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November 18, 2011

Doenjang Jjigae, the ultimate Korean comfort


Doenjang Jjigae (Korean soybean paste stew) reminds me of my father.
As I recollect, he loved this stew.

My father passed away almost 6 years ago by car accident.
And I didn't even get to say good-bye to him.

After he is gone I realized that I never had a chance to serve this stew for him.
In fact I never got a chance to cook anything for him.
And that hurts me...,
and brings me to tears.
I know he would have enjoyed this stew very, very much.

My mother used fix this stew quite often just for him.
Of course her Doenjang paste is all home-made, and she has her secret to give this stew more depth.
 Nothing can't beat the home-made.
But I personally don't think you would go out and buy 50 lb bag of soy beans to make home-made Doenjang. 
So I will show you how to make this comforting stew with a store bought paste to taste just like Koren mothers would make.
There are several versions of Doenjang Jjigae and this, perhaps, is one of the basic ones.

First, let's start with rice. 
Why rice? You will find out soon.
Besides you gotta cook rice to eat with this stew anyway.
BTW I mixed white rice with brown rice, in case if you are wondering.

Rinse the rice once, just once okay?

 Add a little bit of water and start tossing the rice rapidly, with swirling motions, for 30 seconds.
You will see the water turning into milk-ish.
Add about 2 cups of water to the rice and swirl around.

 Drain to save this milk-ish water into a bowl, about 2 cups.
This is what we call, "ssal-tte-mool (쌀뜨물)", the rice starch water.
This will enrich the stew.

Now go ahead rinse the rice a couple more times and cook by your usual way.

 Here are our ingredients of the day.
Doenjang paste, Korean chili flakes, onion, zucchini, garlic, dried anchovies, sea kelp, mushroom, chilies, and Asian leek or green onion.
But I am missing one important thing...

This one, the tofu! I used soft tofu but you can use firm if you like. Cut into cubes.

 Dice your onion,

 and the same goes to zucchini...

 Cut off the bottom from the enoki mushrooms. You can use any mushroom of your choice.

 If you want to stick to the authentic style, use a stone pot. This small pot is about 1 quart size.
Bring to your heat source.

 Toast your anchovies for 1 minute.
The reason is that most dried anchovies are stored in the fridge or freezer and they get damp, which means, fishy!
Toasting will remove the fishy smell.

 Pour the rice starch water and add the dried sea kelp. Let them boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove our sea friends and discard them.

 Add the Doenjang (soy bean) paste.
You need to mash them down to incorporate with stock. Whatever left in the mash, throw them back into the stock.
You can use coarse mash strainer for this job or use the back of a spoon and smash it to the pot.

 Add onion and zucchini slices,

 and chili flakes. Let it boil.

 Add tofu and garlic.

 Add chilies and boil for 2 minutes.

Lastly add mushroom and the Asian leek. Done!
Remove the pot from heat. 
Hold your breath while you're tip-toeing to carry this boiling pot to the table. It is hot!

Doenjang stew is voted #1 comfort stew among Korean men. 
Do you have Korean male in your life? 
Surprise him with this stew,
and he will adore you for the rest of your life.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Doenjang Jjigae
(Korean Soybean paste stew, 된장찌개)

2 cups rice starch water*
6-7 dried anchovies
1 piece (3") dried sea kelp
2 generous Tbsp Doenjang (soybean paste)
1/2 package (4 oz) tofu, cut into 1" cubes
1/2 onion diced
1/2 zucchini diced
1 tsp Korean chili flakes
1 garlic clove chopped
1 green or red chili sliced
1/2 package enoki mushrooms or one handful of any mushrooms sliced
1/2 Asian leek or 1 green onion sliced

* rice starch water : rinse rice once with water and drain. Add a 1/2 cup of water again, toss and swirl around the rice for 30 seconds. You will see the water turning into milk-like. Add 2 cups of water and swirl to collect all the starch from the rice. Drain to save the starch water in a bowl.

Bring small 1 qt stone or heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat. Toast the anchovies for 1 minute and pour the rice starch water to the pot. Add the sea kelp and bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the anchovies and sea kelp, discard them.
Using a coarse mesh strainer, mash the Doenjang paste into the pot so it gets incorporated with stock. Add onion, zucchini, chili flakes and let them boil. Add tofu, garlic, chili and cook for 2 minutes. 
Lastly add Enoki mushrooms and green onion. Remove the pot from heat and serve hot with rice.

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At November 18, 2011 at 9:25 PM , Anonymous leaf (the indolent cook) said...

Oh Holly, sorry to hear about your father. This makes me think, I must cook more for my parents when I see them. What a comforting stew this is - I can see why this could be the way to someone's heart!

At November 18, 2011 at 9:55 PM , Anonymous Sophia said...

This stew moves me too, because it reminds me of my grandfather who passed away three years ago. I will always have the image of him slurping noisily at the stew, and us burping at the same time. 

At November 19, 2011 at 12:12 AM , Anonymous Smoky Wok (Tastes of Home) said...

I love doenjang jjigae, very comforting indeed - I'm sorry about your father...

At November 19, 2011 at 6:19 AM , Anonymous Cptfitz said...

I don't think this could look or sound more delicious! It brings back awesome memories of my childhood in Korea. Thanks for the recipe, I love your blog!

At November 19, 2011 at 6:39 AM , Anonymous Hyosun Ro said...

Holly - I am very sorry about your father. That's so sad. You're right this is no. 1 comfort food for Koreans, especially men. This makes me hungry for it, and I am just having my first cup of morning coffee. 

At November 19, 2011 at 2:58 PM , Anonymous S. Z. said...

Hollly, this is a touching post. I've loved your blog ever since I knew about it. I love you even more now that you are finally doing a doenjang jjigae post, because I've always wanted to make one, but never could. Maybe it's the rice starch water that was missing.

At November 19, 2011 at 3:25 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

S. Z.
Thanks for the comment.Yes, the rice starch water will thicken the stew quite nicely and brings deeper flavor, too. Give it a try and let me know how it turned out.

At November 19, 2011 at 3:29 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Hyosun Ro
Thanks, Hyosun! A pot of Doenjang Jjigae and a grilled fish is one of the most common humble dinner and I often miss that. Hope you enjoyed your coffee and had a great Saturday morning.

At November 19, 2011 at 3:32 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Thanks. Yes, I do remember, too, of the smell of Doenjang Jjigae in my house or my friends house as a child. It was the natural alarm for us that the dinner is almost ready. I love the smell...

At November 19, 2011 at 3:37 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Hi Sophia, I am sorry about your grandfather.
Your description of how your grandfather enjoyed the stew was so right! Many Korean men, especially older generation, would do that. My father didn't burp but he did slurp his soup or stew though.

At November 19, 2011 at 3:43 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Yes, cook more for your parents. Sharing food with your loved ones is like sharing your heart. It will bring precious memories.

At November 19, 2011 at 6:36 PM , Anonymous Purabi Naha said...

I love Korean food and I am really happy to have bumped upon your blog today!! Loved this jijigae recipe. Following you now. I would love your visit to my blog on Indian/Hong Kong food!

At November 20, 2011 at 2:50 PM , Anonymous Bee said...

Your blog is something I was looking for - detailed instructions on how to make Korean everyday food. I am currently living in Seoul and want to learn more about Korean home cooking before we move again. Thanks for all the tips and recipes! Well come here more often.

At November 20, 2011 at 3:16 PM , Anonymous Shuhan said...

wow definitely looks like comfort food. any kind of stew or soup bubbling in a hot claypot is heaven.

At November 20, 2011 at 7:56 PM , Anonymous Carloline said...

Hi Holly
Thank you for the recipe. Iam going to cook this for dinner. Will it be much different if I omit the chillie flake? Because my young nephew still could not take spicy food yet.

At November 20, 2011 at 8:14 PM , Anonymous Jen said...

my five year old son loves this soup. i will use your recipe next time!

At November 20, 2011 at 10:41 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Hi Caroline
yes, you can omit the chili flakes and fresh chilies, too. Hope you nephew would enjoy the stew you made.

At November 20, 2011 at 10:42 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Wow, that is impressive. He's got some Korean factor in his taste bud.

At November 21, 2011 at 6:20 AM , Anonymous Trang said...

I love your blog. The recipes are clear and the photos are just too professional, like they are taken out of a cookbook.

I love any kind of Korean soup, especially during the kind of winter in the Midwest region of the U.S.

At November 21, 2011 at 6:56 AM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Thanks Bee. You are welcome to my site anytime.

At November 21, 2011 at 7:03 AM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Hi there
Thanks for visiting my blog. I am not so familiar in cooking with Indian ingredients so I am glad that I found your blog as well. Look forward to learn great Indian recipes from you.

At November 22, 2011 at 10:25 PM , Anonymous Duncan said...

Hi Holly, this is Duncan from Kuantan. You have a beautiful blog and quite a talent for cooking. My wife is excited to be staying at your place this coming weekend! What a lovely idea to be doing this blog for your children - you can't go wrong when it comes to food. Have a look at my blog too:

Duncan In

At November 23, 2011 at 6:10 AM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Hi Duncan
Yes, we are excited to have your young family in our home as well. Have a safe drive to KL.

At November 23, 2011 at 6:12 AM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Hi Trang
Thanks for the compliments. Hope you can visit my site as often as you can.

At November 23, 2011 at 10:58 AM , Anonymous Laure said...

Hi Holly, I'd like to make this soup, but Doenjang paste is impossible to find where I live. Would miso be an acceptable substitution?

At November 23, 2011 at 1:21 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Hi! You can use miso but it will taste a little different. Generally Miso is milder than doenjang but you can look for miso that is stronger in flavor. Look for deep brown tone of miso rather than yellow.

At February 14, 2012 at 7:14 AM , Anonymous Heol said...


Nice Blog!
I like asian food and this recipe is simple.

Thank you

At March 1, 2012 at 1:14 AM , Anonymous wildbutterfly26 said...

this seem to be so good!

At March 1, 2012 at 2:34 PM , Anonymous Nicole said...

This is lovely. I've actually never seen this bad with the starch of rice water... It's interesting! Soy bean paste soup is my favorite Korean soup! :) I don't doub that your father would be extremely proud of you and loved to call you his daughter!

I do think it's funny though that this stew is voted #1 among Korean men. I am half-Korean and my boyfriend is too, but he doesn't like this soup at all! Haha. I made some (for myself) and he tried it, but he stuck to his mother's yuk-gae-jang instead! :P

At March 1, 2012 at 3:22 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Ha ha! I know doenjang is not for everyone. Most Korean men (in Korea) loves doenjang stew. It truly is voted for #1 comforting stew for them to miss their mother's cooking even though their wives are great cooks.

At March 18, 2012 at 1:02 AM , Anonymous Sarah said...

I made this last night and it was delicious! Thanks so much for this recipe. 

At March 18, 2012 at 4:25 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Hi Sarah
I am glad that you liked the stew. Thanks for the comment.

At March 20, 2012 at 3:13 AM , Anonymous LucyL said...

I made this last night and added fresh clams to it and had it with rice & korean seaweed, it was sooo good! My bf loved this dish so much so I teased him and said he must be korean as this is a favourite dish amongst korean men hehe. Can't believe that doenjang paste is so tasty, we have a similar chinese doenjang paste which is sweeter and i use it to steam salmon and it's delish!  

At March 20, 2012 at 7:11 AM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

I had tried cooking salmon with miso but never with Chinese paste. Will it be similar?

At March 22, 2012 at 2:29 AM , Anonymous LucyL said...

yes, you can buy chinese doenjang it's called "min see". It's more pungent than miso and sweeter than doenjang so it tastes different to using miso. I've used miso for salmon too and it's not the same. You need around 1 teaspoon of min see mixed with a little water for 1 salmon steak.

At February 10, 2014 at 9:34 AM , Anonymous franneeannee said...

You honour your father by sharing his favourite. Well done faithful, loving child.


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