Kimchi Jjigae – A Warm and Comforting Stew

Just like the meteorologists predicted, we got a nice big pile of snow last night. Around 15 cm or so, which isn’t much compared to some other cities but that’s plenty for us! So after shovelling snow off the driveway, it’s always a warm welcome (pun intended) to have a nice hot meal waiting. Thus comes kimchi jjigae or kimchi stew. 

Kimchi is made by fermenting vegetables like cucumber or radish in a brine, but the most popular iconic dish is frequently made with napa cabbage. This type is similar to sauerkraut, but it’s spicy and saltier because of the gochujang (a Korean chili paste) and fish/shrimp paste that is often used to make it. It’s known as Korea’s National dish and it often accompanies many Korean meals. It was originally prepared this way as a method to preserve vegetables during the harsh Korean winters (I can vouch for how cold it can get there! I’m thankful for their ondol floor heating system). Kimchi is so ingrained into Korean culture that they even say “kimchi” when taking pictures, just like how we say “cheese” (this also explains why my Korean brand phone takes pictures automatically when I say “kimchi”).

So, it’s not surprising that they came up with a dish called kimchi jjigae to warm your body during the cold winter months. This is a stew where kimchi is the star and it comes bubbling hot to your table in a stone pot bowl. The stew has silky pieces of tofu and thin slices of pork (though you can get it with tuna or other seafood instead), white onions and scallions. Accompanying the stew is a bowl of rice often in a signature Korean metal bowl and of course banchan! It’s deliciously spicy, salty and slightly acidic. It’ll definitely warm you up after spending time in the great outdoors…shovelling that heavy snow! Stay toasty, my friends. 🙂

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