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This is my favourite food on earth, hands down.

The first time I had doenjang jigae was at the only (at that time) Japanese/Korean restaurant in the area where I grew up, Tokyo Seoul. My best friend and I were proto-weeaboos: more music for me than anime or manga, more video games for both of us than anything else, but still annoying little whitebread wannabe Asians. As such, we demanded Japanese food whenever possible, and when our parents were especially generous, they took us to Tokyo Seoul.

Although Japanese food took up the bulk of the menu, Korean soups, stews, noodles, and appetizers also made an appearance. For about a year, I was entranced by the “spicy tofu soup” advertised on the Korean side of the menu, but didn’t have the nerve to order it- what if it had fish or pork or something else in it that was really, really gross?

One day, though, I got up the courage to ask. Yes, there were small clams in it, but they could leave those out. The broth was okay. The waitress warned me that it was spicy- was that okay?

Uh, yeah!

Every single spoonful was astonishing. Although I didn’t yet have the tolerance for spice that I do now, necessitating constant spoonfuls from my rice bowl, I ate the whole sumbitch. And I repeated the experiment whenever I could. And then I realized there was a kimchi version, and my Grinch-y heart grew two sizes that day!

I make no claims for authenticity in this recipe, since it’s usually made with pork and, at least when I ordered it in Japan, small clams and the occasional shrimp. But doenjang jigae is a family dish, and every household has their own recipe, so here’s mine.

A note about kimchi: Kimchi is traditionally prepared with small shrimp and other fishy things in the fermenting stage. You can easily buy vegan kimchi at health food stores- even here in Nowhere, MT, I can find three different kinds- two at the health food store, and one at Albertson’s! It’s also very easy to make your own (recipe for that soon, still working on my first batch.) The issue I have with vegetarian kimchi is that it goes bad more quickly, so if you get a gallon jug of it, be prepared to add kimchi to everything you eat (I wouldn’t have any complaints!).

If you do not like kimchi, feel free to leave it out and add a touch more gochujang or kochukaru (the Korean chili pepper powder used in kimchi creation). By the way, my mom hates kimchi, but she LOVES this soup.

A note about the soy and sauce products: Doenjang can be substituted with white miso. Also, Wikipedia says better than I could that “While traditional homemade doenjang is made with soybeans and brine only, many factory-made variants of doenjang contain a fair amount of wheat flour just like most factory-made soy sauce does. Some current makers also add fermented, dried, and ground anchovies to accentuate the doenjang’s savory flavor.” So check the label! And if you can’t find nutritional info in English and you’re shopping at a Korean market, for goodness’ sake, get someone who works there to look for allergens on the label. It’s okay, don’t be shy.

Gochujang, which is a major component of this dish, can potentially have both wheat flour and sugar/other sweeteners in it. Again, check the label. If I had to use something else in place of gochujang, I would just lay on the kochukaru and add a touch of honey.

This recipe is completely vegan, if you don’t add butter or fish sauce and if you check the aforementioned ingredients for non-vegetarian allergens. You cannot make it soy-free.

KIMCHI DOEJANG JIGAE

Makes roughly six bowls of soup.

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chili paste)

1 tablespoon doenjang (or white miso)

1 tablespoon mirin (can be substituted with sake or vodka)

2 cups water or vegetable broth (there’s plenty of salt in this, so use low or no sodium broth, if you can)

14 oz/400 grams cabbage kimchi (feel free to add more!)

4 cloves garlic

1 onion, halved and then sliced

1 tablespoon soy sauce

a dash of fish sauce (optional)

a dash of rice vinegar

400 grams of extra-firm tofu

1 zucchini, halved and sliced

2 tablespoons butter (optional)

2 scallions, chopped

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon olive oil (or a more neutral oil. I use olive oil for everything.)

1. Saute the onions and garlic in the mixed oils until the onions start becoming translucent.

2. Add broth, doenjang, gochujang, vinegar, fish sauce, mirin, and soy sauce.

3. Immediately after putting in wet ingredients, add kimchi, tofu, and zucchini.

4. Simmer covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Add butter and stir in until melted.

6. Serve topped with scallions, alone or alongside a bowl of white rice.

I HATE YOUR CARB PROBLEMS: Rice, rice, baby. Also, put some sliced potatoes in with the wet ingredients!

I HATE YOUR VEGETARIAN FACE: Pork it up! Cook your pork with the onions and garlic (I think…)

I HATE YOUR BUTT: Whatever, loser, my butt is amazing.

 

Calories 129.0
  Total Fat 5.8 g
  Saturated Fat 2.0 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 1.5 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 1.3 g
  Cholesterol 6.6 mg
  Sodium 1,257.7 mg
  Potassium 186.9 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 11.6 g
  Dietary Fiber 2.9 g
  Sugars 5.2 g
  Protein 6.4 g
  Vitamin A 37.1 %
  Vitamin B-12 0.1 %
  Vitamin B-6 4.2 %
  Vitamin C 8.4 %
  Vitamin E 0.5 %
  Calcium 11.8 %
  Copper 6.1 %
  Folate 5.8 %
  Iron 6.6 %
  Magnesium 10.0 %
  Manganese 25.4 %
  Niacin 2.0 %
  Pantothenic Acid     1.0 %
  Phosphorus     9.0 %
  Riboflavin 2.7 %
  Selenium 7.1 %
  Thiamin 3.0 %
  Zinc 3.9 %

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