Doenjang, fermented soybean paste, is a staple Korean condiment and used as a base for stew or soup. As with doenjang jjigae (stew version), doenjang guk (soup) is also one of the most representative Korean home cooked dishes. While the stew version is typically hearty, thick and pungent, the soup is light and mild and has more broth.
The doenjang based soup made with napa cabbage (baechu) is called baechu doenjang guk. In Korea, this soup is especially popular during late fall when napa cabbages are abundant since it’s the season for Koreans to make a large amount of kimchi for upcoming winter.
Korean home cooks usually save the water used to rinse rice, ssalddeummul, and use it for this soup. The rice water adds starch to the soup and works as a binding agent between the soybean paste and the broth, while enhancing the flavor of the doenjang.
The hint of gochujang (Korean red/hot pepper paste) in this recipe also brings out the flavor of the doenjang without overpowering it. If you have this classic soup along with a bowl of rice and some kimchi, you have a meal – very satisfying one!
4 cups anchovy broth* (or beef broth)
2 tablespoons Korean soybean paste (doenjang)
1 teaspoon Korean red pepper paste (gochujang)
1 tablespoon soup soy sauce (guk ganjang) – optional
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 scallions, cut into 2 inch lengths
salt and pepper to taste
*Make anchovy broth by boiling, uncovered, about 12 medium size dried anchovies in 6 cups of water (or water used to rinse the rice) for 10 minutes. Fish out the anchovies and discard.
While the broth is being made, cut the cabbage into 2 to 3-inch pieces.
Stir the soybean paste and red pepper paste in to the broth, or run them through a strainer in the broth. The latter process helps dissolve the pastes easier and catches any big chunks of beans remaining in the soy bean paste. Add the optional soup soy sauce to the broth.
Add the cabbage, cover and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the cabbage becomes soft, 15 – 20 minutes. Add the scallions and garlic and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Add salt, if necessary, and pepper to taste.