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Doenjang Jjigae (Savory Korean Stew)

September 26, 2013

Doenjang Jjigae (Savory Korean Stew)Pin it!

I paraphrased doenjang jjigae as “savory Korean stew” only because I thought “fermented soybean paste soup” might sound a little off-putting. But don’t be put off: this is one of the simplest and most delicious kinds of Korean comfort food there is.

I’ve often described this dish to others as “Korean miso soup,” but it’s so much more than that. The flavor of doenjang (bean paste) that seasons the broth is richer and fuller than miso; it’s perfectly complemented by the heat of kochukaru (chili powder). The warm-to-the-last-bite heat from the ceramic ttukbaegi serving dish is just a bonus.

Doenjang Jjigae (Savory Korean Stew)Pin it!

You don’t need a ceramic ttukbaegi to make or enjoy doenjang jjigae, but—like eating bibimbap out of a hot stone bowl instead of a cold metal or plastic one—your food stays steaming hot for the whole meal. This is a major perk if you’re as much of a slow eater as I am.

Adding kochukaru to Doenjang Jjigae (Savory Korean Stew)

(Side note: I also like talking. Sometimes I am still on my first bite when other people are halfway through their meal, and I am only on my second or third bite when others have finished, but that’s only because I like talking AND I’m one of the slowest eaters there is.)

Making Doenjang Jjigae (Savory Korean stew with zucchini, tofu, and shrimp)

Perhaps serving it in a hot ceramic bowl has contributed to the fact that basically every time I’ve had doenjang jjigae in my life (mostly in Seoul; increasingly at home…), I’ve felt enticed—no, compelled—to slurp up every last sip of the stuff, tipping the hot ttukbaegi so that the last few bites pool to one side, making things a little easier for me and my spoon.

Doenjang Jjigae (Korean Savory stew with zucchini, tofu, and shrimp)Pin it.

At first glance, it might seem like the most blah, basic, homely soup, especially compared to some of the flashier, spicier fare that Korean cuisine has to offer. I, too, once held the mistaken opinion that doenjang jjigae was not very exciting, but then one of my Korean friends took me to a restaurant that specialized in doenjang jjigae, and that restaurant’s very existence, not to mention its delicious food, made me consider the humble jjigae in a whole new light.

Ingredients for Doenjang Jjigae (Korean Savory Stew with zucchini, tofu, and shrimp)

I mean macaroni and cheese is pretty basic and homely when you get down to it, but some of us can still get more than a little excited about that.

Doenjang Jjigae (Korean Savory Stew with zucchini, tofu, and shrimp)

Not that I’m comparing doenjang jjigae to macaroni and cheese exactly (although they’re both bursting with umami!)… but give it a chance, and I bet it will win you over. I mean, unless you hate miso soup. Though believe me, you CAN hate Japanese natto and still love doenjang jjigae; I should know, because I have a tabezugirai relationship with natto, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Doenjang, Korean fermented soybean paste for Doenjang Jjigae

Consider this: Paula is consistently unimpressed by tofu and strictly ambivalent about zucchini, but she enjoys both (BOTH!) in doenjang jjigae, because they soak up so much flavor from the broth. It also has shrimp in it; and that right there is often enough to win me over.

Doenjang Jjigae (Korean Savory stew with zucchini, tofu, and shrimp)Pin it!

Also: while it might not be traditional, stews are always good places to incorporate (= use up) certain random leftover foods that might be sitting around in your fridge. I wouldn’t advocate tossing absolutely anything in, but other vegetables that cook quickly, but then stand up well to further cooking, might be nice—potatoes, spinach, or kale for instance. We’ve also added some minimally seasoned and already cooked whitefish (leftover from this) to doenjang jjigae, which—to be perfectly honest—Paula then enjoyed even more than the tofu.

Doenjang Jjigae (Korean Savory stew with zucchini, tofu, and shrimp)Pin it!

I’m sure there are many ways to make this stew, but this is just the way I’ve been making it lately. Following the success I had using Japanese dashi-no-moto packets to make rabokki, I’ve also been using the instant-dashi tea bags to steep a weak dashi base for the doenjang jjigae broth. As I mentioned in the rabokki post, the dashi packets may have MSG, so if you’re worried about that, just make sure to read the ingredient list on the packaging; you could also make your own dashi from anchovies, kombu (kelp), or mushrooms, or use vegetable broth.

Slicing onions for Doenjang Jjigae

Print this recipe. (PDF)


Doenjang Jjigae

(Serves 2)

~ about 2 cups weak dashi (made from dashi-no-moto packets, like a dashi tea bag)
~ 1 Tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil
~ ⅙-¼ onion, sliced
~ 1 clove garlic, minced
~ 3 Tbsp. doenjang (Korean fermented soybean paste), or to taste
~ ⅓-½ zucchini, thickly sliced into half-moons
~ 1 tsp. kochukaru (Korean chili powder), or to taste
~ ¼-½ block tofu (firmer tofu is more photogenic, but soft tofu tastes good, too)
~ 4-6 shrimp
~ chopped scallions, to garnish
~ 1-2 mild green chili or shishito peppers, thinly sliced and seeded, to garnish
~ enoki mushrooms, base trimmed and discarded
~ other seafood (such as leftover cooked whitefish)

Doenjang, Korean fermented soybean paste for Doenjang Jjigae

How to make it:

1. Prepare a weak dashi with a dashi-no-moto packet by bringing 3 cups of water to a boil, adding the packet, then reducing the heat, covering, and simmering for only 5-6 minutes (instead of 10 minutes, as the packets instruct). Discard the flavor packet and set aside.

Making Doenjang Jjigae (Savory Korean stew with zucchini, tofu, and shrimp)Cooking onions in a ttukbaegi for Doenjang Jjigae

2. In a small saucepan (or a ceramic ttukbaegi), heat oil, then add sliced onion and saute for 2-3 minutes over high heat. Add garlic and cook for another 30-60 seconds, then pour in 2 cups of the weak dashi, and bring to a boil.

3. Once boiling, dissolve/mash about 3 Tbsp. of doenjang (soybean paste) into the broth. Add zucchini and simmer for 6-7 minutes.

Making Doenjang Jjigae (Savory Korean stew with zucchini, tofu, and shrimp)Making Doenjang Jjigae (Savory Korean stew with zucchini, tofu, and shrimp)

4. Stir in kochukaru, then add tofu and shrimp (and optionally enoki mushrooms). Simmer for 3-5 more minutes, or just until shrimp is cooked.

5. Garnish with scallions and sliced chili or shishito peppers. Bring the saucepan or ttukbaegi to the table, and serve warm, using the cooking pot as a communal serving dish, with each person helping themselves to several small servings, so the food will stay warm throughout the meal. Serve with rice and banchan (Korean side dishes).

Print this recipe! (PDF)

Doenjang Jjigae (savory Korean stew with zucchini, tofu, and shrimp) Pin it!

Doenjang Jjigae (savory Korean stew with zucchini, tofu, and shrimp) Pin it!

Related recipe posts:

Kimchi Fried Rice (Bokkeumbap) Hearty Miso Soup and Japanese sticy rice Rabokki (Ramen + Tteokbokki) Jap Chae with Kimchi
Kimchi Fried Rice (Bokkeumbap) Hearty Miso Soup and Japanese Sticky Rice Rabokki (Ramen + Tteokbokki) Jap Chae with Kimchi
42 Comments leave one →
  1. Lan permalink
    September 26, 2013 9:28 am

    This looks like the most perfect thing to tuck into now that the weather has cooled.

    Let’s say I don’t have dashi, would veggie or chicken , or water, do?

    • September 26, 2013 11:18 am

      Yes! I’m sure those would do… I’ve definitely made it with either vegetable or chicken stock before (can’t remember which). Even water will work, but then you might want to add more doenjang (or seaweed or mushrooms or something) to give it more flavor.

  2. September 26, 2013 10:23 am

    Thank you so much for posting this. Lately I am venturing into Korean food. Bought a chili paste in red box. It is spicy but may be more for stews and soups rather than stir frys. I will look into its name and then will ask for your help in its use. Will give it a shot. I am a big fan of miso soup :).

    • September 26, 2013 11:21 am

      Nice! I assume what you bought is called kochujang (also spelled gochujang). It’s Korean chili paste, and it’s good in stews, soups, AND stir fry! :)

      You could definitely add a little of that to this jjigae recipe, perhaps instead of kochukaru (but you also really need doenjang to make doenjang jjigae). Among other things, I add kochujang to kimchi fried rice (or any fried rice!) and tteokbokki or rabokki. You can also use it to make a spicy sauce for naengmyon or bibimbap.

  3. September 26, 2013 10:27 am

    Please for you to make for me and deliver to my door.

    • September 26, 2013 11:25 am

      If only you lived a little closer… probably not even a ttukbaegi could keep this warm for that long of a journey.

      (The crazy thing is you probably COULD get this delivered to your door… if you lived in Seoul.)

  4. September 26, 2013 4:31 pm

    This looks so good, and I just love the name of your blog.

  5. September 26, 2013 4:48 pm

    oh buddy. the weather has cooled off here and i was just gearing up makes some kimchi nabe next week, but i might have to seriously reconsider that.

    i have to say, the inclusion of zucchini is what makes this recipe for me. i bet it kicks up the fresh factor of this dish by a whole boatload. mmm mmm. good choice.

    • September 26, 2013 9:03 pm

      Oh man, kimchi nabe! One of my biggest (blogging) regrets from last winter is not getting a kimchi nabe recipe up on my blog while it was seasonally appropriate. I had some wonderful nabe parties with my Japanese friends back when I lived there, and they’d almost always let me choose the type of nabe (they spoiled me!), and I’d almost always choose kimchi.

      I actually even stopped to look at a jar of kimchi nabe-no-moto at my Japanese market earlier this week (!) to see if maybe I could make something like that which wouldn’t use something that came in a jar… and besides all the normal-seeming ingredients, it also had a bunch of random sugary glucose stuff as well as mandarin orange (?!) and paprika… strange. I might still try to make something like that at home… or I might just go the authentic Japanese way and use the bottled stuff. :)

      Anyway, yes, doenjang jjigae is awesome, too, and it does have a fresh factor (like a good mix of chopped vegetables will give a good nabe) thanks to the zucchini, although to be honest, when I just make two servings worth in my tiny ttukbaegi, my main frustration is that not enough zucchini fits in there! Better to just use a big saucepan if your goal is to feed more than two or to use up lots of zucchini…

      (By the way, zucchini is showcased in quite a few Korean recipes, compared to Japanese cuisine at least: it can also take center stage in pajeon and sujebi– two more things on my long to-make list!)

      • September 26, 2013 10:08 pm

        girl, don’t trust that jar stuff! kimchi is one of those foods that just gets better with time, and the older the kimchi the better the nabe. i make my own stuff at home, and if i can do it, you sure as heck can. plus, you get to customize your flavor profile a little more accurately.

        i can’t resist shirataki (by far one of my favorite parts of nabe), so i might throw those in with your doenjang jjigae recipe when i decide to give it ago.
        rest assured, i’ll give you a shout out on pmk after i have my nabe/doenjang party. i can’t wait!

      • September 27, 2013 1:08 pm

        Haha, ok well that settles things: kimchi nabe from scratch. (I *have* made my own kimchi before, just not my own kimchi nabe stock!)

        Shirataki are awesome, and though I’ve never once considered adding anything noodle-like to doenjang jjigae, I’m sure those flavors would still be quite happy together. I’m jealous you’re having a nabe/doenjang party! Enjoy!

  6. September 26, 2013 7:53 pm

    Gorgeous recipe! And thanks for the awesome new word: tabezugirai.

    • September 26, 2013 9:08 pm

      Thanks! It’s not very original because it’s really a Korean classic, but I’ve definitely settled into a preferred way of making it.

      And YES! Tabezugirai is one of the many great food-related words that exist in Japanese; you seem to be one of the only people who’s noticed that so far. :) …although WordPress tells me that three entire people have clicked on it to see the definition…

  7. September 26, 2013 8:02 pm

    So interesting to learn more about Korean food and ingredients. This looks delicious

    • September 26, 2013 9:10 pm

      Thanks! I’m glad to get comments like this, and to hear that people find it interesting to learn about new (to them) types of food. :)

  8. September 26, 2013 10:01 pm

    Allison, my husband is half Korean and his exact words were…”Wow, looks very authentic and she spelled it right too!” I’m dying to make this for him –thanks so much for posting this. Pinning! :)

    • September 27, 2013 1:10 pm

      Yay! Thanks, Anne! And yep, I better have spelled it right… (although actually it seems like there are a million different ways to Romanize Korean…) I learned Hangul when I took some baby Korean classes over a summer in Seoul. Hope you and your husband get to enjoy your own doenjang jjigae sometime soon. :)

  9. September 27, 2013 1:56 am

    Lovely looking soup Allison! I use exactly the same soybean paste so I know it is fabulous. Gorgeous recipe, Great job! Xx

    • September 27, 2013 1:11 pm

      Thanks, Deena! Yes, doenjang is so flavorful and—like miso—seems really versatile too, though I’ve never used it for anything but this dish… if you have other favorite recipes that use doenjang, I’d be interested to hear about them! :)

      • September 27, 2013 1:13 pm

        Ooh, I will have to have a dig around my files;) at the moment I’ve got loads of spinach and beetroot recipes, hope you’ll check them out xx

  10. September 27, 2013 11:06 am

    This actually looks so good. I’m going to go to the Korean market and pick up the ingredients. I’m going to try to find a bowl like that too. I’m so impressed. Thank you!

    • September 27, 2013 1:14 pm

      Thanks, Amanda! Now that is the kind of comment that I love to get! :) I hope you can find the right ingredients without too much trouble.

      Keep in mind that you really don’t *need* to spend money on a ttukbaegi—you could always just prepare this in a saucepan or stockpot instead—but it will keep your food warm for longer, once off the stove. (They come in different sizes, too. The one pictured just barely holds the two servings that this recipe makes; for more servings you’d definitely want a bigger one!)

      • September 27, 2013 1:41 pm

        Awesome. Sometimes it just makes the whole dish feel more authentic when you’re using the right pans. I’ll let you know how it goes!

      • September 27, 2013 1:45 pm

        I agree! :) And the nice thing about this is that it’s functional, too, not just decorative. (Multi-functional actually, since you can also use it for lots of other Korean dishes—that I hope to also blog about someday—like Sundubu Jjigae, Kimchi Jjigae, and Gyeran-jjim steamed egg with scallions.)

  11. September 27, 2013 11:16 am

    very good your blog and interesting your recipes. Marina from Italy

  12. September 27, 2013 2:29 pm

    Haha I was a little post at first but after seeing Korean miso soup, I started to understand better :P
    It looks incredibly delicious!

    Choc Chip Uru

  13. September 29, 2013 3:55 am

    It looks yummy. I like your point that Deonjang Jjigae is different from miso soup. If you like potato, you can also add it. I like eating potato in Deonjang Jjigae. ^^

    • October 1, 2013 12:59 pm

      Thanks, Jessie! Yes, I suggested possibly adding potatoes above, although I don’t think I’ve ever tried that, but I imagine that potatoes in doenjang jjigae would be really delicious and comforting. ^ ^

  14. September 29, 2013 7:17 am

    This sounds like a wonderful fall soup for a chilly afternoon. I’ve been a soup kick lately (I’m going to try to butternut squash soup this afternoon) and this sounds delicious! I’m not familiar with the soybean paste, but I imagine it gives the soup a wonderful complex flavor.

    • October 1, 2013 1:00 pm

      Oh you should definitely add this one to your list as part of your soup kick! I think doenjang is one of the easiest ways to give broth lots of flavor from only one ingredient. Hope your butternut squash soup turned out well! :)

  15. September 29, 2013 1:49 pm

    Love this stew.

  16. September 30, 2013 8:35 am

    Ok, so supposing I have most of the ingredients on the list, but only have Japanese miso that will expire by the end of the year. Can I use it? How different is the taste? Also, yay!! The Korean/Japanese recipes are my favorite :)

    • October 1, 2013 1:03 pm

      Well you can definitely use the miso, but then you’d have made miso soup with zucchini/shrimp/tofu, which doesn’t sound half bad! …or try my “hearty miso soup” recipe? :)

      But to make doenjang jjigae, you really need the doenjang paste instead of miso. Once you taste it, you’ll see that it really has a fuller, richer flavor—that and you can add a lot more doenjang to the same amount of broth than you’d want to do with miso, since most types of miso are much saltier.


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