May 16th, 2010 by Jihye Chang
Kimchi is probably the most well known and widely misunderstood Korean food. If you have ever tasted really good home-made, well-ripe kimchi, you know that it’s not something just smelly or awfully spicy. Most popular and widely eaten kimchi is Paechu-Kimchi made with Napa cabbage, sliced radish, and seasonings (salt, fish sauce or other kinds of seafood stuff depending on the regional taste, red pepper powder, garlic, green onion, ginger, sugar, etc.) Good kimchi is has balanced taste of sourness, crunchiness, spiciness, saltiness, and it’s very sexy! Think of it as a spicy and more glorious version of Saurkraut.
You can make so many kinds of yummy dishes using kimchi – kimchi fried rice, pancakes, noodles, and even spaghetti! I plan to write more details about Kimchi and its history some other time, but today I am going to tell you how to make a very simple kimchi soup (“jigae” or “zigae”)
Kimchi jigae with canned tuna [Chamchi Kimchi Jigae]
There are probably as many Kimchi jigae recipes as there are moms and cooks in Korea. You can make this dish with various kinds of meat (canned tuna, pork belly, canned pike, canned mackerel, clams, bacon) and different types of soup stock. Methods varies a lot as well. (Stir fry meat first and then pour water, put everything in a pot and simmer for a long time, season the meat beforehand, cook the meat with kimchi, etc.). Chong-Ga brand’s un-cut kimchi is the best you can get at grocery stores. Un-cut kimchi is made with the whole head of napa cabbage, and you should cut it yourself before eating. If you can’t find it, get the store manager’s recommendation or a pick a jar that still has some liquid in it and has a faint sour smell to it. Kimchi jigae needs kimchi that’s ripe, not too “young.” If kimchi tastes too salty without much sourness, you may add some rice vinegar. Don’t buy small kimchi jars sold at regular grocery stores as they don’t taste good and they are so overpriced.
About 2 cup (400g) cut Kimchi, mixed with 0.5 Tb sugar and 0.5 Tb sesame oil (See the picture above!)
1 can of Dong-Won brand’s Kimch Jigae Tuna. You can find it at any Korean grocery store. If you can’t find it, use any canned tuna (4.5 oz) in olive oil, and use 1.5 cans/ put a bit more seasonings and red pepper powder.
1/2 Onion, thinly sliced
1 Tb Canola oil (or any oil that has not a lot of flavor. If you want some more kick, use the Korean style chili oil.)
2-3 cups water (enough to cover kimchi, but not too watery) It’s more tasty if you use soup stock made with dried anchovies and dried kombu (“tashima” in Korean), but water is fine.
1/2 organic firm tofu, thinly sliced
0.5 Tb Korean pepper powder/ 2 strips green onion, chopped/ Soy sauce or Kimchi juice (from the jar) to taste
(Optional: 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced)
How To Make
1) Heat the canola oil in the stainless steel sauce pan (2 quart) or Le Creuset (2 quart) type of pot. Stir fry kimchi for about 3 minutes, on medium heat, until softened a bit.
2) Put water. Then put the onion and canned tuna. Close the lid and cook with medium-low heat for about 10 minutes.
3) Open the lid and cook until the onions are soft and jigae smells good. Then arrange tofu slices around the pot and put 0.5 Tb of the red pepper powder in the middle of the tofu circle. (Add garlic with the pepper powder, if you are using.) Spoon some soup over the tofu slices and gently push them down so that they sits below the surface.
4) Cook until tofu is warmed through, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning either with kimchi juice or a bit of soy sauce.
5) Put the sliced green onion and cook about 30 seconds more and then serve!
This soup with a bowl of rice makes such a quick and comforting dinner. Enjoy~ (Hmingi, I hope you like it! )