Bean Paste Stew with Sweet Potato Leaves
If there is one dish that is truly representative of authentic Korean cooking, doenjang jjigae—fermented soybean paste stew—is it. Like your mother’s chicken noodle soup, it’s the one thing most Korean kids crave when they are homesick or feeling under the weather. There is no one standard recipe for doenjang jjigae; the ingredients used in the dish are as diverse as the people who make it. One thing is for sure—do not criticize someone’s mamma’s stew unless you want to start a family feud. Koreans love this dish as much as they love their mothers.
Similar to miso, doenjang is a fermented soybean paste. Deonjang, which means “thick paste,” has a more intense, rustic flavor than miso. Doenjang is known for its slightly sour and salty flavor. The fermented soybean paste is good for you as well. Studies have shown that doenjang may even have an anti-carcinogenic effect. During the fermentation process, a variety of beneficial bacteria is created. One of these bacteria is the bacillus bacterium, which can act as an anti-carcinogen. In Korea, doenjang is eaten in many dishes and as a condiment. Doenjang jjigae is by far the most popular way to eat the fermented soybean paste.
The stew is made from available ingredients such as vegetables, mushrooms, seafood and tofu. There is not a right or wrong way to make it. My mother’s version of the stew always includes summer squash (zucchini), potatoes and tofu. The stock base also consists of kelp and dried fish. My version uses what I have seasonally in my garden and I choose to skip the fish and kelp (I can hear my mother scoffing at me). I like to add some sort of hearty green to my stew. This year I am experimenting with sweet potato leaves—you can use other greens such as chard and kale if you do not have access to sweet potato leaves. My stew is vegetarian, vegan-friendly and my kids love it.
- 2 cups water
- 2 tbsp **doenjang (soybean paste)
- 1/2 package firm tofu, cut into cubes
- 1/2 cup of onion diced
- 2 cups of zucchini diced
- 1 cup of potato diced
- 1 tsp **Korean chili flakes
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 jalapeno, sliced
- 2 green onions, chopped (for garnish)
- A handful of sweet potato leaves, julienned
Bring the 2 cups of water to boil in a saucepan.
Add the doenjang paste to the pot. Mix well with a whisk so it is incorporated into the water. Add onion, zucchini, potato, chili flakes and bring them to a gentle boil. Cook until the potatoes and squash are tender.
Add tofu, garlic, sweet potato leaves, sliced jalapeno and cook for 2 minutes.
**If you do not have access to a Korean grocery store in your area, both deonjang and Korean chili powder are available to purchase online from retailers like Hmart and Amazon.