Hello everybody! Today I’m showing you the recipe for a much-requested dish: Budae-jjigae a.k.a “Army Base Stew.” It’s a spicy, savory, Korean-American fusion dish made from an umami-rich broth, Korean hot pepper paste, flakes, kimchi, and American Spam, beans, and sausage.
This dish was invented after the Korean war (1950-1953) when the American army was stationed in the city of Uijeongbu, near Seoul. They had their own food on the base, things like canned beans, meat, Spam, ham, and sausages. This food was totally new to Koreans. Eventually these ingredients made their way into surrounding area of the base and some creative Koreans made stew from them. They boiled spam, ham, sausages, and baked beans with kimchi, garlic, and hot pepper paste and flakes, creating a Korean-style stew with American ingredients.
I have to admit that the idea of this stew never appealed to me, so I never really tried it. I’m not a fan of Spam, for one. And mixing all these ingredients together and boiling them didn’t sound delicious at all.
But over the years of running my website so many of my readers requested this dish that I reconsidered. I tried it in several different places in Korea and New York and was really surprised by how popular it was. And I see why people love it: the spicy, savory stew goes really well with the salty, soft American Spam. I eventually changed my mind about budae-jjigae because of my readers!
Even though it looks like a simple dish to prepare – just put everything in the pot – I learned that it’s not that simple. The anchovy-kelp stock, for one, is irreplaceable and makes it irresistible. Also, everything should be mostly cooked before you start making the stew. The pork belly, for example, should be cooked in the stock for 10 minutes so you don’t have to worry if it’s done or not.
And a hot, bubbling stew is definitely much better than a lukewarm one. Make sure it’s hot and bogeul-bogeul bubbling! Once the ramyeon noodles soften, you can start eating (or even take a few bites of sausage before)!
There are a lot of ingredients to this dish, but some are optional: tofu, baked beans, rice cake, cheese, and radish sprouts.
Let me know how you enjoy this recipe! Happy eating!
Ingredients (Serves 4)
For the stock:
- 2 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 8 large dried anchovies, heads and guts removed, in a soup strainer or tightly wrapped in a cheesecloth
- Dried kelp (a 5 x 6 inch sheet)
- 8 cups water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the seasoning paste:
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon hot pepper paste
- 2 tablespoons hot pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- ½ pound pork belly (or pork shoulder), cut into bite size pieces
- 2 ounces of sweet potato starch noodles, soaked in water for 30 minutes and drained
- 1 cup worth cabbage, cut into bite size pieces
- ½ of a medium onion, sliced
- 2 green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
- ½ cup fermented kimchi, chopped
- 4 ounces of Polish sausage, sliced
- 4 ounces of spam, sliced thinly
- ½ of packaged instant ramyeon
- 1 cup worth radish sprouts (or spinach, watercress, arugula)
- ½ cup worth tofu, sliced (Optional)
- ¼ cup canned baked beans (Optional)
- 12-16 sliced rice cakes (Optional)
- 1 slice of American cheese (Optional)
- Combine the water, anchovies, mushrooms, and kelp in a large pot. Cover and cook for 25 minutes over medium high heat. Add the pork and cook for another 10 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat. Take out the anchovies, kelp and mushrooms. Slice the mushrooms into bite size pieces.
- Strain the mixture of the stock and the pork into a large bowl. Put the pork into a small bowl. You will get about 6 cups of stock. Stir in the salt until dissolved.
Make seasoning paste:
- Combine the seasoning paste ingredients – garlic, hot pepper paste, hot pepper flakes, soy sauce, sugar, and water in a bowl. Mix well.
Arrange the ingredients in a shallow pot (10 to 12 inch):
- Put the cabbage, onion, green onion, pork, and the mushrooms, on the bottom of the pot.
- Add the kimchi, and the seasoning paste over top.
- Add the spam, sausage, rice cake, tofu, baked beans, and cheese.
- Add the ramyeon and the sweet potato starch noodles.
- Put radish sprouts on top and add 3 cups of stock.
Cook and serve:
- Cook over medium high heat. Korean style is to cook at the table with a portable burner. Friends and family will be sitting around the pot, talking and laughing, and maybe drinking. You can take a bit of cooked sausage or the meat with your chopsticks as you wait for the broth to boil and the noodles to soften. If you don’t have a tabletop burner, you can cook it on the stove away from the table.
- When it starts boiling about 10 minutes later, stir and turn the ingredients over with tongs to cook evenly.
- Serve right after the noodles and ramyeon have softened. Transfer some cooked stew to individual bowls and serve. Add more stock as the broth boils down.