Friday, March 6, 2015

Kimchi Jjigae

     Spicy Korean Pork Kimchi Stew!   
     This Korean Jjigae is easy to like, if warming up with a red chile broth is to your liking.  The amount of red chile pepper can be tailored to personal taste.  Korean restaurants usually offer the level of spicy heat on a scale of 1 through 10.  Extra chile pepper can be added for those who prefer super spicy hot.
     The climate in Korea can range from well below freezing to steaming hot in summer.  With such a wide range of temperate conditions, food acts as preventative medicine for warding off the flu and common cold.
     Korean cuisine offers many recipes that are designed to maintain health in adverse climatic conditions.  Ginseng Chicken Soup and Jjigae are definitely two of the most effective anti cold and flu food creations in the world.  A bowl of spicy hot jjigae will not only clear the sinuses, it will provide plenty of nutrients and compounds that effectively boost the immune system.  

     Kimchi Jjigae can be made with pork or seafood.  With no meat, Kimchi Jjigae can be a hearty vegetarian when soft tofu is added.  Seafood Kimchi Jjigae can be flavored with roasted pork stomach and this version has a very rich broth flavor.  A Pork Kimchi Jjigae is usually made with large chunks of fresh pork belly.
     Traditional Jjigae recipes can slightly vary from region to region or from one kitchen to the next, but the basic ingredients are usually the same.  Kimchi goes through a few stages of fermentation.  Fresh Kimchi is as crisp as a fresh salad.  Old Kimchi starts to lose its bright color and the cabbage becomes soft.  Jjigae is nearly always made with the oldest Kimchi in the kitchen.

     Jjigae is served in a very hot eathenware bowl at Korean restaurants.  The name of the bowl is where the name of this Korean stew comes from.  The ingredients are placed in the red hot earthenware pot and the stew literally rapidly boils on the way to the table.  The stew keeps on boiling for several minutes after it is served.  One the boiling stew is sat at the table, an egg is offered as an option.  The egg is cracked directly into the boiling stew and it is fully poached in a matter of seconds.  
     In home kitchens, the hot earthenware pot method is not always used.  The Kimchi Stew is boiled, then extra ingredients are added before serving in a thick soup bowl.  Some home cooks keep a pot of Jjigae broth simmering all day and when hunger strikes, meat and vegetables are added to the broth.
     Jjigae fits in with the dining theme of Korean cuisine.  A Korean meal is a social or family event.  The food at the table is passed and shared by all.  A pot of Kimchi Jjigae is usually one of the first courses served during a big meal.

     Of course along with a Korean main course or Jjigae, a bowl of sticky rice and plenty of Banchan is served.  Banchan are side dishes of bite size appetizers.  I have had Kimchi Jjigae at Korean restaurants and as many as 9 Banchan creations were placed on the table with the meal.  Banchan really turns a meal into a fun social event, because everybody at the table likes to taste the Banchan creations.
     Today's recipe is a home style presentation with no hot earthenware Jjigae bowl.  For this method of serving a Jjigae, if adding egg is preferred, then the egg must be poached in a separate pan or in the boiling stew, before the stew is ladled into the regular stew bowl.
     Kimchi Jjigae (Pork):
     This recipe yields 1 large individual portion or small portions!
     This recipe is made with conventional cooking methods and a red hot earthenware Jjigae bowl is not required. 
     Korean red bean paste is flavored with spicy hot red pepper, so if it is used then cut back on the addition of chile paste or chile powder. 
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of pure sesame oil.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 3 ounces of bite size sliced pork pieces.
     Sauté till the pork is half cooked.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar.
     Simmer the pork in the soy sauce, till the soy sauce reduces and glazes the pork.  (This is a Korean quick marinade cooking technique!)
     Step 3:  Add 3 1/4 cups of beef broth.
     Raise the temperature to high heat.
     Bring the stew to a boil.
     Step 4:  Add 2 tablespoons of Korean red serrano chile paste.  (Sambal.  Mild or spicy hot.)
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of  Korean chile powder.  (To taste.  This chile powder is spicy hot.)
     Add 1 tablespoon of red bean paste.  (Korean red bean paste or red miso paste.)
     Add 4 to 5 daikon radish slices that are about 3/8" thick.
     Add 1 cup of cabbage kimchi.  (Old kimchi is best for this recipe.)
     Boil till the daikon radish is almost fully cooked.
     Step 5:  Add 2 baby bok choy that have the thick cabbage core trimmed off.
     Add 2 sliced shiitake mushrooms.
     Add 3 green onions that are cut into large bite size pieces.
     Add 1/3 cup of sliced onion.
     Add 5 large bite size pieces of bias sliced carrot.
     Add 5 bite size celery pieces.
     Boil till the vegetables are almost cooked tender.

     Poach an egg in salted water in a separate pan over medium/medium high heat.
     Ladle the stew into a warm large ceramic soup bowl.
     Place a thick 3 1/2 ounce slice of firm tofu on the surface of the stew.
     Set the poached egg on top of the stew.
     Serve with sticky rice and Banchan on the side.
     Spicy healthy Kimchi Jjigae! 

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