Kongjaban or Kongjang was my all time favorite lunchbox banchan (side dish) when I was a kid. My most happy lunchbox(도시락 doshirak) always included at least 2 of the following: Kongjaban, Sauteed string potatoes, Jangjorim, Oeji (pickled cucumbers) and Gim (roasted sea laver). My school day mornings passed by more quickly and happily when I knew I had these in my lunchbox… 🙂
Usually, kids don’t like beans very much. I certainly remember not liking any kind of beans mixed in my rice when I was little. I never liked the mushy texture of cooked beans and also the fact that it kind of had no flavor. But the balance of sweetness and saltiness (you know that ‘sweet and salty’ is one of my favorite flavor combination, right?) and the not-mushy texture of this Kongjaban made it all different.
If done right, these Sweet and Salty Soybeans (Kongjaban 콩자반) can be so delicious. Sadly, there are too many not-so-good Kongjabans served at restaurants or sold at markets that give this dish a bad name. PLEASE believe me – that’s not how the dish is supposed to taste. The soybeans are usually too soft and mushy or too hard and the sauce is so bland that it basically tastes like nothing.. Sad sad sad..I bought one or two ready made, packaged Kongjaban and also one from a banchan corner at the Korean market and as I expected, quite flavorless…
Try making these soybeans at home for yourself and see how you like them.
Anyways, let’s get started –
Sweet and Salty Soybeans (Kongjaban or Kongjang)
Servings: 8-10 Prep Time: 5-6 hrs Cooking Time: 1 hr Difficulty: Easy
- 2 C soaked or 3/4 C dry black soy beans (서리태 Seoritae)
- 3 C or more water
- 5 T soy sauce (jinkanjang 진간장)
- 4 T sugar
- 2 C liquid from soaked beans
- 2 tsp maple syrup or rice malt syrup
- Soak the dry soybeans in 2 C of water 5~6 hrs or overnight. The soaking time can vary depending on the temperature. Warmer temps require less time (3~4 hrs) and colder temps require more (8~12 hrs).
FYI, here’s a close up of dry vs soaked black soy beans:
- Drain the liquid from the soaked soybeans and add to pot with 3 1/2 C of water. Bring to a boil. Once it boils, lower heat to medium and cook UNCOVERED for approx 12 minutes until the beans are fully cooked. Soybeans should be soft but still slightly crunchy and not mushy.
- Drain the cooked soybeans while reserving the cooking liquid.
- In a pot, add 2 C of the cooking liquid + soy sauce + sugar and bring to boil over med-high heat.
- Add the soybeans to the boiling soy sauce liquid and lower heat once it starts to boil like below. Simmer for 25 min, stirring often. Lower the heat if you find that the liquid is reducing too quickly.
- Add maple syrup to add shine and additional sweetness. Cook for another 20 min (stir often) or so until the sauce is reduced and the color has turned dark brown like below:
And so there you go! It’s pretty simple, no? Let it cool and store in a container at room temperature for 2-3 days or in your fridge for many days. Serve at room temp or can be eaten cold out of the fridge. Enjoy it with some plain rice or as a side dish to go with other spicy dishes. As I said, it makes a great side dish in kid’s lunchboxes!
Common Problems and Tips
- The most frequent problems in making Kongjaban is that the beans come out too hard.
- This is due mainly for 3 reasons:
- beans are not fully soaked
- beans are not fully cooked before seasoning is added
- beans are cooked in soy sauce+sugar too quickly at high heat
- Substitute regular white soy beans, mung beans, peanuts instead of black soy beans.
- For extra flavorful sauce, add one or more of the following: ginger, green onion, dried red chili, whole garlic clove, or onion.