Asian markets will ultimately be the death of me. Not because they will cause a financial strain on my wallet but because of the fact that they make it damn near impossible to decide on what to make for dinner. That and I don’t know any other language other then English so figuring out what I’m buying is somewhat of an adventure. All the time. But I still go weekly to my neighborhood international market to see what sort of new and interesting thing can I buy to cook with or taste because I’ve seen it on a cooking show. I’ve enjoyed banana blossoms in soup and have braved the intimidating durian fruit. I’ve had pork belly, beef shank, vegetarian ham and 100 year old eggs. I’ve adventured more in the aisles of Jay’s International Market then I have across this rock we call Earth. And as much as I enjoy wandering each aisle, getting lost in the mystery of the little silver foiled packages, last night’s trip had a purpose. And that purpose? Obtain the kimchi.
I don’t know exactly when I started to develop a love for the spicy fermented cabbage, but it more then likely had to do with my obsession of watching cooking shows. Some people watch Gilmore Girls, I enjoy watching Chopped. Give me a basket of mystery ingredients and I will do my damnedest to whip up an appetizer that isn’t a frisee salad in less then 20 minutes. One episode had kimchi as a mystery item. Okay, it is by far one of the least intimidating ingredients but it peaked my curiosity about the delicacy. So like most people who show an interest in something I went out and bought a random jar of kimchi at my grocery store. It was love at first bite and ever since I try to find ways of incorporating it into my weekly diet.
This week provided the perfect platform in which to enjoy kimchi but not masked in something as innocuous as fried rice or on a pizza. Why? This week was pouch week. A mental as well as physical reset of my dietary habits to help me purge from my system any and all unnecessary carbs to make the most of my bariatric sleeve procedure I had three years ago. Liquids for 2 days, transition to soft meats like tuna and fish on day 3, ground chicken and turkey on day 4 and finally normal food day 5. All the while maintaining appropriate portion sizes which for me should only be roughly 8 ounces. One of the things I have experienced however is a nasty 4 day migraine as a result of purging myself of carbohydrates. A side effect, but ultimately the end results are worth it. At the advise of a friend it was recommended that I eat something a little higher in salt then I normally would and recommended kimchi. And as a way of incorporating protein into said kimchi dish while maintaining something that would not be hard on my system why not pork belly. It becomes extremely tender when braised or stewed for long periods of time.
After many a google search I settled (and believe me it’s not necessarily settling because if I could, in all honesty, I’d make all the dishes. ALL THE KIMCHI!!!!!) on a kimchi jjigae primarily because it was low carb, featured kimchi as the star and well it’s a soup and I love all things soups and stews in winter. So why not.
Now one of the things that I’ve been told is a nice change of pace from my blog is the fact that I don’t inundate my readers with picture after picture of what I’m doing. Personally I find that rather intrusive especially if you’re doing something like making grilled cheese. I don’t need a picture by picture play by play of everything you’re doing. Just get to the recipe and tell me what I need to do. And then possibly toss in a few pictures for fun and to break it up.
I’ll make sure to post the link to the website that I got my recipe from at the bottom of the page but will give you a rather reader’s digest version of how to prepare this dish. The ingredients are rather basic and should be found in your kitchen pantry or cupboard and I’m sure if something is not relatively common in your area you can substitute it out like fresh ginger. If you cant get it fresh then by all means use ground just make sure you google the exchange rate of raw to powder as to not inadvertently obliterate your taste buds. I’ve done it. It’s not fun.
The first step in this dish is prepping the pork belly. I’m very lucky to have about five Asian style grocery stores near and around my neighborhood which have fresh butchered pork belly (both on the rib bone and off). For this recipe you’ll want off the rib bone if you can find it. You’ll want to make sure toremove the skin because we are stewing it and the skin will become tough and rubbery; however if you are feeling a little saucy and want to make chicarrons (pork skins) just toss them in a freezer bag and put them in the freezer for later use. Once you’ve handled the task of scalping your poor little pig (I’m really really sorry but you deserved it) you can get to the task at hand. Making the jjigae. Making jjiwha? Jjigae!!! Jjigae is a Korean dish similar to a Western stew. There are many different varieties but it is typically made with meat (vague huh) seafood or vegetables in a broth seasoned with gochujang, doenjang, ganjana or saeujeor (uh..wtf?) and is best served up communal style and boiling hot..Like melt your face hot. Deadpool after Francis pushed his last nerve Ryan Reynolds hot (hehe I like Deadpool…A little….dawwww he’s so cute!!!!!)…..oh..yeah recipe..sorry..got side tracked ^.^
Okay, so yeah jjigae, it’s pretty much a stew which can feature anything you want and this one features kimchi and pork belly. After you’ve skinned your pork belly you’re going to take a sharp and I cannot stress this enough a SHAAAAAAAAARP (like Deadpool’s wit and katanas) knife and slice thin pieces of pork belly. The reason is for the sharp knife is pork belly is essentially thick layers of fat with thin layers of actual muscle meat. It is after all where bacon comes from and fat makes everything better. The sharp knife also helps ensure that you don’t end up smashing it thus taking a lovely 2 inch pork belly and making it 2 centimeters. Also freezing it for about 20 minutes will also help with easier handling but if you’re like most people and you ain’t got time for that, a nicely sharpened chef knife will do just fine. The recipe of course can’t have normal measurements by Americans standards so when it called for 150 grams translates roughly to 5 ounces. Instead of busting out my scale and setting it up i just sliced up the entire thing. Psssh never heard anyone complaining about something having too much pork and if they did they are obviously communists (I apologize to any Communists I may have offended. I love you. I love you hardcore!!! ^.^). Toss delicately into a non reactive bowl (preferably glass) and then get to work scraping and grating your ginger and garlic. Add a little bit of Gukganjang (soy sauce for soup…yes apparently there are 2 kinds of soy sauce and if you want to cook authentic Korean food don’t be a baddy. Own both!) and then a little soju (vodka like rice liquor). If you can’t find Soju apparently you can substitute out vodka, sake, maybe even mirin but do try to locate it if you’re a stickler for authenticity. Allow all these lovelies to get a little kinky and nasty together in a bowl while you look away in shame at your food voyeurism and prepare the other steps of this dish.
The next step is preparing the stir fry aspect of this dish. Take a white or yellow onion (I really dont recommend using a red onion for this at all), cutting it in half and making thin slices. If you’re like me and you have a somewhat sloppy knife slice then by all means use a mandolin if you have it. Work smarter not harder as Scrooge McDuck would say. If you don’t have a mandolin I’m sorry you’re going to have to suffer..And try not to slice off your fingers. Take your kimchi of choice and measure out 1 firmly packed cup (you can use more but don’t go crazy folks!). Grab a towel you have no emotional attachment too and no not the towel your husband calls Wubby because um, yeah that’s a whole different therapy session right there and over a bowl squeeze out as much of the kimchi juice as you possibly can. We want this dry so it can absorb the rendered fat of the pork belly. Set the juice aside for later use in the recipe. Don’t
throw it away. Don’t..I’m serious >.< (<~~serious face!).
In a heavy bottom stock pot heat on a medium heat until hot. The directions did not indicate as to whether or not to add oil but since the point of the hot pan is to start the rendering process on the pork belly I chose to omit any additional oil to stave off getting an Exxon Valdez oil slick in my finished product. Add your pork belly giving it a quick stir to help bring up any bits of garlic and ginger that can burn from the hot bottom allow it to sit and render away to its heart content. Probably roughly about 5-6 minutes depending on the thickness of your pork belly slices. Once light browning has occurred add your dry kimchi and sliced onion and allow to saute “till fragrant”. Okay when I think of kimchi the word “fragrant” doesn’t really come to mind. More like “aromatic” but not the kind of aromatic that makes you go “mmmmmm” more “oh my god wtf!?”. While your pork belly, onion, kimchi mixture becomes “fragrant” you want to complete the last step of the preparation. The soup base.
Now at Jays the hardest thing for me to find were the pastes needed for this soup base. With such names as gochujang and doenjang it had me scratching my head as to what exactly I was looking for. With the assistance of one of the stockers I was quickly ushered to the refrigerated section where he handed me a container of soybean paste (doenjang) similiar to that of miso and then in the Korean dry item section a container of fermented red pepper paste (gochujang). Okay let’s make it a little harder next time shall we? I quickly whipped up my soup base adding the reserved kimchi juice, filtered tap water, both the soybean as well as the red pepper paste and some Korean chili flakes) and added it to my “fragrant” non liquid items. Brought the soup up to boil and then reduced to a simmer and left it for about 40 minutes to do it’s thang and for me to face the mess that was my kitchen. Sorry…I try to clean as I go but let’s face it. I am a Jackson Pollack in the kitchen. It’s not art unless I’m wiping splatters off of my cabinets, counter tops, the cat…Don’t ask..its always better NOT to ask.
After the timer went off and the kimchi was to the texture I wanted I added the final ingredient. Butter. As if this wasn’t going to be epic enough let’s just add a little more fat. The butter actually is quite necessary to help bring a creamy texture and consistency as well as help mute some of the heat should you have added to much chili flakes so please dont skip this step to be “more health conscious”..Sliced up a few green onions stems to whites an viola. Soup’s done and ready to be eaten. I was quite pleased with the finished product, of course whether or not it tasted legit was beyond me as I’ve never had jjigae before but it did the trick. The headache from the carb withdrawals went away and I was left with a content feeling of joy as I saw curled up on my couch with my chopsticks in hand. A quick text to Kyle to show him what I made plus a plethora of pics on Facebook/Instragram and the knowledge of knowing that tomorrow’s lunch would be something truly unique came with every savory mouthful. The pork deliciously tender and almost melted in your mouth. The kimchi still maintaining its structural integrity and a bit of a crunch. But what got me was the broth. I can’t even describe it. It was spicy yet had a velvet texture that coated your throat and warmed you all the way down to the belly. It was both exotic yet hinted of something familiar. It was just good eats. Definitely a keeper that’s for sure. I hope you try it!
- 150 grams Pork belly – skinless (sliced thinly)
- 15 grams Garlic (3 large cloves grated)
- 7 grams Ginger – fresh (grated)
- 1 tablespoon Gukganjang (Korean soup soy sauce)
- 1 tablespoon Soju
- 110 grams Onion (1/2 small onion sliced thin)
- 200 grams Kimchi (~1 cup tightly packed)
- 1/2 Kimchi juice (squeezed from kimchi)
- 1 1/2 cups Water
- 2 teaspoons Gochujang (Korean chili paste)
- 2 teaspoons Doenjang (Korean bean paste)
- 2 tablespoons Gochugaru (Korean chili flakes to taste)
- 225 grams Tofu – soft (cut into large cubes) Optional!!!
- 2 Scallions (thinly sliced)
- 1 tablespoon Butter – unsalted
- Marinate the pork belly with the garlic, ginger, gukganjang and soju
- Heat a heavy bottomed pot until hot and then add the pork belly. Allow some of the fat to render out of the pork belly, then add the onions and kimchi. Sauté until the mixture is very fragrant (bwaha fragrant!)
- Add the kimchi juice, water, gochujang, and doengjang, stirring everything together to combine.
- Bring to a boil and taste for spiciness, adjust with gochugaru to increase the heat to where you want it. Add tofu (if desired) and reduce heat and simmer for 10-20 minutes (or longer depending on how thick your pork belly is sliced)
- When you’re ready to serve the kimchi jjigae, add the green onions and butter and give it a quick stir to incorporate. I added my green onion at the end to give another texture profile to it as well as a bit of a raw element. Place in communal bowl and either eat alone or serve up on top of rice!!!
Recipe can be found at Kimchi jjigae!