After the Korean war, the US military stayed behind and setup bases in several locations throughout Korea. Usually near these bases, one could buy American products -especially canned foods like, yes, the infamous SPAM!! So what to do with SPAM? Well..what else? Add Kimchi!! Kimchi makes everything taste better!! And so this Kimchi Sausage Stew (aka 부대찌게 Budae or Boodae Jjigae) was born. The name Budae means Army Base in Korean and by now you know Jjigae means stew. This dish is still very popular today and there is even a franchise restaurant that serves only Budae Jjigae. I wouldn’t say they serve the best but it’s not horrible either. Most Koreans say the area for the best Budae Jjigae is actually 의정부 (Uijeongbu) -the place of origin.
Talking about American foods from these army bases…One memory I have about SPAM and other American goodies is that even when I was a kid (in the late 60’s early 70’s, many years after the war) this one lady (ajoomas) came to our house and secretly sold various foods that were basically smuggled out of the army bases. I remember getting excited every time this 양키 아줌마 (Yankee Ajooma – haha.. get it? ) would visit, to see what yummy goodies came out of her bag! Because, at that time, things like peanut butter, grape jelly, SPAM, American Kraft Cheese singles, corn beef, baked beans and chocolates were not available anywhere else.
There are many variations to Budae Jjigae and the recipe here is the very basic one. I will list other variations at the end.
Servings: 4 Cooking Time: 30 min Difficulty: Easy (very)
- 2 large half cabbage kimchi (4 C sliced)
- 1/2 can SPAM, sliced
- 2 hotdog sausages, sliced
- 4 oz ground pork
- 4-6 oz firm tofu, sliced
- 1 green onion, sliced
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 T chopped garlic
- 2/3 C rice cake slices (optional)
- 3 C water
- 1 T gochujang (Korean red chili paste)
1. Selecting a good quality, sour Kimchi is very important. The kimchi I used here is actually the Kimchi I made as part of my Kimjang last year. Can you believe that it’s still good? It’s way too sour to eat fresh but totally tasty in jjigaes or fried rice. Here’s a pic of how it looks now-
Notice how the flesh has become kind of translucent – this is a definite sign that the kimchi has become quite sour. Normally you don’t want to buy this unless you are buying overly ripe, old kimchi (묵은지 Mookeunji) on purpose to make stews or fried rice.
Now, cut the kimchi into slices like so..
2. Prepare remaining ingredients by washing, cutting slicing…
3. Now, get a pot or skillet with a cover and first layer Kimchi at the bottom and then the remaining ingredients on top except for the garlic. Pour water, cover and start cooking on Med High heat until it starts to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 15 min.
4. Add the chopped garlic and simmer for another 10 min or so. Taste the broth and adjust if necessary. If it’s too sour, add a little bit of sugar. For more spicy or stronger flavor, add more gochujang and garlic.
And it should be ready to eat!~ :)) Yum, yum..
Serve with some rice and you have a complete easy one dish meal! For a great side dish make stir fried string potatoes and serve it with mayonnaise.
For variations, you can add one or more of the following:
- a slice of American cheese on top
- ramen noodles – just add dried noodles to the pot in the middle of cooking. Be sure to add more water because noodles will absorb a lot of water (If you think you will have leftovers, don’t add ramen noodles to the pot since the noodles will continue to soak up any excess liquid).
- baked beans
- chrysanthemum leaves (쑥갓 sookat)
Budae Jjigae keeps well in the fridge and tastes even better when reheated. Just be sure to leave out noodles or rice cakes when storing. It also tastes good cold with hot rice – when you don’t feel like going through the trouble of reheating.. :)