This is not the first time I’ve made kimchi jjigae. In fact, it’s kind of become my go-to “use up the last of the kimchi” recipe, because it seems that the older the kimchi gets, the better this stew tastes. It’s not exactly something you can whip up after a trip to Safeway—unless your Safeway happens to have a Korean section—but next time you find yourself near an Asian grocery, be on the lookout for gochugaru (Korean pepper powder) and gochujang (Korean fermented pepper paste). They’re both quite inexpensive and versatile—I’ve even used gochujang to make hummus—and once you have them, this stew is a great, quick weeknight vehicle for whatever meat or vegetables you happen to have on hand.
Be sure to plan a few days ahead if you’re going to make your own kimchi. (Which I recommend, of course.) The recipe below, adapted from Closet Cooking, makes 2 servings.
• 1 tsp sesame oil: 5 cents
• 2 cloves garlic, minced: 2 cents
• 3 medium shallots, minced: 5 cents
• 2 T gochujang (Korean fermented pepper paste), top right in photo: 10 cents
• 2 tsp gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder), top middle in photo: 5 cents
• 2 cups dashi* (instant or fresh), or water: 25 cents
• 2 green onions, sliced crosswise: 10 cents
• 1/2 lb. pork belly, pork butt, boneless country-style ribs (I used the latter, but pork belly is traditional), or other meat, cut into small cubes: 85 cents
• 1 cup kimchi** (cut into bite-sized pieces if it’s not already): 10 cents
• 3 cups plain steamed rice (cooked however you cook rice): 15 cents
• Fish sauce to taste: 5 cents
• Optional additions: 1 cup vegetables of your choice or tofu cubes
TOTAL: $1.77/2 = 88 cents/serving
*I made my dashi by heating water with half a sheet of kombu (Japanese dried kelp) and cooking at a very low simmer (with just a few bubbles coming to the top, otherwise it gets a funny taste) for half an hour before straining.
“Real” dashi would include a pinch of bonito tuna flakes, but I didn’t happen to have any. Bonito and kombu can be found at most natural-foods stores. (In Portland, Food Front co-op has them both in bulk.)
**You can buy kimchi (they have it at Grocery Outlet, believe it or not—check the produce section), but making your own is super-easy. I happened to have some on hand from another project, so I don’t have process photos for this batch, but these instructions by Dr. Ben Kim are close to how I do it.
In a soup pot with a lid, heat the sesame oil over medium heat (it has a low smoke point, so be careful). Add the pork or other meat cubes and cook until no longer pink, about 7 minutes. Add the minced garlic and shallot and cook until fragrant. Add the kimchi and stir for another minute or so. Add the dashi or water and bring to a boil. Stir in the gochugaru and gochujang and whatever extra vegetables you’re using, cover, and simmer and until pork is tender, about 30 minutes. Uncover, stir in the sliced green onions, and cook for another 5-10 minutes.
Add fish sauce to taste and serve over rice.