What Is Kimchi Jigae?

Angie Bates

More authentically spelled jjigae, kimchi jigae is a Korean stew made with kimchi, a type of fermented vegetable, similar in preparation to sauerkraut. A traditional dish, kimchi jigae is made in many Korean homes. In addition to kimchi, this dish usually contains vegetables, pork, and tofu. It can, however, be made into a vegetarian dish by omitting the pork.

Chili peppers are a key ingredient in kimchi.
Chili peppers are a key ingredient in kimchi.

The only completely necessary ingredients for this stew are kimchi, garlic, and water. Bacon or pork loin are normally used for kimchi jigae, however. The pork is cut into thin strips or small chunks before inclusion in the stew. Firm tofu, cut in strips or cubes, is also usually included in this dish. Often mushrooms, both white and green onions, and green chili peppers are added as well.

Kimchi jigae usually contains pork loin.
Kimchi jigae usually contains pork loin.

The kimchi itself can be homemade but is most often store bought. Although it can be easily found in Korea, in other regions, kimchi may only be found at Asian markets and specialty stores. The juice is red and is used along with the kimchi in the stew. This results in the stew normally having a bold red coloring.

Spices, such as ginger and black pepper, are frequently included, and soy sauce is often added as well. Korean chili paste and Korean chili flakes are also frequent ingredients. Authentic kimchi jigae will only use the Korean varieties of these chili products because there is a marked difference in taste between the Korean versions and other Asian versions. The varieties of Korean peppers are not as overpowering as other Asian red peppers.

The Korean version of miso, doenjang, may be added to balance the tartness of the kimchi. Doenjang is stronger than miso, however, and so may overpower the dish if not carefully used. In order to thicken the stew and add a creamy quality, butter may also occasionally be added right before the dish is taken off the heat.

To make kimchi jigae, the garlic is fried in oil first. Afterward, the pork and onions are added and fried. The kimchi and vegetables are then included and cooked. Once fried, water and kimchi juice is added. Finally, the tofu and mushrooms can be added, and the stew simmers for nearly an hour.

Alternately, the meat can be marinated in rice wine. The chili flakes and paste, along with the garlic, soy sauce, and black pepper, may be mixed together separately before being included in the stew. The tofu might also be added only after the stew is mostly done and the heat is lowered. Kimchi jigae is often garnished with green onions.

Black pepper is often a seasoning for kimchi jigae.
Black pepper is often a seasoning for kimchi jigae.

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