Tuesday, July 9, 2013

beef doenjang jjigae (된장 찌개): korean soy bean paste stew

A few years ago, if you were to ask me if I liked Korean food, my reply would have been an immediate "NOPE".

Things changed when we had the mother of one of our Korean kids come to stay with us for a few months. She would cook Korean food for us periodically, and because I like all forms of cooking, I could not help but hang around the kitchen to kay poh see what she was doing.

Maybe it was because home-made versions of anything (to me, at least) always taste superior, my interest in Korean food started to take root, and now I cook Korean food 3-4 times a month at home.

Of course my repertoire of Korean food is rather limited. It is a very different-tasting type of food to what I am used to after all, and every new flavour takes some getting used to.

What I really love, though, are the Korean stews. My favourites are Doenjang Jjigae and Soondubu Jjigae.

I have been cooking doenjang jjigae for a while now, and each time I had used canned clams. Since I had some clams left after cooking Linguine alle Vongole, I decided to use the left over clams to make doenjang jjigae this time. My goodness, what a difference the clams made to the flavour of the stew! Never again would I use canned clams for this!

As with most Korean stews, I started by making the base (the stock) of the stew. That meant boiling anchovies, seaweed and dried shitake mushrooms for about 20 minutes.

I used the best anchovies I could find. They are more expensive, but they are worth every cent.

I removed the heads and the guts of the anchovies, and used only a small handful of seaweed. They expand like mad when they come into contact with water, so go easy.

Once the stock was ready, the anchovies, seaweed and mushrooms were removed. I kept the mushrooms, and sliced them into smaller pieces. The anchovies and seaweed were discarded.

Into the stock, I added the doenjang, or the fermented soy bean paste, as well as the gochujang, hot pepper paste. The gochujang is optional. Leave it out if you do not like spicy food.

The mushrooms were returned to the stock. I also added sliced onions, and simmered them for about 5 minutes so they would soften - I do not like the taste of raw onion.

In the meantime, I quickly seared the sliced beef in a pan. I only wanted the beef to be seared, so as soon as they had mostly lost their pinkish tinge, they were done.

Turning the heat to medium-high, I sliced the peppers and added them to the stock, along with the beef.

The scum that floated to the surface (see above picture) was skimmed off.

Finally, I added the finely diced potatoes, soft toufu and zucchini, as well as the clams. (For a quick guide to how to clean clams, see here.)

Once the potato and zucchini had softened, and the clams had opened (discard any that did not open), the stew was ready.

Do try making this at home some time. It really is a comforting bowl of yummiliciousness.

Doenjang Jjigae (Serves 4)

15 anchovies, heads and guts removed
1 small handful of seaweed
5 dried shitake mushrooms
1.5 litre of water (more if necessary)
3 tbs doenjang, more if you prefer stew to be more salty
1 tbs gochijang (optional)
300g sliced beef
1/2 white onion, sliced
1 small red pepper, seeds removed and sliced
2 potatoes, finely diced
1/2 zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 pack soft toufu, diced
200g clams, soaked and cleaned

1. Boil anchovies, seaweed and mushrooms for 20 minutes. Retain and slice mushrooms, discard anchovies and seaweed.
2. Add doenjang and gochujang. Simmer sliced onions for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms.
3. Turn up the heat. Add red pepper and beef.
4. Skim off any scum at the surface.
5. Add potato, toufu, zucchini and clams.
6. Bring to a boil. Once potato and zucchini have softened, and clams have opened, the stew is ready.
7. Serve immediately.
NOTE: Discard any clams that remained closed.

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