Kimchi Jigae (Korean Spicy Cabbage Soup)

This is a vegan (perhaps 'North American') version of a classic Korean dish. When my husband and I lived in Korea, we used to order a big bowl of this with almost every meal. Kimchi is a popular staple, if not the cultural 'food emblem' of Korea. I hated it at first because it was so spicy and I have never been a big fan of cabbage (especially fermented cabbage at that), but I grew to really love it. To me, kimchi is not only a healthy, delicious side, but a labor of love. A lot of work goes into kimchi; time, patience, and an understanding for flavors. That's why it is worth trying, especially in this soup. This soup is filled with yummy veggies, and is flavored mainly by the kimchi. It is spicy, but you can make it milder by adding less kimchi, and pepper paste. Kimchi isn't as difficult to find as you may think. Other than the obvious Asian food market, you can also purchase it at better natural food stores (since it is said that Kimchi has a variety of health benefits).

Ingredients (serves 6):
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp vegan butter, or margarine
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 onion, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 large potatoes, chopped into chunks
1/2 cup chopped fried tofu (or regular firm tofu, or more of your favorite vegetables)
5 cups vegetable stock (inauthentic, but I like the flavor)
1 1/2 cups kimchi, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tbsp soy sauce
1-2 tbsp seasoned rice wine vinegar, or to taste
1-2 tsp red pepper paste, or to taste (either the Korean chili paste, but you can also use a hot sauce like Saracha)

1) Saute the onions and salt in oil, and butter until translucent. Add the mushrooms, sauteing until they begin to brown slightly (5 minutes). Add the potatoes, sauteing shortly (about 3 minutes). Add all of the other ingredients (except for the vinegar and red pepper paste), and allow the soup to simmer until the potatoes are cooked through (25-30 minutes). Finish with the vinegar, and the red pepper paste, to taste. Enjoy!
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