Thursday, February 12, 2009

Soybean paste stew

Back before JunkMale and I were married, I posted a recipe for Soybean paste stew (된장찌개 "dwen-jang jji-gae"). It was one of my first try at making the dish, and it did turn out okay. But I must admit that I liked the version I made tonight a lot better. That could be because I used beef this time (I left it out the first time) and I kept the recipe a lot simpler.

So what exactly is dwenjang? As I understand it, as soybeans are fermented they separate into the liquids (made into soy sauce) and the solids (made into pastes like dwenjang or miso). So although fermented soybean paste sounds really disgusting (to me at least), just think of it as solid soy sauce. Of course, this comparison only works if you eat real soy sauce and not the caramel colored salt water my parents have in their refrigerator. (Mom and Dad, I would like you to know that I bought you some real soy sauce earlier this week, which you can have the next time we see you. Caramel color is nowhere to be found, and salt is only the third ingredient. The first ingredient is 탈지대두 - defatted soybean.)

Dwenjang and miso are both supposedly healthy for you. They are full of antioxidants and all the good fats that were in the soybeans. They also have probiotics, but I imagine most of them get destroyed by the boiling water. Of course, they also have high levels of umame, the non-essential (but still useful) amino acid, glutamic acid, responsible for the savory taste associated with MSG.

My dad might recognize this as being a much less spicy version of the tofu stew he had on Sunday. My mom would be happy to know that by simply avoiding the hot peppers, this dish is not at all spicy. The recipe says it feeds 2, but we only ate half of the soup for one meal because we had a lot of side dishes to go along with it. So here's the new recipe, shamelessly taken from here:

Dwenjang Jjigae (Soybean Paste Stew) for 2
(adjust recipe size up to feed your family)

1/2 cup beef, sliced thin*
2 cups water
1/4 of a large onion (1/2 of a small), sliced
1 1/2 Tbs fermented soybean paste**
1/4 of a zucchini OR 1/2 cup of daikon or Korean radish, sliced
4 mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/4 of a jalapeño, sliced
1/4 package soft tofu, chopped into good-sized cubes

1. Bring beef and onions to a boil in the water. Cook for 5 minutes.
2. Add the soybean paste and stir until combined.
3. Add everything else except the tofu and boil for another 5 minutes.
4. Mix in the tofu, boil for an additional 2 minutes and serve.

*The beef is much easier to slice thin if it is partially or fully frozen.
**I wrote in another post a while back about using miso as a substitute for Korean soybean paste. Use a darker miso if it is available in your store. However, even regular miso should provide an adequate substitute.

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