This Kimchi Chigae (stew) is Korean comfort food. It is easy, quick, and great to make for a crowd or to just keep in the fridge for yourself for the whole week.
THE RAMBLE: WINNER FOR TEAM KOREA!
LET’S TALK ABOUT another addition to our Kimchi Party! If you haven’t had a chance, read my bit on a previous post, Kimchi Party! My Mother-in-Law’s Korean Kimchi Crepes with an amusing and informative video on how to make kimchi from PBS’s Mind of a Chef. Here is a song about kimchi that represents Koreans’ love for it and how it obviously makes everything in life better:
LET’S TALK ABOUT this stew. Kimchi is so diverse, and I think Koreans make a kimchi version of everything, from the aforementioned crepes to noodles to fried rice to this stew. This just gets better and better with time, so making a huge pot of it is great to have for a few days. This is what my mother-in-law makes when we come visit, and then we always have something delicious that is easy to just heat up in the microwave, or sometimes we just keep the pot on the lowest heat until it’s gone after a couple days. The secret to get the perfect flavor is to let your kimchi get really sour. My mother-in-law told me to put the jar of kimchi in some kind of larger container, like a box with a lid, and let it sit out overnight on your porch or garage. It is possible that it could “explode” from the fermentation gases building up, so something with a lid is good to play it safe. Kimchi does get more sour over time in your fridge, but it takes much longer. If you don’t want to let it get sour, just make sure you add as much of the kimchi brine to the soup as you can and reduce it by about half, then it is pretty close and just gets better overnight. This stew is very diverse and you can just add how much of whatever you want, like shrimp, clams, mussels, etc., but this is what I have figured out that is as close to my mother-in-law’s as possible.
Add kimchi to your diet! It has so may health benefits from the cabbage itself and also the good bacteria from the fermentation. These recipes are great ways to try it and get your palate accustomed to it.
WHO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT making great Korean food: Hyosun of Korean Bapsang, Sue from My Korean Kitchen, Maangchi of Maangchi, Julie of KimchiChick, Judy Joo @JudyJooChef of Cooking Channel’s Korean Food Make Simple and Jinjuu in London and Hong Kong, food truck pioneer Roy Choi @RidingShotgunLA of Kogi and cookbook L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food and LA restaurants Chego, Alibi Room, Sunny Spot and A-Frame.
My Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi Chigae
A Spain vs Korea Recipes original, about 45 minutes to make, easy-level recipe, serves 6-8
1 (12 oz) can Original Spam, chopped into 1/2″ dice, and/or
3 strips pork belly, cut into 1″ pieces
2.5 liters (10.5 cups) of water
1/4 cup small dried anchovies (update: if using the 2-3″ type, remove dried innards and heads, about 6- 8, and the best option)
1/2 of a 3.6 lb tub of kimchi (about 1.75 lbs of kimchi), roughly chopped
1/2+ cup kimchi brine (the more the better!)
1 large sweet potato (not yam), peeled and chopped into 1″ dice (about 2 cups)
1 lb firm tofu, drained, chopped into 1″ dice
1 cup boiling water
steamed white rice on the side
sliced green onion, seasoned roasted seaweed squares, soy sauce, sesame oil, gochujang, doenjang, etc. to garnish
*Update: My Mother-in-Law recently told me she also puts a few teaspoons of Korean red powdered Beef Dasida in this soup. It will give it the best foundational savory flavor and bit more body.
- Place a large pot over medium heat. Add Spam and/or pork belly, and fry until it starts to get color on it and caramelize, about 6-7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, add boiling water to rinse the tofu in a separate container, set aside. This gives it a cleaner flavor.
- Once the meat has caramelized, drain the rendered fat. Place pot back onto now high heat, and add water, anchovies, kimchi, brine, and sweet potato to the meat. Bring to a boil, and reduce by at least 1/3, about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. After it has reduced by at least 1/3, the stew should taste strongly of kimchi and the sweet potato should be tender, add more brine if needed.
- Drain water from tofu, then add to the pot, and give a gentle stir. Reduce heat to medium and simmer another 2-3 minutes, until the tofu has warmed through. Serve with bowls of steamed white rice and garnishes. Can be kept in the fridge for about 4 days.