Making Budae Jjigae (부대찌게) / Army Base Stew

It’s been a jjigae kind of week here, with all the downpour. Today is no different. Budae jjigae, or Korean army base stew, was an invention of necessity during and after the Korean war. People made this dish by combining leftover Spam and hot dogs from U.S. Army facilities (hence its other name, “Johnson tang”), and mixed it with whatever else that was available. All the ingredients were combined with water and red pepper seasoning in a large pot and boiled. Essentially, it’s a hot and spicy stew with one packet of ramen and a sliced of processed cheese slapped on top, with the seasoning packet chucked out and chock-filled with pseudo-healthy proteins and vegetables and shared between 2 or 3 people. Not very photogenic, but excellent for the nippy weather (and your wallet) and possibly a good hangover cure.


[ 3 cups low sodium chicken broth + 2 tablespoon gochujang + 2 teaspoon gochugaru + 1 teaspoon sesame oil + 1 teaspoon soy sauce + 2 garlic cloves, minced + 100g minced beef + 3-4 sausages, score lightly and slice into thirds + 150g tofu, sliced + 1 onion, sliced + 1 cup kimchi + 6 mushrooms, sliced + a handful of baby bok choy or other greens you like + a bunch of spring onions, chopped + 1 packet of Korean instant ramen  + 1-2 slices of processed cheese + 1 tin baked beans (I’m using kidney beans) ] Note: I didn’t use Spam because there wasn’t a kosher alternative for one here. You can just add more sausages (which I did) if you like.

In a bowl, mix together the gochujang, gochugaru, sesame oil, soy sauce and minced garlic. Add in the minced beef and mix to combine, being careful not to mush up the beef too much.

Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a saucepan.

Arrange other ingredients except cheese and ramen in a wide, flat bottom saucepan, claypot or heatproof casserole dish. Put the gochujang beef mixture on top. Add the prepared soup base to the ingredients and bring stew to a boil over medium heat.

Reduce heat and simmer covered for 10 minutes. Add the ramen (without the seasoning) to the stew. Simmer uncovered for another 3-5 minutes. Add cheese and simmer till cheese melts. Top with a sprinkle of chopped green onions, sesame seeds and a drizzle of sesame oil.

Serve hot with rice (double carbin’ yo) and banchans.