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Korean Army Stew (Budae Jjigae)

Credit: Thanks to my friend kisetsu for sharing her recipe (which I adapted to suit my cooking style) and knowledge about Korean cooking with me. This is a recipe greatly enjoyed by my family and we will be cooking it really often from now on.

Recently, my friend kisetsu introduced me to the wonderful world of Korean cooking by making a delicious pot of Korean army base stew (budae jjigae; 부대찌개) during our gathering.

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For those who are not familiar with this dish, budae jjigae originated during the Korean War, where food scarcity led to Koreans cooking this stew by using leftover ingredients from the US Army such as Spam, hot dogs, cheese and baked beans. For this reason,  the dish is also referred to as Johnson Tang (존슨 탕), combining the common American surname Johnson and tang (탕, 湯) a word meaning soup (Source: Wiki). Today, budae jjigae is a popular Korean dish with lots of seasonal ingredients such as mushrooms, kimchi, tofu and minced beef. What I love about this delicious stew is that the preparation is really easy (mostly involving cutting and slicing the ingredients). It makes a perfect stew for a lazy stay-at-home weekend as the pot can feed two or more persons for an entire day. We placed a portable gas cooker on the table and let the stew bubble away gently as we eat. For the evening meal, we just top up with more ingredients and soup broth, and bring the stew to a simmer for 10 minutes before eating.

STEP-BY-STEP PHOTOS – Korean Army Stew (Budae Jjigae)

soup paste
Make the soup paste by combining gochujang (chilli paste), gochugaru (hot chilli pepper powder; add more for a spicier stew), sesame oil, garlic powder and rice wine.

Army stew soup base
In a soup pot, bring chicken or anchovy stock to a boil and dissolve the soup paste in it. Season to taste, turn off the stove and set aside.

Marinade minced beef with gochujiang, sesame oil and white pepper powder.

Slice 3 hot dogs to smaller sections. I made a few slits on each slice so that they will curl beautifully and absorb the stew flavours when cooked.

Slice half can spam (luncheon meat) to uniform thickness.

Leeks, Onions, Mushrooms
Slice leek to 1 cm width. Roughly chop onion and slice mushrooms thinly.

Soak 30 grams dangmyeon (sweet potato noodles) in water until softened.

Before Cooking (Army Stew)
In a shallow casserole, arrange the above ingredients (with the addition of duk guk (flat oval rice cakes), kimchi, tofu and baked beans) in a platter.

Budae Jigae (Korean Army Stew)
When ready to serve, add prepared soup base to the casserole. Bring the soup to a simmer and gently break the minced beef to smaller pieces with a spatula. Cover with lid and simmer the stew for about 10 minutes to cook all the ingredients. After 10 minutes, add cheese slices on top and cook one packet of ramyeon (instant noodles) without the seasoning powder.

35 comments on “Korean Army Stew (Budae Jjigae)”

  1. You had me at Spam and baked beans! I can’t wait to try this! I shared this on facebook and my friends all love it too!

  2. Looks so mouth-watering, and authentic. :) I always wanted to make this Korean army stew too but the furthest I have gone is just the kimchi stew + noodles – using kimchi as the soup base without the Korean chili paste and red pepper chili powder. Well, it definitely does not look as good as yours.

    • I find that with just gochujang and gochugaru, one can make many Korean dishes so it’s quite worthwhile to add it to your pantry :)

  3. Gochugaru? Is that what makes the stew redder? Wow, yours is really well-made lovingly. If I were to do it, I just chuck everything and let it boil, including that potatoe noodles. =p

    • Yes I seriously think that gochugaru is the ingredient that makes the stew redder. Also it has a more smokey taste than cayenne pepper which is also way hotter. I bought it to try because I plan to make kimchi ;) I pre-soaked the potato noodles so that after softened, they can fit in nicely in my casserole :)

  4. Yummm…. I’m craving for Korean food lately. Your budae jjigae looks so wonderfully delicious!!!

  5. It’s my hubby and my favorite!! :) Yours look so tempting! *thumbs up*

  6. Looks delicious! I just saw this dish featured in a Taiwanese travel food show to Korea. Definitely a lot of ingredients!

  7. When i get dduk boki from the korea restaurant, they also put a white color cheese on top. what kind of cheese are you using in this recipe. I’ve tried provolone but it was not it.

    • I don’t think there is a fixed type of cheese to use, you can use your personal favourite. I am using cheddar toast melt as recommended by my friend who taught me the recipe.

  8. I’ve never heard of this stew before but man it looks good!

  9. Wow, this noodle soup looks delicious with so many ingredients…and I never thought in placing together spam and hot dog in a soup. Very flavorful pot of soup.
    Hope you are having a great week Wiffy :)

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