Vegan's Chronicles + [Vegan]

Vegan Kimchi Jjigae

Um, I think it's safe to say that we're well into summer now! It's time to put away our long sleeves and thick comforters, and instead, bare our pasty white skin, dust our shelves, and clean out our junk drawers with a thorough spring/summer cleaning. For many of us, this can also mean cleaning out the fridge of all those preserved food items that have been hiding out at the very back of your fridge and freezer all winter and spring. We gotta make room for plenty of fresh summer fruits and veggies!

If you're anything like a typical Korean, you have probably already finished all the gimjang kimchi that you made last year to last you through the cold winter months. If you have some winter-kimchi left and don't own a special kimchi refrigerator, it's probably best that you eat it all soon before it over-ferments to the point where it tastes like carbonated kimchi soda. Surprisingly, when I went down to Cheonan last week, my parents still had one final container of vegan kimchi that was just on the verge of becoming alcoholic, so we decided to turn it into some vegan kimchi jjigae!

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I have to say, it has been forever since I last had kimchi jjigye. I like it, but it's not my favorite soup (dwenjang jjigae all the way!), and besides, I prefer the crunchiness of cold, fresh kimchi rather than soft kimchi boiled in a hot soup. However, when you have overly ripe kimchi that is a little too sour to enjoy plain, it's actually perfect for soup. Here's a basic recipe for a veganized version of this quintessential spicy Korean dish. For the most part, this is just a general recipe for kimchi jjigae, so you can add as much or as little of any of the veggies as you like. Koreans also frequently add pork to the dish, but since we're veg*an and don't believe that pigs are food, we can use a meat substitute such as vegan ham or some tofu cubes. :)

Vegan Kimchi Jjigae
cooking time: 30 minutes
serves 4-6

2-3 cups chopped vegan kimchi, slightly squeezed
3 cups of vegan Korean soup stock (or water and 1 piece of dried kelp)
2 Tbs sesame seed oil
1/2 large onion
1 stalk of spring onion, chopped
1/2 block of tofu (or some vegan ham)
1 cup of maitake/enoki/shiitake mushrooms
1 green and red pepper, chopped (adjust amount to your preferred spice-level)
black pepper to taste (optional)

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First, in a large soup pot, heat the sesame seed oil over medium heat and then add the kimchi. Cook and stir for a few minutes. This will help to develop the flavors of the kimchi.

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Next, add about 3 cups of Korean soup stock. If you do not have stock already prepared, just use water and add a big piece of kelp, which is what we did. You can adjust the amount of liquid, depending on how thick or watery you like your jjigye. Note that the liquid will also slightly reduce by the end.

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Add the chopped onions and bring to a boil, about 15-20 minutes, or until the kimchi is fully softened. Make sure your pot is big enough to accommodate all the deliciousness, or your pot will threaten to bubble over like you see here!

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While the jjigye is boiling, drain your tofu cubes on a paper towel, so that it fries up faster. Frying the tofu is a totally optional step. I just like it when the tofu is a little chewy and has some more texture.

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Lightly fry them in a non stick pan til they are golden brown.

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Add the tofu and chopped scallions to the pot and continue to boil, about 5 minutes.

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Finally, add some chopped red and green peppers, a handful of maitake mushrooms, and a pinch of black pepper (optional). You can use any mushrooms you like, such as shiitake, enoki, oyster. Boil a few more minutes until the peppers are softened, and then it's done and ready to serve!

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Mm! If the outside temperature doesn't have you sweating yet, this spicy hot dish is sure to bring out the summer sweats. This dish is best enjoyed with a big bowl of brown rice and some other Korean banchans. :)