Doenjang Jjigae (Korean Fermented Soybean Stew)

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Doenjang, Korean fermented soybean paste, is prized because it does not lose its unique flavor when mixed with others, and it only gets better with ageing, like a fine wine. There are so many different ways to cook with doenjang, but it is most commonly used in soups and stews. Doenjang jjigae is one of the most popular dishes, served at home and in restaurants alike. Most families have their own recipe for this satisfying bowl; I prefer to make it with clams. You should always serve it in an earthenware bowl, ttukbaegi, which enhances the stew’s richness and rustic flavor.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 10 large dried anchovies, heads and guts removed
  • 1 4-inch piece dried kelp (kombu)
  • 4 cups water
  • 5–6 tablespoons doenjang (soybean paste), preferably Mac Doenjang
  • 2 teaspoons gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)
  • 1–2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chili paste)
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 12 little neck clams, cleaned
  • 14 ounces firm tofu, drained, cut into 1-inch-thick slices
  • 10 fresh shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and de-stemmed
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
  • 1 red chili, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
  • Toasted sesame oil, for garnish
  • Black sesame seeds, for garnish

Method

  1. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the anchovies, kelp, and four cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 more minutes.
  2. Pass the anchovy stock through a sieve and discard the solids, and return the stock to the pot. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the doenjang, chili flakes, and chili paste and whisk until dissolved fully. Taste the stock. If you want a stronger doenjang flavor, add some more, and if you want it spicier, add some more gochujang.
  3. Add the zucchini, onion, potatoes, and garlic, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 7–8 minutes more. Add the clams, cover, and simmer until they are all opened and cooked, about 5–6 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open. Add the tofu, mushrooms, scallions, and chili. Mix gently and simmer for an additional 3–4 minutes.
  4. Drizzle with sesame oil, and garnish with additional sliced scallions and chili. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve with steamed rice.

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