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Six Essential Korean Stews

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In Korean cooking and eating, soup or stew is served at almost every meal. Sometimes stews play a starring role at the table, but usually they are a communal dish shared by everyone at the table like banchan. There are also some Korean restaurants and meals that offer stews (chigae, jjigae) after the main dish, like seafood restaurants with raw fish specialties.

Korean stews encompass the whole spectrum from vibrant to comforting to elegant, and they are always an essential part of Korean cuisine.

1. Korean Bean Paste Stew (Daenjang Chigae)

As essential to Korean homecooking as chicken noodle soup is to Americans, this thick, fragrant stew is a Korean comfort food especially popular in the cold winter months. Korean bean paste (daenjang) is similar to Japanese miso but is much more pungent and powerful.

Daenjang chigae is wonderfully hearty and can be made with almost any vegetables you have on hand. Variations also change according to the vegetables that are in season and to the geographic region of the cook or the restaurant. Although this is one dish where I actually prefer the more common zucchini, potato, and pepper combination of vegetables, it is delicious with carrots, other squashes, and turnips as well.

2. Spicy Kimchi Stew (Kimchichigae)

Spicy Kimchi Stew (Kimchichigae)

This spicy kimchi stew is served bubbling hot and makes good use of leftover or older kimchi. Fiery hot, hearty, and full of flavor, kimchichigae is great for cold winter days but Koreans can eat it anytime, anywhere.

3. Korean Spicy Fish Stew (Mae Un Tang)

Packed with flavor, spice, vegetables and fish, this Korean fish stew is spicy and sweet and has dozens of different fish and vegetable variations.

4. Korean Stuffed Chicken Soup with Ginseng (Sam Gae Tang) Recipe

Korean Stuffed Chicken Soup with ginseng (Sam Gae Tang) is a delicious, fragrant soup that is surprisingly easy to make. Small whole chickens or Cornish hens are stuffed with sticky rice, garlic and chestnuts and then simmered with ginseng, ginger, and garlic.

5. Korean Bulgogi Stew (Bulgogi Jungol) Recipe

Naomi Imatome
Bulgogi jungol is a hearty, delicious one-pot meal that is also a good way to use any leftover marinated bulgogi and vegetables from your fridge. I always have marinated meat in the freezer, and bulgogi jungol is one of the easiest ways to use that beef in an easy Korean stew. For an even heartier meal, add noodles to the pot.

6. Recipe for Budaechigae (Korean Army Base Stew)

Korean Army Base Stew (Budae Chigae)
Naomi Imatome
Budae Chigae was invented during the famine years of the Korean war and post-war period. Koreans managed to use leftover meat discarded or handed-out from the U.S. army bases to make this dish. It's a recent invention with a thousand variations, but it's mostly a lip-smacking mixture of Western meat, ramen noodles, vegetables, and Korean spices.
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