Doenjang-jjigae (pronounced sort of- stressing sort of!- like “dwee-ong zang zee gay”) is a stew I’ve been eating nearly every day here in Korea. It’s been a saving grace for me, as I can get it nearly anywhere. However, even when there is no actual meat or seafood in it, it’s often made with anchovy paste. I have my little paper translations of Korean phrases, where I specify I don’t want any type of fish or seafood broth. In those cases, I have to find someone willing to make it from scratch without the anchovies. Admittedly, this does not always happen. If I can’t get it made, I get a traditional vegetable bowl with lots of different vegetables and mushrooms, no meat on top and some rice on the side in that restaurant.
But there are three restaurants here that I frequent and get this stew often. Two of them are vegan and one is a homey, hole in the wall place that is my favorite, run by the four women in this picture, who take turns cooking the food and hanging out, chatting, napping on the floor and watching Korean sitcoms.
The fermented bean paste used as a base is called doenjang and is similar to miso. Because it is fermented, the fermentation process deactivates some of the unfavorable properties in thesoy. If you use any type of doenjang or miso paste (for this I recommend red/brown miso versus white), you must get organic, non-GMO varieties. You can also try using the Miso Master Organic Chickpea Soy-Free Miso as a replacement, though the taste will be a bit different (it will with miso too, but you will still get something of the same, comforting variety). Check it out in health markets. I’ve never looked for doenjang in the Asian markets at home however, so I’m not sure how easy it is to get organic. If you find it, please report back!
They also traditionally serve the stew to me with lots of cubed tofu, as you can see from these pictures. I don’t eat it; I set it to the side. I also left it out of this recipe.
There are many ways to make this stew. Here is one version, which is probably one of the more basic versions. But simple is yummy and doable. I like simple and hope you do too!
- 1 cup white onion, cut into ½ inch cubes
- 3 cloves of medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 green chili pepper, chopped (deseeded to make less spicy)
- 1 cup of mushrooms- I’ve been eating Enoki ones here in Korea a lot, but any kind you like
- 2 1/2 cups of water
- ¼ cup of organic doenjang, miso or non-soy miso paste
- 1 cup of zucchini, cut into ½ cubes
- 1 spring onion, chopped
- Arugula or other greens (optional)
- Add the onion, garlic, green chili pepper and mushroom to a medium cooking pot. It’s traditionally made in an earthenware bowl as pictured here, but most of us do not have!
- Add the 2 ½ cup water.
- When it starts boiling, lower the heat slightly and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes. Next, add the bean paste/miso/non-soy miso and the zucchini, and cook for another 10 minutes, continuing to stir occasionally and adding your love and nourishing energy to the stew (very important!).
- Turn off the heat and stir in the green onion. If you’d like to drop in some greens, like arugula, feel more than free to! They will wilt in the hot stew but won’t get overcooked. While I’m here, I like to throw the green veggie banchan (side dishes) that often comes with the meals right into the stew.
- Serve alongside brown rice or some baked yams, and start with a big salad of course. Enjoy! J
Let me know how you do and any new versions you create with your Korean stew.
Love from Seoul from my soul (cheesy but true!),