Mr Foodie has never been a fan of Korean food, and to be honest, I rarely have it or cook it but there is a repertoire of their Korean dishes that I really love. Namely bulgogi beef, jap chae and the most warming deliciousness of all – Kimchi Jjigae. One of our neighbours up the road has taken the plunge to part with her home of many years, following her husband’s passing she decided to move into a retirement village unit. A lot more manageable I suppose. Her front garden was on a slope, gorgeous and so manicured it was a pleasure to drive past. I do wonder what will become of it now. Like everybody else she had accumulated a lifetime’s worth of things, the neighbours gathered to help her move some furniture and boxes out to the front, mostly to go to a good home. One of her friends took me inside the garage and showed me her collection of kitchenware, so well kept and clean. “Go on”, she says. “It’s all going to the op shop or the skip, take what you can use don’t let it go to waste.”
My cupboards are filled and stacked from top to bottom as it is, but somehow I went home with a classic china soup serving set, a tart baking tin and a fondue pot. I must confess I did not take the fondue pot with any intention of making fondues. All I had in mind was hot pots, it was the perfect size for the two of us saving me from bringing that big electric steam boat pot out. Naturally excited to use my new fondue / hot pot, dinner the next night was in fact Kimchi Jjigae. A popular dish in Korea (although I didn’t get the chance to have any when I was in Korea), it’s a fantastic winter dish that makes you eat too much rice. It’s warming, spicy and hearty, the kind of flavour that makes you keep going back for more. It’s a Kimchi Stew typically made with pork shoulder or pork belly, where the sauce is between a soup and gravy. With a fondue pot it was still steaming away at the table throughout the whole meal. You could use a claypot too, Koreans and Japanese have beautiful dinnerware.
I never intended to post a recipe but after throwing this picture out on social media, I got requests so here’s my version. I don’t know if it’s authentic (well it definitely isn’t Korea spicy, they can take the heat) but this is really quick and easy. The only thing I was missing was spring onions, use it, it makes it extra fragrant.
- 250g pork belly or loin cut into small pieces
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 1/2 cup kimchi with brine
- 1 tbsp gochujang
- 2 spring onions thinly sliced
- 100g silken tofu sliced as evenly as possible
- 50-100g of Shiitake or Enoki mushrooms
- 1 cup stock or water
- sesame oil
- Most of the work is in the preparation of ingredients. I used Enoki mushrooms on this occasion because it’s what I had left but Shiitake mushrooms would be my first choice normally. Drain the silken tofu and slice about 1cm thick then set aside. With the pork, you can slice it or dice it though keep the pieces small so that the flavour really gets into the meat. I like to use pork loin in general but pork shoulder is fine too.
- Kimchi Jjigae is often cooked in the pot it will be served in so pick your pot with lid. Add kimchi and brine, pork, sliced onions, garlic, half the spring onions, gochujang, mirin and stock into the pot and bring to boil. Cover lid and reduce heat to medium and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, give it a good stir to mix in all the seasoning and sauces well. If you are using Shiitake mushrooms, arrange them nicely on top now. If you are using Enoki mushrooms, they don’t need long so leave it till the last minute. Arrange the tofu over the top as well then cover and cook for a further 10 minutes. The goal is to get the sauce to a thicker consistency, we want something between a gravy and a soup.
- If you are using Enoki mushrooms, open the lid, place the mushrooms on top and cover the lid again for 1 minute then turn off the heat. I was using a fondue pot so because I continued to cook it at the table I turned off the heat first before placing my Enoki mushrooms and serving.
- Garnish with the remaining sliced spring onions and a good drizzle of sesame oil then serve. Best eaten with steamed rice, so many bowls of steamed rice.
I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do, it’s really perfect for winter and technically if you don’t use pork belly it’s quite healthy with fermented foods that are good for the gut, some chilli to keep you warm and comfortable in cold weather, a balance of animal protein, plant protein and vegetables. Maybe try harder to go easy on the rice. I know we have trouble with that!