I have the fondest memories of Korea town in Los Angeles (LA), this was early 2005, and I had just moved to the breathtaking city of angels with my hubby so he could live out his dream job. Needless to say, that year he worked constantly, and I got a break from working and became a stay at home wife for a while. It was our first year of marriage, so it was many adjustments for both of us. Our families and friends were all in Singapore, I missed having some kind of work (other than house work), and our home was a cosy, bare bones, (no room for arguments) one bedroom walk up in the Beverly Hills district 90211 (not the 90210 – you had in mind!).
Moving out of home, and into my marital kitchen marked a turning point for me in gastronomy, growing up parties and dinners were common place and I was always involved in helping my mother with preparations of sorts. However, I never had to cook daily to feed myself and; whoever else was home. As the year flew by, the kitchen experiments became a daily occurrence, some were disasters and others went okay. And even though, my culinary exploits never went quite smoothly then, looking back, I now realise that in that period of my life; creating dishes (aka playing in the kitchen), helped me cope with the uncertainty of being away from what was comfortable; of being in a new stage of life; of spending hours on end alone – I’d tapped into my creative soul, expressed it through what was on my plate and it nourished more than just my body, I got adventure, excitement, respite and even joy in those solitary moments!
LA itself, was a melting pot of all kinds of eats, especially fusion cuisines, the standouts were Mexican and Korean food for me. Before K-town in LA, if I thought about Korean food, it would be a mishmash of overly marinated barbecued meat with some miserable very spicy kimchi on the side. In K-town LA, I discovered my love for ‘pan chan’ (side dishes) there were so many delectable varieties, with free top ups! You just needed to point to the dish to add more, or shout ‘more Kimchi please’! And how amazing were the rich savoury, piping hot Korean stews, doenjang jjigae, soondubu jjigae, yuk gae jang served in ttukbaegi (earthenware pot) – for one addicted to tongue burning hot soup this was comfort food at its supreme best!
Doenjang jjigae – stew like Korean traditional dish, made with soya bean paste and available ingredients such as radish, squash, onions, chilli’s, mushrooms and potatoes, with seafood (clams, shrimp) or dubu (tofu). It is regarded as one of the representative dishes of food in Korea.
Terracotta pots left to right: minced garlic, potatoes, onions, sausages, prawns. On wooden board: yellow zucchini, clams, doenjang (fermented soyabean paste).
Doenjang – Koreans take doenjang as part of their daily diet for its preventative qualities, it has been said to be effective in preventing cancer (in fact daily consumption of doenjang is one of the 15 rules for cancer prevention set forth by the Korean Cancer Association), and constipation and diarrhoea by increasing the activity of the large intestines. Doenjang also contains lecithin found in soya beans that increases brain activity; Saponin that slows oxidation and in turn ageing and linolenic acid that counteracts pigments and freckles formation in the skin.
This recipe I cooked up mimics the savoury, comforting, sizzling one pot meals I had in K-town. The memories are so distinct I can still taste the stock broths, hear the bubbling of the jjigae in the ttukbaegi and the loud exchanges of Korean in the K-restaurants. This is my take on an easy, quick to assemble, ‘daebak’ (means awesome) family friendly version (no spicy chilli’s in here) – out of your mind delicious one pot meal. It’s so much better than any jjigae you can order in a Korean restaurant on any day.
If you don’t have a ttukbaegi, cook this in a stainless steel or cast iron pot for the same effect. Share it straight out of the pot or ladle it into other bowls and top with rice.
If you make this one pot meal, don’t forget to share it with me on Instagram at #taystesg! I’m looking forward to seeing your daebak! doenjang jjigae.
daebak! doenjang jjigae
4 garlic cloves minced
1 medium potato, quartered and cut into thin slices 2 cm in length
1 medium onion, cut into 1 cm pieces
1 cup zucchini (yellow or green is fine), sliced lengthwise and then into semi circles
3 to 4 large shrimp deveined and shelled with heads on
5 to 6 tablespoons doenjang (fermented soyabean paste)
3/4 cup firm tofu for stews, cut into 2cm cubes
2 to 3 cups of water to cover ingredients
optional – nitrate free sausage, cut into slices and thin sliced pork loin
2 stalks of spring onions, chopped
- Prepare your pot, (earthenware, stainless steel, cast iron). Place it on your burner.
- Add prepped garlic, potatoes, onions, zucchini, prawns and clams. (Refer to picture for the method of slicing)
- Add water till it covers the ingredients. Heat pot on medium fire, do check on your pot especially if using an Korean earthenware pot to make sure it doesn’t over boil.
- When the water starts to boil, add doenjang (fermented soyabean paste), and keep cooking on a medium simmer for 15 minutes.
- After, add your other ingredients tofu, spring onions (optional: sliced pork and sausages for a sweeter, full bodied finish). More traditional versions, use dried Korean anchovies as a flavouring agent in step 2 for the broth.
- Boil for another 5 mins, remove from the fire and serve straight to your dining table! Careful with your pot it’s superhot!
Check your potatoes to be sure they are cooked before you serve. They should not taste raw, and they won’t be soft when you bite through them.
Doenjang paste is sold in tubs at the Korean section of International supermakets and are made by different companies. Be sure to find a brand you like. I use Chung Jung Won – Sunchang doenjang which was recommended here.
This recipe can easily be doubled if making it for larger parties!