Doenjang jjigae (Jjigae means “stew.”) is one of the classic Korean stews—another is kimchi jjigae. It’s made with doenjang, (a fermented soybean paste), a handful of simple vegetables like onion, potato, and squash, and sometimes proteins like beef, pork, or seafood such as clam and shrimp. A mainstay in my mom’s cooking repertoire, she made it at least once a week for family dinners because it is hearty, healthy, and easy.
This deeply savory stew is also a go-to order for those in the know at Korean BBQ joints. It’s shared with the whole table as the perfect palate cleanser between bites of grilled meat and shots of soju. Once you become acquainted with the rich, comforting taste of doenjang jjigae, you’ll find yourself going back for it again and again.
The Doenjang You Use Is Key—Here Are My Recommendations
For me, doenjang jjigae is the most representative of Korean foods because it highlights a uniquely Korean ingredient: doenjang. Doenjang is made by soaking fermented soybean blocks in salt water for several months, then draining the liquid (which is ganjang, or soy sauce).
Though it’s similar to its Japanese counterpart miso, it differs in that it’s a wild fermentation using only soybeans, whereas miso incorporates wheat for a more controlled fermentation. This means that doenjang tastes completely different depending on the region, the duration fermented, and the season it is made.
Even among supermarket brands, there is a wide variety. Some are saltier, some more savory, while others have ingredients like onion, garlic, or fish mixed in for extra flavor. It’s important to season with salt against the specific doenjang you have.
The doenjang you use is everything in this dish, so using a high-quality, specialty doenjang will go a long way. I like Sempio Tojang or 100-Day Soybean Paste.
How To Serve Doenjang Jjigae
Doenjang jjigae is great to share family-style—a small pot can go a long way since it’s so flavorful and packed with big chunks of veggies and tofu. Pair with grilled meats or fish, or serve simply with a bowl of rice and banchan.
- If you can’t source dried anchovies—I buy mine at H Mart—use beef bone stock, chicken stock, or good vegetable stock. The better your stock, the better your jjigae, but if you use high-quality doenjang you don’t need anything other than water!
- Add a big handful of spinach for an even deeper flavor.
- Toss in chopped baby bok choy for a delicious crunch.
- Sprinkle in a tablespoon of gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes) at the end for a spicy kick.
Make the anchovy broth:
Use your fingers to remove the heads and guts of the anchovies, and discard them. Add the anchovies and 4 cups of water into a medium pot over medium-high heat. Bring to just below a boil then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes until the broth smells flavorful and becomes a bit cloudy and yellow in color.
Scoop out and discard the anchovies. Then, scoop out 1/2 cup broth and set it aside.
Prep the doenjang:
Add the doenjang to the reserved 1/2 cup of broth, and whisk to dissolve. It is okay if small chunks remain, but most of the paste should be incorporated into the broth. Set it aside.
Cook the jjigae:
Bring the anchovy broth back to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the doenjang mixture, garlic, and potatoes, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the onion, squash, and tofu. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes until the potatoes and squash are tender.
Taste for seasoning, and stir in fish sauce if the broth lacks saltiness or depth. Remove from heat, and top with green onions and sliced chilis. Serve immediately.
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