We had a chigae kind of weekend.
Wondering what that means?
These last few days it's meant: Freezing cold and windy. Yet another round of school holidays. Sick kid down with fever. Stuck at home.... might as well cook a big pot of something, eat & enjoy lounging inside...
That something was one of our favorite Korean comfort foods - chigae.
This is the perfect soup/stew to warm up a cold winter day. Caveat - if you're looking for a true traditional version of this dish, you should probably look else where. I cobbled my dish together to suit the tastes of my family. If you want to give it a try though, everyone I've ever fed it to loves it. Savory. Spicy. Thick. Meaty. Filling. Satisfying.
Geez, I almost want to slurp down another bowl of it just thinking about it...
- 1.5 pounds ground pork
- 2 packages soft tofu (drained & cubed)
- 1/2 white onion (diced)
- 1 zucchini, 1 carrot and any other vegetable you're in the mood for (diced)
- Sliced rice cakes (Duk)
- Eggs (1 per person eating)
- Chicken broth (1 big carton or 2 standard sized cans)
- Korean red pepper flakes (Gochugaru)
- Fermented soybean paste (Doenjang)
Kimchi. I shop for Korean groceries at Han Ah Reum on 32nd street between 5th and 6th avenue. I buy the plain sliced cabbage - not the kind with the oysters. Also, I look for the jars with lots of wet, red "juice" that means the kimchi is sufficiently fermented.
I'd use about half of this big jar above. Sometimes I chop the kimchi. Most of the time, I just scoop it straight into the pot.
Korean red pepper flakes. Not to be confused with the Italian dried pepper we sprinkle over pizza.
Fermented soybean paste. This is shelved right next to the red pepper paste (in red boxes). Don't buy the red box. Buy the yellow box.
Rice cake slices. Use only a handful of this at a time. Prepare only what you want to eat in one meal. It will get soggy, mushy and not nice at all if left to soak in the pot.
I store my rice cakes in the freezer. When I start cooking my chigae, I pull a handful of them out to soak in cold water before cooking, then drain when I'm ready to use the rice cakes.
Once all the ingredients have been gathered and chopped then it's time to throw this super easy dish together. Here's how I do it:
- Heat up a little oil in a big pot.
- Brown the ground pork.
- Add in chopped onions and continue browning onions and meat.
- Throw in chopped vegetables. Keep stirring.
- Here's the part where it's totally to your taste. I dump in 2 heaping spoonfuls of the fermented bean paste. Then about a cupped palm's worth of the red pepper flakes. Keep stirring.
- Add kimchee. "Juice" and all. If you really love the stuff, by all means add more than the half jar that I use.
- Let the mixture simmer a few minutes.
- Add in chicken broth (or water if you prefer). I love lots of broth. So sometimes I add a little extra broth or water to the pot.
- Add tofu.
- Let the soup simmer another 15 minutes or so.
- When you are almost ready to eat, then it's time to add the egg and rice cakes.
- Make sure soup is simmering. Crack in & poach one egg for each person. Depending on your ratio of broth to ingredients, you may need to shift some of the stuff around to make room for the poaching eggs. You may also need to gently spoon the hot broth over your eggs to make sure the top of the egg cooks too.
- Add the rice cakes at about the same time you add the eggs. Just let them float on top of everything else. Remember, only a little bit. Maybe 4-6 rice cakes per person. I like my rice cakes very chewy, so they only need to cook a few minutes.
- I think the eggs are perfectly done once the whites are cooked through but the yolk is only medium cooked or even slightly runny.
- Scoop yourself a big bowl of chigae. Make sure you include the egg and however many rice cakes you cooked. Really yummy plain or with some steamed white rice on the side.