Kimchi Chigae

I still can’t really believe that with all the cooking I did in Korea, I never made my own kimchi. A few weeks ago I picked up a GIANT head of Napa cabbage (practically the size of my torso) at the farmer’s market and decided it was time to make some. I used a recipe out of one of my Korean cookbooks, but figured I didn’t really need gochugaru (ground Korean red pepper), I could just use regular red pepper flakes instead. WRONG. That kimchi left a LOT to be desired, because it’s basically totally lacking in spiciness. I didn’t want to throw it away, though, so I bought a big bag of gochugaru (like I should have done in the first place) and decided to add it in whenever I use kimchi from this batch. That’s what I did here, and it worked perfectly.

I ate a lot of kimchi chigae in Korea. It’s just the right amount of tangy and spicy, and if you believe the students I taught, will cure absolutely any ailment you may have. I don’t know about that, but I do love the stuff. I found a recipe for it on No Recipes, and with a few changes, had this beautiful bowl of vegetarian kimchi chigae steaming in front of me in about 30 minutes. Every bowl of it I ate in Korea had silken tofu, which was delicious, but all I had on hand was extra firm, and I like how hearty it makes the soup, especially since I didn’t use any meat. I started with 1/2 cup of kimchi juice (just the liquid left over in the package or jar) and 1 cup of water, but as you can see in the picture, it’s not terribly soupy because I got distracted and let it boil a little too much. If yours starts looking dry, just add a little extra water or kimchi juice. I also completely forgot to add the gojuchang listed in the original recipe, and it still tasted great.

If you’re a strict vegetarian, read the label of your kimchi carefully – a lot of brands use fish products. I highly recommend making your own, and as soon as I make an acceptable batch, I will post a recipe!

Recipe:
(adapted from No Recipes)

Serves 2-3

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups kimchi, sliced
1/2 cup kimchi juice
1 cup water
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp yellow miso (or if you want to be really authentic, use doenjang)
pinch sugar
a few spoonfuls of gochugaru (if you want it spicy)
10 ounces extra firm tofu, diced
3 tbsp thinly sliced green onions

Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat.
Add the onion and cook, stirring until soft.
Stir in the garlic and kimchi and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until very fragrant.
Add the water, kimchi juice, ginger, wine, soy sauce, miso, sugar, and gochugaru (if using) and stir well.
Mix in the tofu, then partially cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add additional liquid if it begins to look dry.
Sprinkle the green onions over the top, and serve alongside bowls of steamed rice.

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