Kongjang (콩장), also called kongjaban (콩자반), is a sweet and savory soybean side dish. On weekends, I try to make a few side dishes, banchan (반찬), to help make my weeknight meal preparations easier. During the week, I make a quick soup, stew, or meat dish and serve it with the pre-made side dishes.
We call those side dishes that are made to last long and served with every meal over several days (or weeks) mitbanchan (밑반찬), meaning basic side dishes. There are a number of them, ranging from stir-fried dried anchovies to pickled perilla leaves. We grew up on these mitbanchan dishes. They were a big part of every meal, including home-packed school lunch boxes.
Kongjang is one of the most common ones. It’s typically made with black soybeans, but you can also make it with yellow soybeans. The soaked beans should be cooked in water first before you add the sugar and soy sauce for slow braising. This will keep the beans from getting too hard. Cooking in an open pot helps reduce the liquid and gives the kongjang beans their unique shiny and wrinkled look.
The result is sweet and savory beans that are a tad chewy, which is a nice contrast to steamed rice they accompany!
1 cup dried black* (or yellow) soybeans
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine (or mirin/mirim)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds
(*Black soybeans are called geomjeongkong (검정콩) or seoritae (서리태) and available at Korean or Asian grocery stores.)
Rinse and soak the dried beans for 3 – 4 hours. (The time required may vary depending on the beans.) Drain.
In an uncovered medium size pot, bring the beans and 2 cups of water to a boil. Continue to cook, uncovered, over medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Stir a couple of times so the beans don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Skim off the scum.
Add the soy sauce, rice wine, and sugar. Reduce the heat to medium. Gently boil, uncovered, until almost all the sauce is evaporated, 25 – 30 minutes. (Keep your eyes on the pot during the last few minutes to avoid burning the beans.)
Add the corn syrup, stirring well to coat, right before turning the heat off. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds. The beans will be soft at first, but they will get a bit chewier in the fridge.