Korean Army Stew (Budae Jjigae)

A fun recipe (and no it doesn't involve baking  - my brother pointed out the last 10 recipes are desserts) - Korean Army Stew! This is a spicy, savory, Korean-American fusion dish featuring everything and anything you want from noodles to spam to American cheese to beans in an umami-rich broth.

For our 3 year anniversary B and I had a cabin trip to the Catskills Mountains in upstate NY, and my brother in law Alan and his girlfriend Shanel came from Florida to visit too. The best part was they brought their husky shepherd mix Delphi, so with Nike, we had two dogs for our cabin trip!

We splurged on the gorgeous cabin and saved money by cooking in. The first night Shanel made this Korean Army Stew which her family would make all the time. I had never had this dish before and it was fun to see how easy and hearty it was. 

The stew was perfect, as it was minus 10 degrees F outside! There was SO much snow (4 wheel drive definitely required) - Delphi had never seen snow before, but she was right at home with her husky blood.
Budae (부대) means a military unit ("troop") and  Jjigae (찌개) means "stew". This army stew was invented after the Korean war (1950-1953) when the American army was stationed near Seoul. Army food like canned beans, meat, Spam, ham, and sausages was new to the Koreans who incorporated it into their own cuisine (source).
Interestingly the stew was also referred to as Jonseun-tang ("Johnson soup"), in reference to US President  Lyndon B. Johnson (who apparently raved about this dish during his Korea visit). The ingredients were often scrounged or smuggled through a black market, as American products were not legally accessible to Koreans (source).

Of note, it does have a darker past and you can read some personal memoirs about the stew in the context of war and history here and here.
My version is adapted from My Korean Kitchen and Maangchi with some changes (B didn't want cheese in it for example). Each time you make it, it'll change because you just toss your leftovers in it!

Korean Army Stew (Budae Jjigae)


Ingredients
STEW
2 cups chicken stock + 2 cups water
meat: skirt steak, spam, hot dogs, sausage, etc
fried tofu cubes
1 bunch enoki mushrooms, base stem removed
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 package yakisoba or ramen noodles
3 green onions thinly & diagonally sliced
1 to 2 slice cheese (optional)
1/2 can baked beans (optional)
chopped kimchi (optional)
pepper to taste

SAUCE (Mix these in a small bowl)
2 Tbsp rice wine (mirin)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp minced garlic
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp Korean chilli paste (Gochujang)

Directions
Assemble the main ingredients (except for instant ramen noodles, green onion and cheese) in a shallow pot. Add the sauce in the middle. Pour the stock in the corner of the pot. Close the lid and boil it on medium high heat until the stock starts to boil (about 8 mins).

Add the remaining ingredients – instant ramen noodles, green onion and cheese on top of the pot and boil uncovered until the noodles are cooked (about 2 to 3 mins). Serve hot! Enjoyy!

2 comments

  1. A lot of people don't like spam, but I actually really like it haha. Sometimes for breakfast I'd eat rice, fried egg, and spam. Never tried it with noodles before though!

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