Budae Jjigae (Army Stew)

Budae jjigae - Army stew

Budae jjigae (부대찌개) is a fusion dish that incorporates American processed meats such as Spam, bacon, and hot dogs into a Korean stew. Budae is a general term for a military base in Korean, but budae jjigae is translated into “Army stew” or “Army base stew” because of its origin. In the 1950’s, food was extremely scarce after the three-year long Korean war which ended in 1953. So, those surplus processed meats from the U.S. military bases were great sources for Koreans to supplement their food shortage. In the city of Uijeongbu (의정부), about 12 miles northeast of Seoul, where U.S. Army bases are stationed, a restaurant owner started to make a stew with those meats from the Army bases. Since then, budae jjigae has become immensely popular all over the Korea.

Growing up as a child in 1960’s, I remember occasionally having things like Spam, hot dogs, or bacon in our kimchi stew. Those American products were not legally available to Koreans at the time, but somehow they found their way to Korean homes through a black market. That was a time when the best treat a little child could wish for was a Hershey chocolate bar.

Budae jjigae

Budae jjigae - Army stew

Budae jjigae is relatively easy to make. As long as it has kimchi and some American processed meats, it’s a budae jjigae. You can’t go wrong with the combination of sour kimchi and fatty bacon, spam and hot dogs. The older the kimchi is, the better your stew will taste. I had saved the last batch of the kimchi I made last fall for this budae jjigae recipe post.

Slices of American yellow cheese and canned baked beans are also commonly added. Some other popular additions are instant ramyeon noodles, rice cake slices, and/or starch noodles. Be careful though. Too many starches will make the stew very thick. I like to keep it simple, and here’s how I make it at home.

Budae jjigae - Army stew

 

Budae Jjigae (Army Stew)
Serves 4
A Korean stew made with kimchi, Spam, bacon and hot dogs
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups bite sized kimchi
  2. 2 hot dogs, sliced diagonally
  3. 3 strips bacon (or about 3 ounces fatty pork)
  4. 1/3 can of spam (about 4 ounces)
  5. 4 ounces tofu, sliced (about 1/2-inch thick)
  6. 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
  7. 3 to 4 mushroom caps, sliced
  8. 1/4 red bell pepper, sliced
  9. 2 scallions, roughly chopped
  10. 4 cups anchovy broth (or water) -- see notes below
Seasoning
  1. 1 tablespoon gochugaru, Korean red chili pepper flakes
  2. 1 teaspoon gochujang, Korean red chili pepper paste
  3. 1 teaspoon soup soy sauce
  4. 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  5. 1 tablespoon water
  6. Black pepper to taste
Optional
  1. 1 package instant ramyeon noodles
Instructions
  1. Cut the ingredients into bite size pieces, and arrange them in a medium size shallow pot. Mix all the seasoning ingredients in a small bowl.
    Budae jjigae (Army stew)
  2. Add the broth, and stir in the seasoning.
    Budae jjigae (Army Stew)
  3. Cook over medium high heat until the bacon is cooked through and the kimchi has softened. Add the optional ramyeon noodles and more broth or water if necessary. (The noodles soak up a lot of the liquid, so I briefly cook the ramyeon noodles in a separate pot of water before adding to the stew.) Budae jjigae (Army Stew)
Notes
  1. Find how to make anchovy broth here - http://www.koreanbapsang.com/2011/06/how-to-make-anchovy-broth-for-korean.html.
Korean Bapsang https://www.koreanbapsang.com/

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Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing the history behind this jjigae. My dad, child of the 50s, told us stories about this stew. I always think of him when I eat or make it. :)
  2. Hi, I love your blog, so many recipes my mum used to make, who now lives back in Korea and so I have to make them myself in the UK :) Thanks for sharing these! Btw, I think you have your advertising settings wrong because I'm getting adult ads on top of the page (very graphic). Lia
    • You're welcome! I am happy to help you recreate your mom's food. Oh goodness - thanks for letting me know. I will take care of it right away.
  3. Yongmin says:
    Hi, I find most gochugaru times not be spicy at all and I have to add a lot of it, which is a waste. Which brand do you find to be very spicy without having to add a lot? Thank you
    • Hi Yongmin - It's not really about brands. It's the type of gochugaru. Some are labeled as "hot" 매운 고추가루. The ones made with cheongyang gochu 청양고추 are very hot. Hope this helps.
  4. Susanne says:
    Dear Koreanbabsang, I notice that the Korean and North German Kitchen have a lot of things in common - Potatoes, fatty-salty, sweet- sour- anyway , since it seems to be a good year for zucchini in these parts i'm looking for pericies to preserve them this year and wonder if there's a kimchi style thing you know of. thanks a lot, sann
    • Hi Susanne - Koreans usually dry/dehydrate zucchinis to preserve and then rehydrate them when ready to use. We stir fry them to make side dishes or add to stews and soups. You can make kimchi with zucchini, although not common, but it will not keep long. Hope this helps.
  5. Hello! Just wanted to let you know that I loved the little history lesson on the recipe - its always interesting to learn and a great talking point when serving to guests! Very well written & I will definitely continue to check back for more interesting recipes. Morgan
  6. Michelle says:
    I love your website! I find your recipes approachable yet elegant. Michelle
  7. Jennifer says:
    I just made this stew last night and it was a hit. My husband approved (he's a chef). We were joking about maybe we should start selling this stew. LOL
  8. Victoria Lhan says:
    I love your website! My mother is Korean and she cooked Korean food for me everyday when I came home from school. I am now 26 and cannot depend on her anymore :( even though I want to haha! Rather than calling her every two minutes I can look my recipes up on your site. Thank you for putting your receipes online for us to keep Korean culture going in our future generations as well!! My kids love Korean food!