Would you believe it--we had snow in Santa Barbara this weekend! Okay, so not downtown near sea level, but we did have a spectacular blanket of snow covering our coastal mountain ranges for a good 24 hours or more. After some dark and stormy days, I was utterly captivated during my Sunday morning run by the views of snow-capped peaks standing against clear blue skies in one direction, and sparkling blue ocean and island views in the other. Absolutely gorgeous.
But it has been cold--chillingly cold--here in Santa Barbara, and as I hear of the snow storms going on across the States this winter, I think it's a perfect time to share about this warm and satisfying Korean winter stew, kongbiji jjigae (say "kongbeejee jeegay"). It's a delicious stew, nutritious and protein-rich thanks to ground soybeans, and full of fun and savory bites like diced pork, shiitake mushrooms, kimchi, and green onions and peppers.
As with most jjigae recipes I've seen, this one starts with making a stock, using dried shiitake mushrooms, seaweed, and anchovies. The stock is liquid gold, I tell you, adding such wonderful depth of flavor!
Another component, special to kongbiji jjigae, is a smooth, creamy puree made from soaked soybeans. Traditionally, this stew was a way to use up soybean solids (the kongbiji, or okara in Japanese) leftover from making soymilk and tofu, but you don't have to be in the business of making your own tofu just to enjoy the stew! Here I follow Maangchi's lead, using both the solids and the liquid. And the nice thing about this recipe is that both the stock and the soybean puree can be made several days in advance, breaking down the work into very manageable steps if you don't want to cook it all in one go.
I can't tell you how much of this stew I've eaten this winter--it truly hits the spot. And my parents, who are a little more tentative when it comes to trying "new" foods, actually tucked into this with gusto, even going for seconds! Serve garnished with some sliced green onions and red chili pepper for a little kick. At the table, add a nice big scoop of steamed rice to your bowl of jjigae, and don't forget to have some kimchi along with it--the kimchi is a perfect accompaniment and opens up the flavors of the stew beautifully.
Kongbiji Jjigae 공비지 찌개 (Ground-soybean stew)
Makes 4 servings, Adapted from Maangchi
½ cup dried soy beans
3 dried shiitake mushrooms
8 large dried anchovies
2 x 2 – inch piece dried kelp
1 ½ tsp. sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ lb. (250 g) lean pork shoulder or loin, diced
1 cup kimchi, chopped
4 green onions
2 Tbs. fish sauce
1 large green chili pepper, sliced
Salt to taste
1 small red chili pepper, sliced
Soak the dried soybeans at least 8 hours to overnight. (Yields about 1+ cup soaked beans.) The next day, drain water and add enough water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil and boil for just 3 minutes (don’t overcook).
Drain beans and cover with cold water. Rub beans with fingertips to release the skins and pick out the skins that rise to the top. (For higher fiber content and easier preparation, feel free to skip this step and leave the skins in.)
In a blender, puree the soaked soybeans with equal parts water (about 1 cup) until it is smooth and creamy.
Combine 4 cups water, the dried mushrooms, dried anchovies, and dried kelp, and bring to a boil. (I keep the anchovies and kelp in a large mesh ball for easy removal later.) Reduce heat slightly and continue to cook for 20 minutes at a gentle boil.
Remove mushrooms, dice them and set aside. Discard the anchovies and the kelp.
Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Sauté garlic in the sesame oil for a few seconds, then add chopped pork, mushrooms, and kimchi and continue sautéing for a few more minutes. Coarsely chop 3 of the green onions and add along with 2-4 cups stock (depending on how thin/thick you like your stew) and cover pot with a lid.
Bring to a boil and cook for about 2 minutes. (Watch carefully that it doesn’t boil over!) Pour the blended soybeans into the boiling pot and lower the heat. Let cook for about 2 minutes (without stirring during the first minute of cooking time).
When the jjigae returns to a boil, carefully stir in fish sauce and the green chili pepper and season with salt to taste.
Garnish each serving with finely chopped green onions and red chili pepper.
Serve with steamed rice and more kimchi!