It’s been years since I’ve been allowed to cook Cheonggukjang Jjigae in the house. Actually, I’ve never been allowed to cook it since EJ and I moved in together in 2006. She actually wasn’t a fan of it until this past year when I started getting back into ordering it when we went out for lunch.
This is the famous “dead body soup” that was on Bizarre Foods. It’s not called that, but there’s an urban legend that Koreans in Germany made it in their apartment, and their neighbors called the police, fearing there was a dead body in the apartment because of the smell.
I’ve not only gotten used to the smell, it really gets me going. It’s as rustic Korean as you can get. Barely crushed soybeans that have just started fermenting. They haven’t had time to mellow into doenjang. The taste reminds me of pinto beans as a kid.
In markets they market it by its freshness, sold in disc-shaped cakes or in small tubs like yogurt. In fact, you can make your own Cheonggukjang in a yogurt maker. Someday I may tackle that project.
EJ has been houseridden much of the time because the baby’s so young. She’s been depending on me to shop for groceries, but it’s hard to figure what you want when you’re not in the store. Her diet has been super boring. At least the MiyeokGuk stage is over. It was only in this state of desperation that I was allowed to cook some Cheonggukjang that I had brought home. EJ loved it, and now I’m allowed to cook it in the house.
I had written a recipe for this in the early days. It’s been revised a bit.
1 package Cheonggukjang
1 piece Dried Kelp for stock, aka Dashima (approx. 5-inches x 5-inches)
10 Anchovies, dried
Oil for stir frying
1/2 cup Kimchi, aged
1/2 Onion, sliced
3 cloves Garlic, sliced or chopped
1/2 Zucchini, sliced
4 Shiitake Mushrooms, sliced
1 Fresh Chillie, sliced
1 tsp. Gochugaru
200 g Tofu, sliced
- Rinse the Kelp and put it in 3 cups cold water with the Anchovies. Bring to a boil.
- Strain and reserve the stock.
- Heat the oil in a pot and fry the Kimchi, Onion and Garlic until the onion gets a little transparent.
- Add the Cheonggukjang and stir fry some more.
- Add the stock and bring to a boil.
- Add the Zucchini, Mushrooms, Chillie, Gochugaru and Tofu. Boil for 3 minutes.
- Take the heat down and skim the scum off the surface.
- Serve with rice.
I read somewhere that cheonggukjang uses the same bacterial culture as Japanese natto: Bacillus subtilis. What’s the difference? They interchangeable?
Wow! Challenging question. I looked on some Korean websites that made both Natto and Cheonggukjang. The main difference I saw was that natto beans were generally left whole while cheonggukjang was mashed a bit. I’ve eaten both, and they do smell and taste similar.
So, I think it’s time to test some recipes….
The only obstacle is my wife.
Good post, now I’m craving! I’ve never really had a problem with the smell (my significant other can’t stand it either) and I’m not even close to being Korean 😀 Fermented foods are just all sorts of win in my books :)))
Thank you for sharing this recipe, I love fermented soybeans in all their forms- natto, miso, doenjang, and enjoyed this soup immensely the first time I had it in Korea. I don’t see this being a dish I can readily find when I’m back in the states so having the option to make it will be great! Might serve as a smelly bit of revenge against my mean MIL too 😉
Funny you posted this now. I just made my first batch of Cheonggukjang Jjigae in years just now.