what i talk about when i talk about homemade kimchi stew
I'm still getting over the gluey aftermath of the week-long cold that hit me upon my return to the Denver area. I'm very, very sore from yesterday's yoga-for-derby-skaters session, which, possibly because the yoga instructor knew her audience, turned out to be more of a two-hour conditioning session masquerading as a yoga session. Also there is a lot of snow outside.
Good thing I have a ton of leftover kimchi-jjigae in my refrigerator.
This is a statement requiring several caveats. Or possibly one big caveat, from which all the other caveats flow, which is to say, I made the stuff, so don't expect a high level of fidelity to the recipe as written.
I use Maangchi's recipe, which is a good place to start. Possibly the best place to start. Maanchi's blog is my absolute go-to for all Korean cuisine. Read it, love it, bookmark it, eat it, order the cookbooks, watch all the videos. She's wonderful, and she makes a point to lead her non-Korean fans gently by the hand through the maze of unfamiliar cultural touchstones and unfamiliar ingredients labeled in an unfamiliar language. Her recipes are great, is what I'm saying.
It's when the recipe falls into my hands that all the trouble starts.
First off, I don't pay much attention to ingredient proportions. I mean, it's soup. Stew, actually, not that this changes much. I approach kimchi-jjigae with the same mindset as I approach all soup recipes, which is this: It's soup. It is not baking. It does not rely on precise chemistry. It will tolerate variation and substitution. In fact, this is how I approach a lot of recipes that aren't soup. I've substituted yellow squash for carrots in tomato soup because I had squash and not carrots in the house at the time and the whole thing was going through the blender anyway. I substitute parsley for cilantro in any recipe calling for cilantro because I don't like cilantro, and I will substitute carrot greens for parsley if I have the one on hand but not the other. I'll typically double any recipe's call for garlic or green onions, because there's nothing in my opinion that can't be improved thereby. There are things I won't bother measuring because life's too short. It all turns out fine, but it's worth knowing, if you're ever in a position to eat stuff I cook, that this is how I cook.
So my kimchi-jjigae wound up with a full package of tofu rather than half a package, because I don't do tofu by the half package. It also wound up with two and a quarter pounds of pork belly rather than a half pound, because after defrosting the slab of meat I'd rather not put myself on the "use the rest before it goes bad" doomsday countdown. Besides, I like pork belly. I also like green onions quite a bit, as mentioned above, so I put most of a bunch in the pot where the recipe called for two, and most of the rest of the bunch in at the end where the recipe called for one. And then I'm not sure how close I got to the recommended pound of kimchi plus quarter cup kimchi brine, because I didn't bother weighing, draining, or otherwise measuring the contents of the two jars of kimchi I had in the fridge before I dumped it all in.
Those two jars consisted of one (1) jar of McCauley Family Farm's "radish root chi" and one (1) jar of Farm Hand's Organic Spicy Napa Kimchi. Neither of these contains fish sauce, so I glugged a generous glug of fish sauce into the pot. Neither is as spicy as I really want, either, so where the recipe called for two teaspoons hot pepper flakes I used two tablespoons. I'm not even sure how much gochujang I used; I carved out, with difficulty, a big lump of what was in the very outdated tub in the fridge, and figured it would dissolve eventually like bouillon. (Look, how bad can outdated gochujang go? It is made of hot pepper! Over time it stops being a paste and starts being a sort of sticky lava rock, but, hey, no big deal, I just start using a knife on it instead of a spoon.) The results still weren't hot enough for me, so there may be more of each added during subsequent stovetop reheats.
Oh! About that pork belly. It came from 63rd Street Farm. They do meat shares, and then any pork not already earmarked for meat shares gets sold to general CSA members on share pick-up day. I bought some. 63rd Street Farm also provided the daikon radishes, two of which I added in an attempt to approximate the anchovy stock flavor without actually making the anchovy stock featured in Maangchi's kimchi-jjigae recipe. (I also added about a teaspoon anchovy paste. Someone commented in asking Maangchi about substituting anchovy paste for dried anchovies. Maangchi said no. If you can't get dried anchovies, better to just skip the anchovy stock entirely and use beef or chicken stock instead. My answer to that was, I'M USING ANCHOVY PASTE AND YOU CAN'T STOP ME. But I did also toss in a big lump of Better Than Bouillon roasted beef base, just to hedge my bets.) I'll probably pickle the rest of the daikon radish I got from my CSA share according to this other recipe from Maangchi; it actually calls for Korean radish rather than daikon but I'm willing to take my chances.
In defrosting and slicing up that pork belly, I learned a thing! This has been your random biological fact of the day.
Anyway, point is: When I say I'm making kimchi-jjigae, this is a random example of how the process might go. Having been warned, if you're still interested in having any, come on over. But do it soon if you're doing it because it might all be gone by tomorrow evening.
(I'm not opposed to making more, mind you. It's not like it's going to get any less winter outside for the next few months.)