Budae-jjigae is my favorite dish. This hearty stew was a creation of US Army rations post World War II – sliced hot dogs, vegetable dumplings, Spam, kimchi, tofu, ground pork, baked beans, green onions, ramen, sliced rice cake, bean sprouts, a slice of cheese, and red pepper paste. Today, it’s an inexpensive and filling meal that makes a great lunch or dinner.
Cooked and ready to eat
Other ingredients are available a la carte. A few shops offer unlimited ramen, and all serve side dishes such as bean sprouts and kimchi. There’s a popular local chain called Nolboo that serves variations of the dish, though I find mom-and-pop shops to be better. Supermarkets offer pre-made types in the refrigerated section as well as stock to make the broth. It’s not difficult to prepare and it’s an easy meal to customize to your tastes.
In Seoul, it’s easy to find 24-hour budae-jjigae restaurants, some of which deliver. And as with most Korean stews, a minimum of two people is required. Cost: About 5,000-8,000Won per person
Today’s Korea Times reports that spicy Korean ramen is taking off in the US. Japanese companies have thrived in the market for years but tastes are expanding and interest grows in spicy Korean-style ramen. Complete story here.
The word ramen is used for all kinds of instant noodles:
컵누들 (keop-nudeul) – cup of noodles, any style of noodles in a cup 칼국수 (kalguksu) – knife-cut wheat noodles, traditionally handmade, not here though 우동 (udong) – thick wheat noodles, comes from the Japanese word ‘udon‘
Chopped green onions, sliced rice cake, sliced fish cake, and a fried-egg are commonly added to enhance the flavor and texture. Many Koreans will admit to eating ramen two or more times per week since it’s cheap and easy to make (especially men who can’t cook). My favorite dish, 부대찌개 (budae-jjigae), normally comes with it too. And although ramen makes a tasty snack, it’s high in fat, sodium, and calories.
One of the healthy benefits of Korean cuisine is the abundance of fermented foods such as kimchi, doenjang, and gochujang. And let’s not forget all the pickled side dishes. Did you know that fermentation occurs naturally during the pickling process?
During the fermentation process nutrients go undamaged and the food stays healthy in it’s raw form. Korean dishes are not just healthy; they demonstrate a unique and distinct taste that becomes addictive with time. I’ve been eating Korean meals almost exclusively for 9 years can feel the benefits. Koreans also eat few processed foods. Since the cost of labor is relatively low, most dishes are made from scratch. I’ve tried very few processed boxed or bagged meals with the exception of ramen, spam, and fish cake ^^. Sadly, all three of these are found in my favorite dish. Can you guess what it is?
One thing to watch out for in Korean food is your sodium intake. This is because sea salt is the critical ingredient in pickling.
Fermentation = 발효 (bal-hyo) Processed food = 가공 식품 (gagong sikpum)