With the recent push to globalize Korean cuisine, accompanied with the rising popularity of Korean fusion food, we thought it was only fair to return to the OG of Korean fusion dishes – budae jjigae!
Created during the Korean War when food was scarce, budae jjigae (which translates to “army stew”) became a favorite among both Korean locals and American soldiers. Some stories even say that Koreans would cook budae jjigae in helmets when cooking pots couldn’t be found. At the time, Koreans could only eat whatever was readily available. From surpluses of U.S. rations, Koreans first encountered foods like spam and hot dogs. Unsure on how to use these odd proteins, Koreans simply threw them into a hot pot of vegetables, gochujang, and water to make a spicy and hearty stew. And thus, budae jjigae made its entrance into Korean street cuisine.
Budae jjigae is cooked and served in a huge pan that is placed on the table where everyone can easily ladle it into their bowls or dip in their spoons. Budae jjigae is a hot pot dish so you’ll see a wide variety of ingredients. Ingredients typically include ramen noodles, spam, hot dogs, tofu, rice cakes, green onions, kimchi, and any assortment of vegetables such as carrots, bean sprouts, and onions. Some restaurants even put in a slice of cheese for extra texture.
Budae jjigae is a great option to make at home because ingredients can change each time depending on what’s available in the kitchen. Still, most Koreans love eating budae jjigae at restaurants and especially while they’re drinking. That’s why you’ll often see budae jjigae on the menu at sooljibs. Not only is it a great anju that can be shared among several people, budae jjigae is one of those magical dishes that warms your stomach as the alcohol warms your face.
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[Photos: Christ Z./Yelp; Anne Fishbein/LA Weekly]