Korean fermented soybean paste stew (Doenjang Jjigae)

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Sharing here how I make Korean fermented soybean paste stew. Although I grew up in Korea and had countless meals with doenjang jjigae, the way I cook it isn’t entirely traditional. I have adapted and changed how I cook this stew to my taste with the ingredients I can easily find in California and what my 4-year-old likes (thus serving over udon noodles instead of rice and omitting jalapeno.) In fact, Koreans cook this stew in various ways, and the flavors differ significantly by region. So don’t be surprised if you go to a Korean restaurant and order doenjang jjigae and end up with a pretty different stew.

The broth
shabu shabu beef slices
onion
shitake mushrooms

These are the 3 ingredients I use to make the broth for doenjang jjigae.
Thinly shaved beef brisket (chadol) is my preferred meat, but any shabu shabu beef has worked well.
Dried anchovies are a common ingredient for making broth in Korean cuisine, so you can try that out instead of beef if you avoid red meat.
Either fresh or dried shitake mushrooms work well. I like to stock up on dried shitake mushrooms as fresh ones tend to spoil very quickly.

The seasoning
Fermented soybean paste (doenjang)
Korean chili paste (gochujang)
minced garlic

Doenjang is made with soybeans and brine and has a unique and robust flavor. Doenjang is known to have anti-cancer effects.
Gochujang is a traditional Korean chili pepper paste and has a spicy and mildly sweet taste. The spiciness and sweetness of gochujang vary a lot, depending on the product. I found gochujang sold in US markets to be noticeably sweeter than traditional Korean gochujang.
Due to the taste difference, add the pastes incrementally as you taste the stew. We like strong and sharp doenjang stew at our home, so I add them generously. Don’t be shy to add more.

Use doenjang and gochujang in 3:1 ratio
Use 4:1 ratio for a lesser spicy seasoning.

Check out the brands I enjoy:

Other main ingredients
zucchini
tofu

You can add various vegetables to doenjang jjigae, but zucchini is my favorite. Gray, green, or yellow squash all work well. Other commonly used veggies are potatoes and enoki mushrooms.

For stews, use medium-firm tofu. Simply drain the water and pat dry before cutting—no need to press out the water from tofu. Cut tofu to bite-size or slightly larger if you prefer. As long as the thickness is less than 1″, it will take about 5 minutes to cook.

Making it kid-friendly

To make this stew kid-friendly, I serve it over udon noodles instead of rice, and that trick got my four y/o to enjoy this stew.
You can cook the udon noodles directly in the stew if desired, resulting in a thick starchy stew. I found cooking noodles separately works better for a large batch of noodles.

I took out cooked tofu and zucchini from the stew for baby and gave a cold shower with clear water. Added some udon noddles and chopped them up with kitchen shears.

Blue udon noodles are made by adding blue spirulina powder. I have an automatic pasta maker by Philips that I use to make udon noodles. Check it out:

Korean fermented soybean paste stew (Doenjang Jjigae)

Although I grew up in Korea and had countless meals with doenjang jjigae, the way I cook it isn't entirely traditional. I have adapted and changed how I cook this stew to my taste with the ingredients I can easily find in California and what my 4-year-old likes.

Cuisine Korean
Author whiteblankspace

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 8 oz shabu shabu beef slices
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 6-7 cups water
  • 10 shitake mushrooms dried or fresh
  • 2 zucchini sliced
  • fermented soybean paste (doenjang) to taste
  • Korean chili paste (gochujang) to taste
  • 1 tbsp garlic minced
  • 1 block medium-firm tofu
  • 1 lb udon noodles cooked

Instructions

  1. Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat, and add 1 tbsp cooking oil. Add shabushabu beef slices and cook while constantly stirring until beef is no longer pink. It should cook pretty fast.

  2. Add onions and cook for additional 1~2 minutes while stirring.

  3. Add water and shitake mushrooms. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer. Simmer for 10~15 minutes.

  4. Add zucchini and simmer until zucchini starts to soften a bit.

  5. Add fermented soybean paste and gochujang to taste, but keep the ratio to approximately 3:1. To make it less spicy, use 4:1 ratio. Stir until all paste is dissolved in water. Add garlic.

  6. Drain water from tofu and cut it into your desired size. Add to the stew and cook for 5 minutes.

  7. Serve over cooked udon noodles.

Recipe Notes

Ingredients and amounts are pretty forgiving for this stew. They don’t need to be exactly following the recipe.

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