Doenjang Jjigae (soybean paste stew)


Doenjang Jjigae (soybean paste stew)

This is a staple Korean stew made with Doenjang (fermented soybean paste). This is made by fermenting cooked soybeans (called meju) with salt for minimum of 1 year. Of course, nowadays, we can buy it factory made from any Korean supermarket but still many Korean family make their own Doenjang and it is really long process and takes care and is time consuming.

This is similar to Japanese miso but a quite different outcome. Doenjang is chunkier with some beans and has a stronger and more pungent flavour whereas miso has much smother, light taste. The strengths of Doenjang has many different versions due to length of fermentation and temperature.

How to make Meju

  1. In cold water (December), Wash soybeans and leave them in water for 24-48 hours.
  2. Boil them for 4-6 hours and drain water then, grind in a mortar to do not make too smooth.
  3. Make into a square and dry them for 2 weeks in the sunshine.
  4. Then move them into cool area and dry them for over one month (must to be completely dry)
  5. Move them in a warm temperature between 28-26 degrees and leave them between straw and cover with cotton for over 30 days and you will notice that some good white and yellow fungus.
  6. Wash them and dry them again in a cold temperature for few days.
  7. Add sea salt (minimum 3-year-old) in an earth ware pot and water. Put in the dried square of soybean paste and leave for 60 days.
  8. The dried soybeans square become used for Doenjang and the remaining liquid becomes soy sauce.
  9. Bon appetite if you have minimum 6 months to 2 years to spare.



Doenjang Jjigae (soybean paste stew)

                                                                       Preparation time: 10 minutes

cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Serves 4-6 people


Traditionally   Korean housewives save the water used to rinse rice and use it as a stew or soup base. The rice water adds starch to the stew and works as a binding agent between the soybean paste and the broth. It also enhances the flavour of the Doenjang.

If you don’t have the water then add rice flour or potatoes to the stew.


  • 4 cups, washed rice water or pure water
  • small 20 or medium 10 or large 5, dried anchovies / optional
  • 2 palm size pieces, dried kelp
  • 4 Tablespoons, soybean paste
  • 2 grated teaspoons, garlic
  • 1 teaspoon, gochutgaru (chilli powder) or 1teaspoon gochujang (chilli paste)
  • 1teaspoon, caster sugar
  • 50g kohlrabi, medium dice
  • 50g courgette, medium dice
  • 50g potatoes, medium dice
  • 50g onions, medium dice
  • 100g tofu, medium dice
  • 1 medium green fresh chilli, slice diagonally/garnishing
  • 1 medium red fresh chilli, slice diagonally/garnishing
  • ½ stem spring onion, slice diagonally/garnishing
  • 50g scallops, optional
  • 50g squid, optional              
  • 50g mussels, optional

1.Wash vegetables and seafood, put aside.

2. Prepare vegetables

  • Cut off the steam and leaves of the Kohlrabi, (if the kohlrabi is big then slice it in half). Peel the kohlrabi, using a vegetables peeler or knife. Make sure to remove all the woody part. Slice the kohlrabi into like a steak/about 2cm, then cut into big matchsticks/about 2cm and then again cut them into a square bite size.
  • Peel potatoes skin and cut into about 2cm cubes like a bite size.
  • Cut the tofu and courgette into about 2cm cubes like a bite size
  • Slice diagonally fresh chillies and spring onions
  • Grate garlic
  • Cut squid and seafood into a bite size  if necessary

3. Broth

Boil 4cups of washed rice water or pure water in a pot. Put 10 dried anchovies and 2 dried pieces of kelp into boiling water. Skim off the forms if necessary. Let them boil for 5 minutes, Remove the anchovies and the kelp. (if you don’t use any of these two then just boil the water for 5 minutes)

4. Reduce the heat over low heat then dissolve 4 tablespoons of soybean paste into the broth. Let it boil for 3 minutes over high heat.

5. Add 1 teaspoon of gochutgaru and 1 teaspoon gochujang (optional), 2 teaspoons of grated garlic, 1 teaspoon sugar and add kohlrabi and onions. Boil them over high heat for 3 minutes.

6. Add potatoes, courgette and tofu. Let it boil for 2-3 minutes over medium heat, skim off the forms if necessary.

7. Add all seafood and let it boil for 2 minutes more and add sliced green and red chillies and spring onions on top and boil for an additional 1-2 minutes over high heat.

This is one of my cooking class menu.




Japchae is one of the most comprehensive dishes in terms of variety of ingredients and a very popular dish on birthdays.

This is one of the best loved Korean noodle dishes by Koreans as well as by foreign visitors to Korea. The main ingredients are sweet potato noodles which are combined with a lot of different vegetables and meats. Japchae combines over 20 different vegetables with pheasant meat and was eaten by Korean kings and the royal family.

Korea was colonized by Japan between 1910 and 1945, Beginning in 1920, Korea underwent drastic changes under Japanese rule not only in politics but also culturally including food too. After 1920 Japchae, previously a dish for the upper classes, was commoditised and became available in restaurants dish using sweet potato noodles coming from China.

In 1592 Japan invaded Korea the war, we call Imjin Waelan, lasted for 6 years. When the war finished and Japan retreated, there was not enough food for the people also there was no palace left for the king. It was at this time that Japchae became very highly prized by the King.

There is a written record that two low class men, with power over many farmers collected all the ingredients and bribed the king with Japchae and then, the king knighted them. The other courtiers sarcastically called them the Japchae knights.

Speaking of which,

“Innocent if rich, guilty if poor”, is a well-known adage in Korea.

The Vice Chairman of Samsung Electronics had been found guilty of bribing the former president, Park Geunhye. So, I guess bribery is still the route to power.


Kohlrabi Kimchi

Looking for an excellent alternative for Korean radish Kimchi (Ggakdugi)?

Then why not using Kohlrabi?

Ggakdugi is a type of Kimchi made from Korean radish. Koreans use this radish to make three different types of Kimchi. One is radish winter Kimchi in a broth called Dongchimi, the second is a mixed Kimchi called Seogbagji and the third is diced radish kimchi simply called Ggakdugi.

In times past, Korean radish was the vegetable that would be available all year-round, with the peak seasons being winter and spring. For this reason, Dongchimi was normally made in winter.

Korean radish is one of many Kimchi’s key ingredients but it is also used independently make its own specific Kimchi. This was the working-class side dish (Banchan) which was very affordable. The Korean radish stems and leaves are dried out during winter and then boiled when needed for use in the rest of seasons.

Ggakdugi wasn’t popular until 1850 which was the end of the Joseon Dynasty of period, but one of the princesses of the royal family introduced this dish in her cookery book. It was said that Ggakdugi helps our digestion and it is great for detoxing. This has actually been proved by modern science.

The Korean aristocracy didn’t eat this radish kimchi until around 1900 but the great flavour and its health benefits had been accepted. So, this dish became one of among the few dishes that were popular the dining tables of the lower classes as well as the upper classes.

There are a number of popular uses of Ggakdugi:

  • Chungmu Kimbap or simply yubu chobap
  • With SulLungTang, this is a milky broth made from ox bone and brisket meat
  • With Koran instant noodles but typically not the spicy varieties
  • As a vegan Kimchi tending not to use fish sauce popular in the Seoul area

The Korean radish is large, very firm vegetable. The top stem, the greenish part is, crunchy and crisp with a sweet, nutty taste. The bottom stem, the whitish part, is peppery and dry, not juicy. Many Koreans only eat or use the top stem for cooking and white lower part for making stock.

Mooli can substitute for Korean radish, as can daikon or UK radish but these are all watery, more mild flavoured and less crunchy than the real thing.

I’ve found that the best replacement is Kohlrabi. It is crunchy, less watery and sweet it has exactly the best characteristic qualities of Korean radish (especially like the top stem, green part). I actually really love it. It is expensive but May is the Kohlrabi harvesting season and prices should be lower.

I often buy it from the online-supermarket (Ocado) at £ 2.99 for 350g but at the Cambridge market I actually bought Kohlrabi yesterday for only £1.50. At the Cambridge Sunday market (Simon’s local vegetable stall) I expect that the price will be even cheaper. They expect to have Kohlrabi from the end of May.

I believe using local produce is the best way of getting great nutrition and freshness. No matter how good your cooking skills, if you don’t have good quality ingredients then, it is more likely that your food will fail to be tasty. I’d advise that you use Kohlrabi, even when making Korean Ggakdugi for your first time.