Saturday, July 07, 2012


The inspection of my apartment went well. I passed "with flying colors," according to the evaluators-- which I take to mean that I'm not keeping my place in a slovenly, third-world manner. The inspectors weren't anything like what I had imagined: instead of a gang of rough-looking dudes, the VHDA team consisted of two pleasant, bright-eyed older ladies who stepped gingerly into my place and asked to test my fire alarm and inspect my ventilation system. They chirped about my budae-jjigae, which was burbling on the range. "Smells good!" they said, and I told them the story behind the stew's invention. On their way out, the ladies told me that it had been a pleasure talking with me; the whole thing was over in three minutes.

I may as well digress and tell you the story of my budae's tragedy and triumph. The soup tasted pretty good yesterday, but it felt as if something were missing. I realized what that was when I opened my fridge this morning and saw the bottle of crushed garlic sitting in the fridge door's shelf. "Garlic! Dammit!" I barked to no one in particular. So I cracked open the bottle, slopped a few heaping tablespoonfuls of garlic into the stew, and boiled it for a few minutes.

Bad move, that.

I'd put in way too much garlic, thus rendering the stew inedible. Moments passed while I stood in my kitchen, depressed, pondering what to do. Eventually, I decided to try a rescue worthy of any salvage operation on Food Network's Chopped: I would rinse out the stew ingredients with water and redo the broth. Thus began Operation Budae-Jjigae Salvation.

I took down my huge roasting pan-- the one that can hold a twenty-five-pound turkey. I dumped the budae into the pan, then poured an entire pitcher of water into the stew, thinning it out considerably. I then retrieved my best friend, Mr. Slotted Spoon, and started scooping out soup solids, shaking the solids so as to dislodge any granules of garlic. The process took about twenty minutes, but I managed to get rid of most of the garlic this way. I told myself that any garlic cling-ons would simply add a more subtle, garlicky taste to the remade stew.

With the soup solids back in the large-capacity frying pan, I dumped out the roasting pan, washed it, and started up the burner under the frying pan. I then mixed up some beef broth with the dashida bouillon from my pantry, glopped in some gochujang, and threw in a mighty fistful of red chili powder.

It all came together quite nicely, especially once I added more sliced hot dogs and the last three-quarters of a pound of ground beef. In fact, the budae tasted better than it had the first time around. All in all, a good save. The inspection ladies came in while the rescued batch of budae was burbling: no oppressive garlic odor for them to deal with, thank goodness.

Later in the day, I made chamchi-jjigae-- tuna stew. That turned out rather nicely, and I've got enough leftover fresh ingredients to make a third soup: kongnamul-guk, or soybean sprout soup. With three huge tubs of soup at my disposal, I'll have enough food for three weeks-- all for $90. 42 servings for $90 comes out to a little more than $2 per serving. Not bad, all in all.


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