So I made two jars of kimchi the other day, and because I don’t fancy eating kimchi on its own and haven’t had the chance to use them for cooking, they have been sitting in my refrigerator for the past 3 weeks waiting for me to devour them. Thankfully, kimchi is one of those foods that can be stored for weeks and months, and even tastes better as time passes. I decided it was time to put the kimchi to good use and so I thought of making some piping hot kimchi stew (kimchi jjigae), ‘perfect’ for Singapore’s sweltering heat. As they say, if you can’t beat it (the heat), join it! Admittedly, kimchi stew is not one of the dishes I would order in a Korean restaurant, especially in Singapore, because the prices don’t seem to justify the cost of the ingredients. Even when I stayed in Korea for around 10 months, I probably had kimchi stew 5 times at most. I would always opt for tofu stew (sundubu jjigae) or army stew (budae jjigae) if those options were available. But recently I’ve come to like kimchi stew more and more. And I have to say that, to my own surprise, even without using anchovy stock or seasoning powder, the kimchi stew I made tasted great! I think the use of kimchi brine/juice really took the flavour up one notch.
As it’s been a long time since I’ve made Korean food, I no longer had any Korean hot pepper paste (gochujang) in my kitchen. To my delight, however, I had two small tubes of gochujang hiding in my refrigerator, just enough for my kimchi stew! I actually brought these back with me from the Singapore Airlines flight I took back in June when I travelled to Korea. I didn’t use it for my meal so I thought maybe I could bring it home to use, although part of me knew that the gochujang might just end up as another ornament in my refrigerator. But I’m glad I managed to use it in the end! And surprisingly, this brand of gochujang (donggang maru) tasted really good! It was not overly salty and was spicy enough for my liking. A lot of the gochujang out there aren’t spicy enough so I always have to add a huge amount to my food in order to achieve that spiciness. But this one fared well with just one tablespoon! I don’t remember seeing this brand around in Singapore, but if I do the next time, I will definitely try it out.
Making kimchi stew is really straightforward. All you need are – kimchi, kimchi brine, firm tofu, spring onions, pork belly, onions, garlic, salt, sugar, hot pepper paste (gochujang) and hot pepper flakes (gochugaru). If you think the kimchi you have is too sour for consumption, then it’ll be perfect for kimchi stew!
These are the ingredients you’ll have to stir-fry first, in order to deepen the flavours of the stew.
After stir-frying the ingredients, you’ll have to add these seasonings to the stew.
These two ingredients will go last, because they don’t need much time to cook. The tofu should be firm tofu (or pressed tofu) and not the softer ones.
In any kind of pot, stir-fry the garlic, onion and pork belly with some oil first. My recipe is meant for 2 servings but I separated them into 2 individual pots so the amount looks less than it should be.
Fry until the onions turn translucent and the pork belly is no longer red/pink. The fats from the pork will melt and enhance the flavour of the stew, so try not to omit the pork belly!
Add the kimchi and kimchi brine and cook for a little while. Alternatively, you can first add the kimchi without the brine and stir-fry before adding the liquid.
Add some water, salt, sugar, hot pepper paste and hot pepper flakes. Bring the liquid to a boil!
Lastly, add the firm tofu and spring onions and cook for a bit longer.
And you have an incredibly delicious pot of kimchi stew in just 10 minutes! Of course, if you want to enhance the flavour even further, you can use anchovy stock or seasoning powder, but the kimchi brine alone is enough to make this dish very convincing. It’s a really great dish for the chilly winter, which, unfortunately, cannot be found in Singapore. You got to try this recipe if you love kimchi!
Kimchi Jjigae (Kimchi Stew)
- 1 cup kimchi (200g) ($0.816)
- 120 ml kimchi brine
- 150 g pork belly (bite-size) ($2)
- 1 packet firm tofu (300g, sliced) ($0.95)
- ½ yellow onion (sliced) ($0.114)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced) ($0.056)
- 2 stalks spring onion (chopped) ($0.20)
- 2 tbsp oil ($0.234)
- 5 tsp hot pepper paste ($0.333)
- 4 tsp hot pepper flakes ($0.264)
- 3 tsp salt ($0.085)
- 4 tsp sugar ($0.025)
- 800 ml water
- In a pot, heat 2 tbsp of oil over medium fire. Add garlic, onions and pork belly into pot and stir-fry until pork is no longer pink. Then add kimchi (without brine if you prefer) and fry for a while.
- Add kimchi brine (if you haven't already), 800ml of water, salt, sugar, hot pepper paste and hot pepper flakes into pot, and stir well. Bring liquid to a boil. You can also add some sesame oil if you prefer.
- Finally, add tofu and spring onions, and cook for a minute before serving.