Like many delicious foods, budae jjigae is a fusion dish of two different cultures. Born out of hard times, the soup came to be in a time of food scarcity after the Korean war. Items from American military bases like Spam, hot dogs, and baked beans were added to Korean soup, noodles, rice cakes and vegetables. The resulting dish is salty, savory, spicy, and filling. My son loves this soup, so it gets made fairly often at my house.
It does require a few Korean ingredients that you really can’t leave out. I have mentioned these before, as they are staples of Korean cooking. Gochujang and Korean red pepper powder. You can get both on amazon or at an Asian market.
You can customize the ingredients of this to your liking. We weren’t a huge fan of hot dogs and prefer the spam so I use extra spam and no hot dogs. We have not yet added the baked beans, but do want to try that. Some recipes also add slices of American cheese over the top but we prefer it without. I typically use kimchi (the sourness is really needed to offset the rich meat), broccoli and zucchini and mushrooms in this dish. That goes over noodles (I use frozen thick udon noodles from H Mart) and Korean rice cakes which are delicious in soup if you have not tried them.
This broth as written is very spicy. If you do not like spicy food, you can reduce the amount of gochujang and red pepper powder and use some beef broth and soy sauce instead. I typically add some Korean beef soup powder to this too, although it is not in the original recipes I have seen. It is so yummy though!
Budae Jjigae – Korean Army Stew
For the broth:
- 4 cups water or chicken or beef broth
- 2 tbsp gochujang paste more or less to taste
- 2 tbsp red pepper powder more or less to taste
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 4 tbsp soy sauce more to taste
- 1/2 tbsp Korean beef soup powder optional
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
For the stew:
- 1-2 cans of spam sliced into sticks and pan fried until crispy
- mung bean sprouts optional
- 1 package soft tofu
- rice cakes rinsed and cooked until chewy
- sliced onion
- broccoli florets briefly cooked and blanched
- thin sliced zucchini
- sliced mushrooms
- green onions sliced
- Start by putting the water or stock in a pot. Bring to a boil and add all the broth ingredients. Let simmer. When close to serving, gently add the soft tofu so it can get hot.
- Cut spam into sticks and pan fry until golden.
- Wash and cut all the veggies and briefly cook the broccoli in the broth so it is slightly tender and bright green. Blanche in cold water and set aside.
- Cook the noodles and rinse the rice cakes and put into boiling water until tender. Rinse and put into your serving bowls.
- Top the noodles and rice cakes with all the stew ingredients and pour some broth over the top.