Wednesday, July 29, 2015

budae-jjigae: been a while, but here we are again


What you see above is a bowl of the first budae-jjigae ever to be made at my current residence. It's been a long time since I celebrated with a serving of one of my all-time favorite Korean stews, and given that my time in Goyang is fast drawing to a close, I thought the moment had arrived to break out some goodness.

I'm never shy about quantity: the other night, when I came back to my place laden with a half-ton of goods from the local grocery, I discovered I had enough ingredients to make three huge pots of jjigae—enough to last over a week, possibly two, depending on how large of a bowl I decided to use. I'm now working my way through the whole thing; the above photo is of the second bowl of jjigae.

My buddy Tom loves budae-jjigae, but he also refuses to eat any vegetables. Most of Tom's friends wonder how he's managed to remain alive this long without veggies, but I've come to accept that his biology just happens to be radically different. So while making my budae batch, I got to thinking about what a Tom-friendly version of budae-jjigae might look like, and I think I've got it, even though it'd be expensive to make.

A Tom-approved budae-jjigae would start with regular budae. I'd make the entire thing the normal way, but right after that, I'd run the whole mess through a strainer because the point is to arrive at a budae-ful broth. With enough broth in the pot, I'd throw in another load of budae meats: ground beef, sliced hot dogs, and sliced spam. I'd also throw in some ddeok (rice cakes) and/or some chunks of potato (cooked potatoes aren't vegetables as far as Tom's palate is concerned), and/or a can of baked beans (ditto for the beans). If necessary—and I doubt it'd really be necessary—I'd add more spice and seasoning to the broth. Et voilà: budae-jjigae that's fit for a Tom.

This line of thinking led me to another: what if it were possible to deconstruct and recreate budae-jjigae as something en brochette? 부대 꼬치 budae ggochi: Budae on a stick! A Tom-friendly version of this would involve making a skewer that alternates grilled hunks of spam, hot dog, burger (I might use cubed steak instead, as it's easier to keep on a skewer), ddeok, and tofu. The sauce that I'd slather over the skewer would be a reduced, intensified version of regular budae-jjigae broth. Not sure whether I'd try sweetening such a sauce; that might go poorly. Or, since budae-jjigae is itself an East-West fusion dish, I might use some other kind of American sauce on the skewer.

Mental gears are turning...

FINAL NOTE: Atkins acolytes will be happy to note that budae-jjigae is both rib-sticking and extremely low in carbs as long as you leave out any beans, noodles (ramyeon is standard), rice cakes, and potatoes (potatoes aren't usually a part of budae-jjigae, anyway; I mentioned them, above, as a means of fortifying the soup for my buddy). According to one site, an entire bowl of budae has only 17 grams of carbs in it. If you're trying to keep your daily carb input under 30 grams, this isn't a bad dietary choice. At a guess, I'd say that most of the carbs come from the gochu-jang, i.e., the red-pepper paste that flavors the broth. This site shows that gochu-jang contains barley-malt powder, sweet-rice flour, and rice syrup—all very carby. But you don't need more than a couple large dollops of the paste to flavor an entire pot of stew, so the carbs get distributed throughout the entire thing. Don't focus too much on the question of what size "a bowl" is; focus instead on the fact that, however large a bowl might be, probably over 95% of that serving will not be carbs.


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