Gang-doenjang (강된장) is a reduced and thickened fermented soybean paste stew, usually served as a dipping sauce for Korean lettuce wraps (ssam:쌈). It’s earthy, savory, and hearty, and full of fresh chopped vegetables and a bit of meat and/or seafood. The best way to eat it is with some freshly-made multigrain rice and wrapped in fresh, in-season leafy vegetables. It’s considered a summer dish, because that’s when greens are the best, but of course you can have it at any time of year.
The difference between gang-doenjang and doenjang-jjigae is that one word: gang. It means “strong,” or “thick.” Basically this is doenjang-jjigae except thicker and saltier, so you can use it as a dipping sauce with your rice on a lettuce leaf. Another great way to eat it is to mix 1 or 2 spoonfuls of gang-doenjang with multigrain rice, hot pepper paste (gochujang), some chopped kimchi and toasted sesame oil, for a quick bibimbap.
I use spicy green chili pepper for this because they always enhance any doenjang-related stew. But if you don’t like spicy things, just use mild peppers or skip them.
Serves 4 to 6
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 4 ounces of ground beef
- 4 ounces of clams (or shrimp), chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large potato, peeled, cut into ¼ inch cubes (about 1½ cup)
- 1 large onion, cut into ¼ inch chunks ((about 1½ cup)
- zucchini (about ½ cup), cut into ¼ inch cubes
- 2 green chili peppers, chopped
- 1 or 2 green onions, chopped
- ½ cup Korean fermented soybean paste (doenjang)
- 1 cup water
- 1 squash blossom (optional), washed and sliced a few times
- Heat an earthenware pot or a sauce pan (that can hold at least 6 cups) over medium high heat.
- Add the vegetable oil, ground beef, clams, and garlic. Stir with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes until the beef is no longer pink.
- Add potato, onion, green chili pepper, and zucchini and stir for about 3 minutes until the potato looks half translucent.
- Add water and soybean paste. Stir the bean paste so it’s well mixed in.
- Cover and boil for 10 minutes over medium high heat, stirring it a few times with the wooden spoon.
- Open and turn up the heat to high heat and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the bottom of the pot from being burnt, until its nice and a little thick.
- Sprinkle with green onion and garnish with squash blossom (if you use it).
- Remove from the heat and serve right away with white fluffy rice or multi-grain rice and a variety of lettuce. You can keep the leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days, and then reheat on the stove or in a microwave oven before serving.
How to eat:
The best way to eat is ssam (쌈) style, in Korean wraps. Ssam style is the same way to eat Korean BBQ and dishes like bo-ssam (pork wraps) and apple ssamjang. Just put a few leaves of lettuce on your palm, add some rice, add some gang-doenjang, and wrap it up over itself and eat. The key is to make the wrap small enough so it fits in your mouth in one shot.