Maybe the word “stew” conjures images of a bland and boring bowl of overcooked gray meat. Well, Kimchi Stew is going to change that! Vividly red, packed with spicy and funky flavor, this recipe will change the way you view stews forever. Kimchi Stew, or Soondubu-jjigae is a Korean comfort food classic. It’s a really clever way to transform little bits of meat, veggies, eggs and tofu into a meal that will nourish a crowd.
If you’ve made our Real Deal Kimchi, this is the perfect recipe to showcase your fermenting skills. Kimchi is a Korean staple, a fermented pickle that is commonly made with napa cabbage, chilis, onion, and plenty of garlic. There are many types of kimchee, such as radish and cucumber, but they are all made in a similar way, which is to coat the veggies with a seasoning mix before packing it away in jars to ferment.
Kimchi-The Gift That Keeps Giving
The best part of kimchi is that it has different stages. Once you make it, you can eat it fresh, when none of the fermentation has yet occurred and the flavor is bright and fresh, the vegetables crunchy and firm. Then, as it slowly ferments in the fridge, the kimchi transforms, turning sour and slightly effervescent. Many Koreans keep not only several types, but also different stages of kimchi in their fridge. Not surprisingly, there are even special kimchi refrigerators available to keep your various kimchis together and the pungent aroma contained!
Because kimchi keeps for a long time and can be used in so many different dishes (as a topping for instant ramen, in hearty winter soups, or mixed into a simple fried rice) it’s a handy little condiment to keep on hand. And making it at home is inexpensive and easy, but if you haven’t had the chance, don’t fret, as there are plenty of excellent commercial kimchis available. It might not even require a special trip to a Korean or Asian grocer; I see kimchi in the refrigerated part of the produce department at my local supermarket. Additionally, since stews need the stronger flavor of an “aged” kimchi, it’s perfectly fine, even beneficial, if that container at the store looks a little past its prime!
Some Funky Ingredients
A full flavored stock stock for a full flavored stew
My Kimchi Stew is flavored with some ingredients that may be new to you. Dried anchovies are used in lots of Korean dishes, particularly to make stocks, and they add a deliciously pungent saltiness. The stock is not fishy as you might fear. It’s more briny and deeply flavored. Before using, I gut the anchovies to prevent them from adding any bitterness. Leftover dried anchovies make a great crunchy snack stir fried with a little soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic. They also keep in the freezer forever (ok not forever, but you get it). If you can’t find anchovies, you can substitute with chicken stock or even some bottled clam juice.
Next we add an Asian stock favorite-Kombu. Kombu is an edible kelp that is also used to add umami depth to stocks. It balances the flavor of the anchovies and enriches the stock. I also use kombu in this Japanese fish stew, for its wonderful oceany flavor.
Let’s Get Stewing!
We start by making the broth. If you’re going to an Asian grocery store to purchase the anchovies, you should be able to find them in the freezer section. Pick the largest anchovies sold as they will yield the most flavor and you do not need to use as much to make your stock. Do not substitute canned or jarred anchovies, which are completely different.
Now Prep the Rest of Your Ingredients
In this recipe, I use a combination of pork belly, which is very common, and sausages, which are unusual, but add a rich smokiness to the dish. If you can’t find Japanese style sausages, feel free to substitute kielbasa, which also has a mild flavor and smokiness. You can also use any type of pork you like. Whatever cut you decide to use, make sure to slice it into thin bite sized pieces.
Once you’ve finished slicing and dicing, we move on to starting the stew. The base is a blend of aromatics which I sauté along with the pork belly which renders some fat that seasons the stew.
As the pork belly renders some of its fat, I add the kimchi and seasonings. The smell is amazing! Then it’s time to add the seasonings, reserved stock, sausage and tofu. For this Kimchi Stew, I use soft tofu, because the silken texture is delicious in the hot broth and it is widely available, so it’s easy to find. However, if you can get your hands on Korean silken tofu, which often come in tubes, it’s a whole other level of sublime silkiness.
Once everything has been cooking for a few minutes and is nice and hot, it’s time to add the finishing touches. The spinach gets stirred in to wilt, and the eggs get cracked directly into the stew. They actually poach in the hot liquid, giving the stew a velvety richness. If you’re not a fan of a soft egg (really?), just let it simmer for a couple more minutes until it reaches desired doneness.
Kimchi Stew is an incredibly hearty and satisfying meal. Once you try it you will see why it makes an appearance on Korean tables on a near weekly basis. When you try it, leave a comment, and rate the recipe down below! And don’t forget to tag us in your Kimchi Stew insta pics @funkyasiankitchen-show us the goods!
- 2 cups water
- 12 large dried anchovies (use a little more if your anchovies are smaller)
- 1 4” x 4” piece of kombu kelp (about the size of your hand)
- ½ cup diced onion (about ¼ large onion)
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 4 ounces pork belly
- 2 ounces smoked sausages (I used a Japanese brand. You can substitute them with some kielbasa)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons korean chile flakes (optional for extra heat)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cups kimchee
- 1 package silken tofu (about 7 ounces)
- 1 ounce baby spinach (1 handful)
- 2 eggs
- 2 scallions chopped
- Drizzle of sesame oil
- Take the guts out of the anchovies by pulling at the center of the anchovy. This is a hard black piece which you should be able to easily remove and discard.
- Cut the pork belly chunk into thin bite sized pieces. Set aside. Cut the smoked sausages into small slices or chunks depending on the shape.*
- Put the water, anchovies, and kelp in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Cover with a lid and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, strain the solids through a colander and set the broth aside.*
- Heat a 2 quart saucepan or pot over medium high heat. Add the oil, the onion, and the garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes until the onion starts to soften. Stir in the pork belly and continue to cook for another minute.
- Add the kimchi, the sesame oil, soy sauce, salt, sugar, and ground black pepper. Cook for another minute and then add the reserved stock. Stir to combine.
- Then add the sausage and the tofu. Use a wooden spoon or chopsticks to break up the tofu into large chunks about 2 inches in size.
- Let the mixture come up to a simmer and then lower the heat to medium and then cover with a lid and cook for 3-4 minutes, until everything is piping hot.
- Add the spinach and stir to wilt. Crack the eggs into the stew, garnish with the scallions, drizzle with a little more sesame oil, and serve immediately.*
* You can substitute any type of pork you have on hand, keeping in mind a cut with some fat will probably give you more flavor.
*The leftover kelp and the anchovies are perfectly edible. Try sauteing them with some sesame oil, a little garlic, soy sauce, and chilies. If that is not your thing, save it for a nutritious pet snack.
*Traditionally, the stew is not cooked once the egg is dropped in. The residual heat from the stew cooks the egg slightly, like a very soft poached egg. If you prefer your egg firmer, continue cooking the stew for another minute or two after adding the egg.
Keywords: kimchi, kimchi stew