Monday, February 07, 2011

Kimchi jjigae (김치 찌개)

There was just a little bit of kimchi leftover from my previous homemade batch, so I decided to make kimchi jjigae (김치 찌개). Kimchi jjigae is essentially a stew/soup comprising of ingredients such as kimchi (but of course), tofu, scallions, pork belly and other miscellaneous vegetables. It is best to make kimchi jjigae using really seasoned kimchi (kimchi that has been fermented for a while) as the flavour is more pronounced in the stew. I personally prefer to eat fresh kimchi, and I detest really fermented kimchi, which has a sourish taste that doesn't appeal to me. Thus, whenever my kimchi starts to go sour, I'll definitely make kimchi jjigae, cos I really enjoy the dish, and also, it requires quite a bit of kimchi.

Ingredients for making kimchi jjigae (김치 찌개)
Kimchi chigae (김치 찌개)

A funny incident occurred the other day. As I was out of kimchi, I was making up a new batch of my usual  kimchi. And while I was making my kimchi, I was multi-tasking. I was pulverizing the onion, garlic, ginger and fish sauce in the blender while chatting with my maids and when my cousin and aunt came over to deliver some new year cakes, I started talking to them...and became quite distracted. So, after everyone had left, I was still in the process of mixing the "porridge" and gochugaru together for the sauce. I started mixing the salted cabbage leaves into my sauce soon after. After marinating the 4kg worth of cabbage I had bought, I tasted a piece. And tasted and tasted somemore again. It tasted a little...off. Puzzling over what could be the matter, I thought perhaps that the flavours had yet to develop, so I close the lid on the full container and popped it in the refrigerator.  

Turning around, the first thing I saw was the blender. Deng deng deng. Oh shit. The onion, garlic, ginger and fish sauce mixture was still in the blender!!! I had forgotten to add it to the gochujang porridge mixture and straight away added the carrots, radish and scallions. Sigh. What can I say? A right-o absentminded mistake. Never before have I done such a silly thing - forgetting about ingredients (that were lying right in my line of view may I add). Sighing, I took out the container of "kimchi" and dumped the contents into a big tub, before pouring the blender contents over and mixing them altogether. Again. Second round of taste testing - Pass!

Close ups: Crispy pork belly; Kimchi jjigae (김치 찌개)

Kimchi jjigae (김치 찌개)
(serves 6-8)

Ingredients
2-3 cups of kimchi, chopped
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced into half moons 
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced into half moons 
1 box of mushrooms, halved
handful of garlic cloves, diced
1 block of firm tofu (drained and pressed dry with paper towels to remove excess liquid), thinly sliced
2-3 slices of pork belly (cut into bite size pieces)
2 scallions, roughly chopped

Stir fry the onion slices with some olive oil in a heated pan till soft. Add carrot and kimchi. Stir fry for another few minutes. Pour into a large pot. Add zucchini, mushrooms, garlic. Using the same heated pan, fry the pork belly slices. Add pepper and salt and cook till meat has browned. Add the pork into the large pot.

Seasoning
2 tbsp gochujang
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp gochugaru
pinch of salt
1 tbsp sugar
enough water to cover all the ingredients

Pour water (cup by cup) into the pot till all the ingredients are submerged. There should be a slight layer of water above the ingredients (it's a soup/stew afterall!). Add the other seasonings and heat over medium-high heat. When the soup starts to boil, lower the heat and cover the pot with a lid. Continue cooking for another ten or so minutes or till vegetables have softened. Taste at this stage. Add more gochugaru/sugar/soy sauce if needed. You can add more water too at any point of time if there seems to be too little liquid in the pot. Just remember to adjust the seasonings only after you have added the extra water. Simmer again for another ten minutes. Add the sliced tofu and scallions. Simmer for another five minutes. Off the heat and drizzle a little sesame oil into the pot. Stir to mix. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds before serving. 

The dish is best served piping hot with some rice. Don't worry if you have leftovers. I relish the thought of leftovers cos the kimchi jjigae actually taste so much better on the second day. I make sure that I make a big pot whenever I make kimchi jjigae so that there are bound to be leftovers. I especially enjoy tucking into a bowl of leftovers over the next few days (if it lasts that long that is). 

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