Thursday, November 17, 2011

된장 찌개 Doenjang jjigae (Korean Fermented Soybean Paste Soup)


The secret to a good doenjang jjigae is to use a good doenjang (fermented soybean paste).  I sound like Ina Garten though I doubt she'd ever sink her delicate palate into anything as mordacious as fermented soybean paste.  Anyway, I use my grandma's doenjang which she makes herself out on her farm in Jirisan.


When my sibs and I were wee ones growing up in Texas, this same grandma would make this same stinky-ass doenjang.  It was so potent the neighbors complained - this is out in Texas where the nearest neighbor is not so near.  Not surprisingly, this homemade doenjang did not make me the most popular girl in school when I brought my friends home for play dates.

Korean grandmas are funny.  They're nothing like American grandmas who bake up little cookies for their grandchildren and give them awesome presents on Christmas.  I got bricks of smelly doenjang and child slavery.  One time, she made my mom pull over on the side of the highway so we could all dig up some weeds for her to put in her soup.  The most awesome part is that I went to a private school where we were all forced to wear very distinguishable uniforms.  So I wasn't surprised when the following comment was made the next day at school:

Leeann, "Are you poor?  I saw you picking weeds by the highway yesterday."

As soon as I got home, I tried to scissor-kick my grandma in the knee caps.

But I don't want to dwell on that.  Doenjang Jjigae.  Yes.  So, doenjang is made from soy beans which are crushed and formed into bricks.  They are then sun-dried and the smell that they emit as they ferment and transform into doenjang is UNBEARABLE.  Eventually, the bricks separate into doenjang and doenjang juice - otherwise known as soy sauce.  Doenjang is just soy beans and water, but the commercial kind you buy in stores have flour.  Some also have anchovy paste in them because anchovies help enhance the doenjang flavor.  If you don't have a Korean grandma to provide you with farm-fresh doenjang, I recommend this one from Sunchang, which is a city known for its gochujang.


Doenjang Jjigae Recipe
3 cups water
5 to 7 dried anchovies
3 to 4 pieces of dasima or seaweed squares
1 1/2 tablespoons of doenjang
1 small onion, chopped
1 small or medium size potato, diced large 
1 bunch enoki mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2 medium size zucchini
1/4 tofu block from a package or 4 - 5 oz. (about 100 - 150g)
1/4 tablespoon Korean hot red pepper powder (gochugaru) or red pepper flakes (optional)
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 green chili pepper, chopped
1 green onion, chopped


Chop all your vegetables.

Disregard the volume of vegetables.  I'm quadrupling the recipe.


Get 3 cups of water boiling with the dried anchovies and dasima (seaweed).  This is to make a light broth.  Boil for 5-10 minutes then take them out and discard.


Mix in the doenjang and stir to dissolve.

When the water returns to a boil, add in the vegetables.  I usually add in the zucchini about 5 minutes after I've thrown in the potatoes to avoid mushy zucchini.

Once the vegetables are done, add in the tofu and additional seasonings - hot red pepper powder, garlic, and green chili pepper.  I don't add in the green onions until just before serving.  Boil for 5 minutes more and add in the green onions.  Boil for another minute or two then serve.

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