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CheongGukJang – Ultimate Stinky Ass Soup

NOTE: This is the “Dead Body Soup” that Andrew Zimmern tried on Bizarre Foods. This name comes from an urban legend of Korean students in Germany making the soup and the German neighbors calling the police, fearing that there was a dead body in the apartment. To know more about the filming of the South Korea episode, the foods and the restaurants, click here.

One of my favorite aspects of Korean cuisine is the stinky soybean pastes and soups, including Doenjang Jjigae, Ssamjang, and CheongGukJang 청국장. I had been wanting to figure out how to make this at home for a long time. I recently purchased some Korean cookbooks and thought I’d take the task of making a stinky soup. Besides, I finally had made my dashi.

Earlier in the week at the store, I had found this package of extra stinky soybean paste in what looked like a yogurt container. The cashier laughed when she rang it up and showed it to her fellow cashier, saying what I’m sure was, “Look what this crazy foreigner is buying.”

This is a blurry picture of what the inside looks like.

Since I finally was going to make this soup, I made it special by cooking it directly in the bowl — another cool whacky Korean idea. I put some dashi in the bowl and set it on medium flame.

I then added some chopped onions.

When it started to boil, I added some kimchi.

Then maybe three tablespoons of CheongGukJang paste.

After smoothly boiling it for a while, I finished it off with some mushrooms, chopped green onion, and tofu. You can add salt to taste, but the CheongGukJang paste and kimchi add a lot of salt to the soup already.

I carefully placed the boiling soup bowl on my commemorative “Dokdo is Ours” towel on a tray. This soup/stew is so strong, you need a bowl of rice to balance it. It’s funny because it has no meat in it (unless you count the anchovy essence in the dashi) yet it tastes like a meaty soup, like a chili or cheese soup. I am far from being a vegetarian, yet it feels wholesome to not need a greasy slab of flesh with every meal.

ADDENDUM: I told my girlfriend about my soup. She suggested to also add a dab of gochujang (red pepper paste), and throw in some thinly sliced hot peppers and garlic at the end.

CheongGukJang Jjigae

Rating: 41

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 2 bowls

Serving Size: 1 bowl

CheongGukJang Jjigae

The famous "dead body soup" from Korea (no dead bodies invoved--infact, it's vegetarian)


  • 3 Tbsp Cheonggukjang Paste
  • 2 cups Dashi (1 piece of thick stock seaweed boiled with a few dried anchovies, strained)
  • 1/2 cup Onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Kimchi, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Leeks, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 block Extra-firm Tofu, cubed
  • 1 tsp Gochugaru
  • 1 Tbsp Chile Peppers, thinly sliced


  1. Boil the dashi
  2. Add the onions, kimchi, and cheonggukjang paste and return to a boil for five minutes
  3. Add mushrooms and boil for two minutes
  4. Add leeks, tofu and gochugaru
  5. Garnish with sliced chili peppers


Author: ZenKimchi

Joe McPherson founded ZenKimchi in 2004. He has been featured and sourced in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, CNN, KBS, MBC, SBS, Le Figaro, Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia, Harper’s Bazaar Korea, The Chosun Weekly, and other Korean and international media. He has consulted for "Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain," The Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern,” Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler, the PBS documentary series “Kimchi Chronicles,” and other projects in the UK, Canadan, and Australia featuring celebrity chefs such as Gizzi Erskine and Gary Mehigan. Mr. McPherson has written for multiple Korean and international publications, including SEOUL Magazine, JoongAng Daily, The Korea Herald, Newsweek Korea and wrote the feature article for U.S. National publication Plate magazine’s all-Korean food issue. He has acted as dining editor for 10 Magazine and was on the judging panel for Korea for the Miele Guide. He spoke at TEDx Seoul on Korean food globalization, at TED Worldwide Talent Search on the rise of Korean cuisine, and in New York City on Korean Buddhist temple cuisine. The company ZenKimchi International organizes food tours for tourists and corporations and acts as a media liaison for foreign and Korean media and local restaurants and producers.

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  • vjchang

    Ha! Love this post. I grew up with the stinky stuff. Never bothered to individually identify any of it until i was older and realized that yeah, the stinky shit is GOOD. most of the time.

    found your blog recently. it’s great fun. and great to get a new perspective.

  • ZenKimchi

    Thanks VJ! It’s great to find others who love the “stinky stuff.”

  • Kathy

    ooohh…mmmm…that looks great!

  • L

    Ooh, that is a family favorite of ours. It’s so delicious, even if it does smell like feet.

  • Jungs

    hi, i’ve been dropping by now and then.
    food, mmmm. love the stuff. and i can never get enough korean food. i wish my husband liked kimchi. : ) he still thinks it smells like rotten garbag.

  • ZenKimchi

    Mmm… rotten garbage…

  • ZenKimchi

    It takes a special person to like fermented foods. I wonder if it comes from a genetic survival need of our ancestors. From what I’ve read, some foods supply us with more nutrients in fermented form, along with the obvious benefit of boosting our immune systems.

  • Jungs

    yeah, “rotten garbag”. I eventually had to tell him not make any comments when I’ve had the kimchi jar out. he’s been kind enough to oblige me. and i don’t think he’d believe the health benefits of kimchi, though it had crossed my mind to mention it to him. : ) thankfully he loves spicey food though!

  • nergui

    Hi, I just found your blog after googling “oyster stew” images. You food descriptions are great, images helpful. I’m a foodie too, lived in Korea (Seoul and Namhae Do) for a while and am also from the gulf coast (Pensacola). This is a great site, keep up the good work.
    Since I haven’t read through the entire blog, have you explored the food cart issue yet? You know, all the different fish sticks and sticky cakes for snacks? Thanks for sharing your experiences in Korea. It’s has the best food! What I wouldn’t give for some crispy spicy chicken and a cold, cold beer.

  • ZenKimchi

    I really want to do food carts. Usually when I’m at a food cart, I don’t have my camera. Bad habit. Some of us have been talking about doing street food walking tours in Seoul. I’ve done a bit about odeng and the Crab Man. I want to do more.

    maryeats.com has a good video on street food.

  • http://www.homecookingdiary.com Korean cooking

    At least in my life, I have seen more women than men who love this “ddong jjigae.”

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  • Aly Woolfrey

    I love Cheonggukjang, but I have to chime in and say that it is NOT vegetarian unless you make the stock sans anchovy, and even then vegetarians have to be careful to make sure they get a kimchi variety that hasn’t been made with fish sauce or by throwing fish right in there with the kimchi. It’s pescetarian (sometimes, but rarely, known as pesco vegetarian). Vegetarian as a standard (also known as lacto-ovo vegetarian) avoids anything that requires the death of an animal to make, like broth made from dried fish or gummy candy made from horse hooves.

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