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David Chang and Doenjang Chigae (Korean Bean Paste Stew)

by Jeanette on March 3, 2011 · 14 Comments
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Doenjang Chigae or Korean Bean Paste Stew

Recently, I read an article in Food and Wine about David Chang, the mastermind and celebrated chef behind Momofuku Noodle Bar,and four other restaurants in New York City.

David Chang skyrocketed to fame after opening Momofuku Noodle Bar and has been on an unbelievable roll since then. Although I’ve yet to have the privilege of dining at any of his restaurants (they are near impossible to get into!), I have admired David Chang from afar. He seems like a pretty normal guy, a fun guy, a guy who happens to be really smart, a mastermind in the kitchen, with unique and daring ideas that have started a food revolution.

Apparently, however, this warp speed ascent took a toll on David Chang last spring, and he was stressed out (can you imagine why?!), so he took a little break (5 days all told) and flew off to South Korean where his parents were born and raised. What I found fascinating about this story was that David Chang, a pork lover (his restaurants are famous for pork belly sandwiches and one of his restaurants even features bo ssam, an entire pork butt dinner), spent his five days in South Korea exploring traditional vegetarian food that Korean Buddhist monks and nuns have eaten for centuries. In fact, according to the story, David Chang has become obsessed with vegetables over the last year or so. I’m wondering if we’ll see less pork and more vegetarian dishes appearing on Momofuku menus soon.

Having just been treated to a delicious Korean lunch by a friend of mine, I couldn’t wait to see what Korean vegetarian recipes David Chang came up with, inspired by his time with vegetarian monks and nuns. The two recipes that caught my eye immediately were the Shitake and Swiss Chard Soup with Hand-Cut Noodles and the Soothing Tofu and Zucchini Soup with Bean Sprouts. With all the cold weather (I can’t believe that it is still freezing outside!), Korean soups, with their deep flavors, are especially appealing.

I decided to try the Soothing Tofu and Zucchini Soup recipe first, which sounds like a mild version of one of my favorite winter soups, Korean Kim Chi Soup. This soup is known as Doenjang Chigae (sometimes spelled Daenjang Chigae) in Korean, or simply Korean Bean Paste Stew. I have to say I like David Chang’s name better, it’s much more appealing. Doenjang Chigae is a traditional Korean stew made with a Korean soybean paste called doenjang and an assortment of vegetables. It is considered to be Korean comfort food especially during the cold winter months. Korean soybean paste or doenjang is similar to miso but stronger and saltier in taste. Popular vegetables that are often included in Doenjang Chigae are zucchini, potato, carrots, squashes and turnips.

Doenjang Chigae or Korean Bean Paste Stew

Slightly adapted from David Chang’s recipe in Food and Wine, March 2011. David Chang’s recipe includes bean sprouts, but I didn’t have any, so I added some shitake mushrooms. This soup is very versatile, you can add an assortment of vegetables that you have on hand. I used organic tofu and vegetables for a “cleaner” soup. If you like it a bit spicy, just add some gochujang (Korean red pepper paste). To make this a heartier meal, serve with a bowl of brown rice.

Printable Recipe
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups water
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons doenjang (Korean soybean paste) or dark miso
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon Korean red pepper powder (kochukaru)or Aleppo chilies
1 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, and thinly sliced
4 shitake mushrooms, stems removed, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
14 ounces tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Garnish: scallions, chopped

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. 

Doenjang and Korean Red Pepper Powder Can Be Found At Most Asian Markets (You Can Also Substitute Miso for Doenjang and Aleppo Pepper for Korean Red Pepper Powder)

Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the water and doenjang and whisk until dissolved. Add the soy sauce, sugar, and red pepper powder, and bring to a boil. Add zucchini and mushrooms, and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. 

I added shitake mushrooms and zucchini, but feel free to add your favorite vegetables.

Add the tofu cubes and cook until heated through. 

I like organic tofu, made with non-GMO soybeans.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped scallions.
Serves 8.

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  1. Big Boys Oven says:

    I had been trying to master korean food, thanks for sharing

  2. Jeanette says:

    I'm sure you are already a master at Korean food based on all the amazing food I've seen you make!

  3. Jeannette – this looks really good. I have been enjoying Asian recipes lately, but not Korean. Looks like a trip to the Asian grocery is in order!

  4. Jeanette says:

    Thanks Marly! Korean food is one of my favorites, especially in the winter. Their soups and stews are really rich in flavor and so comforting.

  5. Great job it looks delicious.

  6. Jeanette says:

    Thanks Ryan, this and Korean Kim Chi Soup are so warming and tummy filling in the wintertime!

  7. hunterslyonesse says:

    Jeannette, that looks wonderful. I adore Korean food and miss the plate lunches I used to get from the many different Korean places back in Hawai`i. Since, going gluten-free, I have make my own kal bi and other dishes because there is no way to get that stuff gf safely in restaurants.

  8. Thanks Debi, I love Korean food too – the flavors are so rich and deep. Cooking yourself is the best way to ensure gluten-free, you never know what you're getting at the restaurant.

  9. LaPhemmePhoodie says:

    I've never had this type of soup before. Sounds incredible. Will definitely have to try it.

  10. Wendy- this is a great soup to dip your toes into Korean food. It's not spicy, just a bowl of comfort. Of course, if you like spicy food, it's easy to make it hot, just add more red pepper powder.

  11. Anonymous says:

    this is mostly serve with white rice..Korean prefer white japanese rice..You can also pair it with soju(korean liquor) Just right for winter..
    kim hae rim

  12. Hi, I stumbled on this website while googling David Chang. Anyway, being a korean myself and enjoying most all korean foods I noticed that the “bean paste” you used was not doenjang but jjajang, which is typically used as a base for jjajang-myun (korean/chinese black bean noodles). I don’t know if this was done on purpose or not?

    • Thanks for your comment. The bean paste I used says Soy Bean Paste on the label and is from Korean, so I thought this was doenjang, but sounds like it might not be the right bean paste. I will have to look for doenjang (looks like it might be a lighter color bean paste more similar to miso), and retry this recipe.

    • The package shows that ssamjang(쌈장) in korea, we normally use it as a paste for adding flavor for Korean BBQ, especially when we wrap some meats on fancy lettures. As I know Jajang is made with blackbean not soybean. Thanks.

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