This wasn’t really a jjigae. It was an attempt at recreating the spicy Korean soup, but with no recipe, no fish or meat, and without many of the proper ingredients. And having eaten it all of three times in my life. What could possibly go wrong?
The result turned out better than I feared, but not as good as I’d hoped. And in part, it was all down to me trying to keep it vegetarian. Not sure why I felt the need to do it, other than a perverse and vague feeling that it’s good to be veggie sometimes.
What it really boiled down to was the stock. It doesn’t really matter what else you do if the stock is wrong. I used a plain old vegetable bouillon. And it lacked the requisite depth and flavour. If I had gone down the fish stock route, I’d be singing my triumph to the skies. If I’d used the right vegetables that is.
That was the other thing I quickly realised. You need to use the right veg, or dispense with them altogether. Boiled okra? Uh-uh, no thanks. Never again. I transformed one of my favourite vegetables from perky green joy-rockets to tasteless lumps of pale matter. Next time I’ll crumb and deep fry them as an accompanying snack.
And yet, despite all that, it was still pretty tasty. Rescued by the magic Gochujang, a pungent and intense Korean chili and ginger paste, and the mushrooms. They gave it some backbone, oomph and taste. Even a little umami. And the tofu added a good firm-but-wibbly texture.
So I almost made it, falling at a couple of hurdles. It wasn’t inedible, it was just an alright, if plain, spicy broth. Next time I’m going to ditch the veggie approach and go full throttle, throwing plenty of salty strong fishy flavours at it. And the right vegetables.
My jjigae recipe and ingredients
Serves two with rice
Before you do anything else, if you want a proper jjigae recipe head on over to Meemalee’s blog and read this. I was aiming for an entirely veggie one, but I’m just not sure it tastes as good. It’s the stock y’see. And the boullion just didn’t give it enough depth.
I’d also omit the selection of vegetables – or change them to baby corn, sugar snaps and other more robust and sweet veg. If I used radish again, I’d slice it super fine, or grate it, and use it as a garnish. The okra and tomatoes didn’t work at all.
Finally, I would definitely use soft tofu, it gives the whole thing a kind of poached-egg like texture – creamy and wonderful.
2 dessert spoons of Gochujang
1 block of tofu (use soft if you can find it, it gives a much creamier texture)
3 large field mushrooms
1 pack of enoki mushrooms
A selection of vegetables (I used cherry tomatoes, radishes, baby okra)
Japanese soy sauce
Spring onions – finley sliced
1 egg yolk
A few basil leaves
1 litre stock (I used Marigold boullion, fish would’ve been ten times better)
Slice all the vegetables, put some oil in a big pan over a medium heat. Add the gochujang and stir it for a minuite or two. Add the mushrooms and the white parts of the spring onion. Stir and fry for a few minutes.
Add the stock and bring to the boil, add the rest of the vegetables and a glug or two of Japanese soy and bring to a simmer. Leave to bubble slowly while you make some rice.
Separate the egg yolk, serve the jjigae and side the raw yolk into the soup gently. Scatter over the basil leaves and eat.