- 6 cups water
- 1 tablespoon oil
- ½ onion sliced
- 1 carrot sliced on a bias
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ½ can spam sliced
- 4 ounces pork belly cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
- 1 cup kimchi chopped
- 4 ounces tofu sliced
- 1 cup rice cakes fresh
- 1 package instant ramen noodles
- 2 tablespoons Korean red chili powder (gochugaru)
- 1 tablespoon Korean red chili paste (gochujang)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine
- Prepare dashi broth. Combine all ingredients in a medium stockpot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and strain stock, discarding ingredients.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wide pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic and saute until onions have softened, about 3-4 minutes. Arrange spam, pork belly, kimchi, tofu, and rice cakes in the pot. Pour in dashi broth and bring to a boil.
- Mix together seasoning spice including chili powder, chili paste, soy sauce, and rice wine. Add to soup and mix together. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add ramen noodles and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Budae jjigae is a poor man's soup. Army men gathered leftover ingredients from the kitchen and put together a dish, hence the name Korean army base stew. Budae jjigae has since gained popularity and is now served at many Korean bars and restaurants. There are many different variations, some including rice cakes, others with hot dogs and some even with cheese, but this recipe is a combination of my favorite ingredients.
Start by creating a flavorful broth as the base for the stew. Dashi is a Japanese stock used in many Korean soups and stews. If you can't find all of the ingredients, you can also purchase dashi stock powder. The powder is similar to chicken bouillon; simply add water and you're good to go.
Many restaurants prepare budae jjigae with just water but I truly believe that taking the time to make dashi completely changes the soup. The dashi adds more flavor to the soup making it just taste that much better.
While the dashi is simmering, saute the vegetables. Most people let the ingredients simmer in the broth but I like to saute the onions, carrots, and garlic to add more flavor to the stew. By now you may have guessed, I'm all about maximum flavor.
Add the remaining ingredients along with the dashi and bring it to a boil.
If fresh rice cakes aren't available, purchase the frozen package. Just make sure to soak the frozen rice cakes in room-temperature water for 30 minutes before cooking. This will allow them to fully soften while cooking.
Season the budae jjigae with Korean chili paste (gochujang), soy sauce, Korean chili flakes (gochugaru), and rice wine. Add more or less of the chili paste and flakes depending on how spicy you want your stew. Finish the stew with some instant ramen noodles and get ready to dig in.
To eat budae jjigae the true Korean way, place the entire pot on the table and let the diners scoop out the soup themselves. This way they can pick and choose which fillings they prefer. Great for drinking, the day after drinking, or just a sober night of fun!
For more Korean food inspiration check out this jja jang myun recipe!