Doenjang jjigae (된장찌개) is a staple Korean stew made with doenjang (된장), fermented soybean paste. Everyone makes this dish a little differently and has his/her secret to great taste. Every time I make this stew, I find myself making it a little differently as well. Without a doubt, doenjang is the defining ingredient. Depending on the other ingredients added, you can make endless variations of the stew.
This is the third doenjang jjigae recipe on the blog. The first one was made with pork, and the second one was seafood doenjang jjigae. The fatty pork adds richness to the stew, while seafood adds a clean, briny flavor. This recipe uses beef (sogogi, 소고기). The intense, hearty flavor of beef works great with doenjang.
I used stew meat, but any cut of beef works. Be sure to cut thinly if using a tough cut of meat. In Korea, doenjang jjigae made with brisket (chadolbagi, 차돌박이) is popular both at home and at restaurants.
For vegetables, I usually use Korean white radish (mu, 무), zucchini, onion, and fresh green and/or red chili pepper. If you recall from my previous posts, Korean radish is commonly used in making a broth. It adds flavor and helps create a clean, refreshing broth. You can add potatoes if you like slightly thicker stews.
It’s a very Korean practice to save the water used to rinse rice (ssalddeumul, 쌀뜨물) and use it as a stew base. 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. If you didn’t have to make rice, or forgot to save the water, add a little bit of flour or rice powder to tap water.
Whether to use gochujang (고추장, Korean fermented red chili pepper paste) or gochugaru (고추가루, Korean red chili pepper flakes) is a matter of preference. Gochugaru simply adds a spicy kick, while gochujang adds a bit of sweetness and saltiness to the stew.
As I mentioned in my previous posts, a small amount of vinegar added at the end will brighten the doenjang taste, making the stew even more delicious! Some people also use sugar to balance out the strong flavor of doenjang.
Korean stews are often made and served in an earthenware, called ddukbaegi (뚝배기). This type of cookware better contains and retains heat, so it provides even distribution of heat during cooking and keeps the food warm while being served.
Beef Doenjang Jjigae
- 2 ounces radish
- 1/2 small zucchini about 3 ounces (mushrooms and potatoes can be added if desired)
- 1/4 small onion
- 1 chili pepper green and/or red
- 1 scallion
- 3 ounces beef stew meat or other well-marbled cut
- 8 ounces tofu
- 2 tablespoons Korean soybean paste doenjang
- 1 teaspoon Korean chili pepper paste gochujang
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- Black pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
- 2 cups of water used to rinse rice ssal ddeum mul (or add 1/2 teaspoon flour or rice powder to clear water)
- Serve with rice while it is still bubbling from the heat.