Getting jjigae with it

Kimchi Jjigae

The weather has been a bit rubbish recently. So much for heralding the summer with light salads full of freshness that keep you cool and full of vitality, instead we have skies constantly full of grey clouds, strong breezes and invariably rain of some form falling down on us. It’s almost as if we’re in the midst of autumn or winter months when all I want to eat is something like a casserole or something stodgy to keep me warm. However, it just doesn’t feel right to be eating such stodge food during summer months, so I tend to turn to the South East Asia (not necessarily China) for inspiration. In this particular case, I had some ingredients that needed using up and amongst them was some kimchi.

Kimchi is regarded as the national dish for Korea and for a long time, I couldn’t actually face eating it. It’s basically (vegetable of choice) which is fermented with (amongst other ingredients) Korean chilli powder (gochugaru) so the resulting kimchi is both spicy and punchy from the fermenting process. I used to say that it felt like something had died in my mouth (other than my tastebuds) as I would swear that I could feel it fizzing and fermenting on my tongue before promptly spitting it out. Then one of my friends got me to try some homemade kimchi and to my complete surprise, I actually liked it. I could taste all the different ingredients used in the fermentation process and learned of the regional and different vegetable variants, plus it wasn’t so hot that my mouth would implode (which always helps). More to the point, it was a perfect accompaniment to the Korean BBQ which was also being feasted upon. Honestly, I’ve never looked back since and could probably count kimchi as one of my favourite things to eat. If I’m ever about to eat a Korean BBQ, I think I actually look forward to the banchan more than the actual BBQ itself..

So then, I decided to make a kimchi stew known as jjigae. Usually, I would make a kimchi jjigae using some sliced pork belly and cubes of tofu but since I had neither of those, I used a roast chicken somebody had bought for me. On a medium-high heat, I cooked some grated ginger and garlic until fragrant. The chicken was roughly boned and the skin removed before it was added to the ginger and garlic and warmed through. An onion was thinly sliced and the mat kimchi was roughly sliced/chopped before they in turn were added to the pot with a couple of spoonfuls of gochujang. Of course, how much gochujang you add is dependent on how hot you want the dish to be, but I’m in a recovery stage at the moment so a couple of tablespoons is enough to give me a tingle on my tongue without blowing my head off (or indeed make me pay for it later in the night..). Mix everything together before barely covering with water. Bring everything to the boil then lower the heat and let it simmer for about 20mins (It would be about 30mins if I was using pork belly but since the chicken was already cooked, I didn’t need to cook it for so long). In that time, the kimchi and the onions will have cooked through and will have become translucent in the process, if I had any tofu I would chuck it into the pot about now but since I didn’t have any tofu and I wanted to eat some extra veg for my dinner, I chopped some green beans and chucked them into the pot. Let it simmer until the beans are cooked (or 10-15 minutes if you do have some tofu). In the meantime, I warmed up the ddukbaegi and once both the jjigae was ready and the ddukbaegi was warmed through, I ladled the jjigae into the ddukbaegi. Top with finely chopped spring onions and serve with plain rice.

It was so right for the time – The broth was warming without being so hot it would burn its way down as I digested it, I also got to increase my vegetable intake for the day by adding the green beans in this case. It wasn’t just the combination of the kimchi and gochujang which tickled my tastebuds, but also the soothing quality of the broth (aided by not being abrasively hot). Warming, soothing and tasty – What more could you ask for in a dish?

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