Korean Bean Paste and Vegetable Stew

New York City has over one million Asian Americans residing in New York City. Wait, let me put it this way, New York City has more Asian Americans than San Francisco AND Los Angeles combined!  You would think this city would have spawned countless irresistible, line-provoking eateries of Asian specialties.  Unfortunately for me, that is just not the case. Korea ‘town’ in NYC is really 32nd street between Broadway and 5th Ave. There are random strip malls in Los Angeles that have better restaurants than what is housed on 32nd. I guess the positive side to this is its challenge to me: to increase my Asian cooking repertoire.  My neighborhood in Brooklyn has handfuls of mediocre Thai restaurants but Korean restaurants? Well, I think I saw a sign at a random sandwich deli with their sandwich board claiming it serves bibimbap. So what do I do to solve this dilemma? I get a zipcar and drive out to Super H-Mart in New Jersey and spend hours perusing their aisles  trying to determine which of the five brands of one product is best. To someone who is a sucker for great packaging, I always go with the one with the prettiest label OR if there’s a photo of an individual, it shows accountability. Anyhow, here is my attempt at Doenjang Jjigae!

Ingredients

  • Kombu, 1 generous piece
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 1 lb of potatoes
  • 2-3 Zucchini squash
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tablespoon Korean bean paste
  • 1/4 cup Japanese miso paste
  • Tin of Anchovies (optional)
  • Mushrooms, cleaned
  • Carton of organic tofu, firm
  • Canola oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Green onions

Prepare your mise en place by slicing the potatoes (and soaking in a bowl of water), squash, and onions.In a large soup pot, boil 5 cups of water. When the water is bubbling, add the kombu and cook for 10 minutes. Be sure to remove the kombu and set it aside.  Add sliced potatoes into pot and lower heat to medium-high. In a medium-large pan coated in canola oil, saute the onions til translucent, about 8 minutes over low heat.  While the onions are cooking, prepare the stew paste by combining garlic, both pastes and anchovies with enough water in blender or food processor. Transfer paste into a bowl and add a ladle full of soup stock to thin out the paste. If you are not including the anchovies, I recommend replacing it something that is very high in sodium, salt or soy sauce.

        

Check back on the onions; once they are translucent, almost golden brown, add the squash and peppers to the pan and drizzle some sesame oil and salt, then give the vegetables a good mix.

While the vegetables are cooking, slice the mushrooms. In this soup, I like to include shiitake and crimini. Oh, how mushrooms are so beautiful!!

Transfer all the vegetables from the pan into the soup pot. Then mix in the paste into the soup and lower the heat to a medium. You do not want the soup to be bubbling. Retrieve the kombu to julienne into thin strips. I like to add this because there remains many amazing nutrients in the fiber even though the kombu gave its best flavor to the broth.

Let the soup simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes. Check to be sure the vegetables, especially the mushroom have finished cooking, then turn off heat and let the soup set for at least 5 minutes. Top with scallions and a coarser salt to serve with rice.

Happy eats!

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