this kimchi jjigae recipe is a recipe half-remembered. my father used to stop by a tiny korean supermarket somewhere in the middle of delaware on his way home from work and buy a pound of homemade kimchi from the shop owner. whenever he came in the door with bags of korean groceries, we knew that we could expect kimchi jjigae, whipped up in under an hour in the o.g. of “painless cooking” kitchen gadgets, the pressure cooker. I’ve half-watched him make it a number of times while doing homework at the kitchen counter, but it’s been over a decade since then and the details, which were never truly committed to memory to begin with, have only become fuzzier.
I’m not much for kitchen gadgets, and my small apartment kitchen has forced me to be even choosier. as a result, I’ve adapted this recipe to my dutch oven (a.k.a. the only pot I have that is large enough to hold a stew), and have done my best to adapt my memories of what my father made to my current tastes. though my kimchi jjigae doesn’t quite match what I remember, it does capture the addictive spiciness and comfort of one of my favorite childhood dishes.
makes 6-8 servings
ground black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 tsp sugar
1 lb kimchi (with juices), chopped
1 tbsp chili flakes (gochugaru preferable, though red pepper flakes work in a pinch)
1 tbsp gochujang
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 cups dashi (3 cups hot water + 1/2 tbsp dashi granules)
8 oz firmed tofu, cubed
1 tsp sesame oil
chopped scallion, for garnish
2 reduce heat to medium and add onions. sauté until soft and translucent, then add the garlic and cook for ~1 more minute, until fragrant.
3 add kimchi and fry for ~2 minutes, then add 1 tsp salt and the sugar, chili flakes, gochujang, and dashi. when the mixture comes to a boil, return the short ribs to the pot, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover, and cook for 2-2.5 hours, until the ribs are tender.
4 uncover and nestle the tofu on top. replace the cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. uncover again and stir in the sesame oil. garnish with chopped scallion and serve immediately over rice.
*I photographed the stew in a korean dolsot. you can halve the recipe and cook it in a medium-sized dolsot if you want; if you use a dolsot, I’d recommend browning the meat separately in a pan to avoid steaming the meat.
*I like carrots in my jjigae for the natural sweetness they impart, but it’s not traditional to include carrots and you can leave them out. my father likes to add daikon to his jjigae; just roughly cube it and use in place of the carrots
*other fun toppings: you can also add a handful of enoki mushrooms right before serving, and you can top the jjigae with raw bean sprouts or raw matchstick carrots.