|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.
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.