This spicy Korean soup (spelled "김치찌개" in Korean) is easy and a great introduction to Korean cuisine, since it combines some of the most essential elements of their food while remaining mild enough to be accessible to a foreign palate. This version evolved by much experimentation, as well as conversation with several adjumma (married Korean women), the avowed masters of the dish. It uses mostly western ingredients.
- Two cups of kimchi. This pickled vegetable dish is at the heart of Korean cooking, and can be picked up in any asian grocery. There are literally thousands of different kinds of kimchi, but the easiest to find and best to use is the rather standardized chinese cabbage (bok choy) kimchi, which will often be simply labeled as "Kimchi." If you use kimchi for other dishes and have a little left over that is too old to be good for other things, that's ideal for this dish. The acrid flavor of aging kimchi is well-suited to the soup, and the sharpness of the kimchi is removed by boiling and cooking. If you have any extra kimchi left, you might want to serve it as a garnish on the side as is traditional.
- Chop it coarsely, if it already isn't ready that way. Leave some large pieces.
- Four or more cloves of garlic, depending on your fondness for it. I usually use a whole head of garlic, since both I and my girlfriend love it so much.
- You can mince this or just toss it in whole. I generally do the latter, but some people don't like the boldness of the resulting garlic taste.
- Half of a large onion.
- Coarsely chopped.
- A large carrot.
- Coarsely chopped or shaved. Doesn't matter.
- Mushrooms, of one kind or another. White button are okay, but best are enoki.
- Coarsely chopped.
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds.
- 2 tbsp sesame oil. Can be found in some supermarkets or an asian grocery.
- A handful of dried anchovies.
- A handful of dried green seaweed. (You can use the kind sold for sushi rolling, but the best are the fibrous long bundled kind that is sold in asian groceries.)
- Red pepper flakes or chili oil, if you like extremely spicy food. For most westerners, the kimchi itself (which has pepper) will impart enough spice, but some like it hot.
- Meat of some kind. Many people use Spam, since it is greasy and adds a distinctive flavor, but the most popular addition is canned tuna fish, which should be added along with the water it is stored in. Tuna or sangyupsal(pork belly) is best recommended.
- Any other kind of vegetable that's good when cooked. Celery is often added, or daikon radish. It's hard to go wrong.
- White medium-grained white rice. Actually this would be considered essential by Koreans, but some people just like to eat the soup.
- Add seaweed and anchovies to a large pot of water. Bring to a rolling boil, then remove from heat. Let steep for two hours, then strain out the seaweed and anchovies and throw them out. This will be the broth, an essential part of the dish and the ingredient that gives it the true Korean soup taste. You can reuse the seaweed or anchovies if you're going to make this again soon (or even just leave them in the soup), but generally they just go in the trash.
- Add all other ingredients. Also add extra spice if desired. Do not add meat or rice.
- Simmer for an hour. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you are adding meat (that is, if you hate the environment) then add it now.
- Simmer for another half-hour.
- Serve hot, preferably with rice. Many people like to dip a spoonful of their rice in this rich spicy soup, or mix the rice and soup together. Try not to fight over the bigger pieces of delicious cooked kimchi. Enjoy!