Jjigae (TCHEE-geh) is Korean for stew and, as in English, refers to any number of heartier (and in the case of Korean food, more pungent) dishes that are thicker than soup, which, in Korean culture is considerably more brothy than a lot of the stuff we here in US call soup.
And though many Korean jjigae preparations are quite a bit less brothy, I tend to like my jjigae on the chunky soup side of things, so I add more liquid than is typical.
Of all the squashes usually available at my usual market, I have found that Calabacita squashes most closely resemble Korean hobak (HOH-bahk), so I use those when I can. Green zucchini is a good substitute, and yellow squash is fine is that’s what you’ve got. Generally, summer squashes are ok for this purpose. (Today I used Calabacita and zucchini.)
You don’t really want to use winter type squashes like butternut because that’s a totally different flavor and texture experience.
If I were being a proper Korean, I’d set out several dishes of banchan (Korean side dishes) to go with this jjigae, but I generally don’t have the time/patience for the work and cleanup of that whole situation, so I usually have a big bowl of this with a little bowl of steamed rice and call it a complete meal. 🙂
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1-2 jalapeños, cut into 1/8" thick slices
- 2-4 garlic cloves peeled and smashed (or chopped)
- 1/2 pound pork shoulder, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup dwenjang (Korean soybean paste) OR miso (which is the Japanese version)
- 1/4 cup gochujang (Korean chili paste)
- 4 cups water
- 4 cups calabacita squash or zucchini, cut into 1/2" thick slices (about 2 to 3 medium squashes)
- 1 (14 oz.) package tofu (can be any firmness)
Put all ingredients except squash and tofu in a pot, cover, turn the heat to medium high, and cook for 15 minutes.
Give the jjigae a few good stirs. You’ll see the jjigae change color as the dwenjang and gochujang dissolve into the broth. Let the jjigae continue cooking uncovered for 2 to 3 minutes until it comes to a boil.
Add squash, give it a few good stirs, and cook another 15 minutes covered.
Crumble tofu into the jjigae. (This is not typical – usually it’s cut into cubes or slices – but I like it this way because the tofu picks up more flavor from the broth.) Cover and cook another 10 minutes.
Don’t worry that the broth is constantly boiling rather than simmering. Jjigae gets its well developed pungency from this constant application of higher heat and the resulting compounding, melding, and reduction of flavors.
At this point, give everything another good stir and see if you need to adjust the seasoning. If it tastes fine, you’re done.
If a little too salty, add a touch of water. If you want more saltiness, you can add a little more dwenjang and/or gochujang, remembering that the gochujang is much hotter (as in spicy) than the dwenjang.
If you do adjust the seasoning, let it boil another 4 or 5 minutes to let the new level of seasoning meld.
That’s it. Enjoy!
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