Vegan Doenjang Jigae (된장 찌개) Recipe
I’m a BIG fan of doenjang jjigae (된장 찌개). I could eat it almost every meal. At the multi-course full meals served by han-jung-shik restaurants, doenjang jjigae is often treated almost like an afterthought, but it’s always been a star attraction dish for me. My mother-in-law makes a really yummy doenjang jjigae. The problem with her cooking is that she so strongly uses son-maht (hand-taste) that she always says she doesn’t have a recipe. So the last time we were in Korea (wow, it’s been almost exactly two years now, due to the preparation and arrival of the baby), I made sure to watch how she made her doenjang jjigae so that I could do my best to replicate it. Sunnie also make me doenjang jjigae all the time, so she also had a secret ingredient to add an additional depth to the stew – pickled peppers!
So this recipe is my take on a recipe after watching Sunnie and her mom make me doenjang jjigae. However, there is definitely a son-maht approach to this dish as the strength of the jjigae depends on how much doenjang you put in it at the end. I tend to like really strong flavors, so I use a lot. Sunnie usually prefers more simple flavors, so she might use less. It’s entirely up to you, but there are a couple of tricks I figured out to make this simple dish fantastic!
Vegan Doenjang Jigae Recipe
(serves 2 as a main dish, or 4 as part of a multi-course meal)
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 medium potato, chopped
1 medium korean squash (hobak) or zucchini, chopped
1 bunch of enoki mushrooms, with root end chopped off
1/2 block of medium firmness tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pickled pepper
water or kombu broth to cover
doenjang to taste (approximately 2-5 Tbs, depending on desired strength of flavor)
- Put chopped potato and onion in a pan, cover with water or kombu broth, and bring to a boil. We usually just use water, but if you want a bit more flavor, you can first boil a piece of kombu sea-weed, something we do with many of our jjigaes to create a broth. Alternatively, if you are short on time you can just add the piece of kombu and bring to a boil with the other ingredients.
- Once the potatoes and onions are nearly cooked, add the hobak (or zucchini if you don’t have access to Korean squash) and the pickled pepper. This is Sunnie’s secret ingredient; it is optional if you can’t find it but definitely adds more depth to the flavor. If you can’t find it, you can use a regular green Korean pepper or a jalapeno if you have nothing else. Continue to boil until all ingredients are cooked. Here is omanim’s secret: you want to boil the potatoes and onions quite well until the potatoes are soft enough to almost be breaking apart. This adds potato starch and thickens the stew.
- Turn down the heat and add the desired amount of doenjang. Mix in the doenjang well. Doenjang is very good for you and super high in probiotics, so you don’t want to boil it too long in high heat, as it will kill the beneficial bacteria.
- Add the mushrooms, tofu and bring it briefly to a boil.
- It’s ready to serve with rice and other banchan!
This is the doenjang we use. There are multiple good brands, but you really have to just kind of taste to see what you like. Even the same brand’s doenjang can taste significantly different as it continues to ferment, so it can taste different depending on when you buy it.
Remember to cook the potatoes and onions first so that they are well done. If you add the other ingredients too soon, they will get overcooked. Cooking down the potatoes and onions will produce a strong flavor and enough starch to thicken the stew.
Remember not to boil the doenjang at too high of a heat too long in order to preserve the vitality of the priobiotic bacteria. Add it and taste to get the desired strength of flavor – a lot of doenjang to make it very strong if you’re like me or less to have it more mild if you prefer more simple flavors like Sunnie. Enjoy!