Korean Food

An Essay About One Lady’s Obsession With Kimchi Jjigae

I’m sitting at a small, round table set for two. The restaurant does not have many patrons; in fact, only two of the eight tables are occupied. This is typical of my favorite Korean food hangout, Seoul Garden (or Kimchi Jjigae Heaven, as I like to refer to it.)

It’s one of the reasons I love it. It feels like my little secret, one that perplexes my loved ones. “It smells bad”, they say. “You’re just eating rice and rotten cabbage”, they exclaim. But oh, they just don’t understand. This restaurant isn’t just a place that serves culinary masterpieces from across the globe.

This is the place that serves the best Kimchi Jjigae, a dish that has changed my life. When I speak of it, people ask if a simple dish can really change your life. I say yes, Kimchi Jjigae has a rare ability to fix any ailment I may have; it’s my cure-all food, and the most delicious culinary creation my mouth has ever tasted.

Kimchi Jjigae

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What is Kimchi Jjigae?

Kimchi Jjigae is a Korean stew made with kimchi (fermented cabbage), pork, and tofu. All joined together with more mouthwatering ingredients by a tastefully complex broth, causing sensory overload.

When I have a headache, I order Kimchi Jjigae. When I have a sinus infection, I know Kimchi Jjigae will clear it up. If I am feeling blue, I go to my favorite hangout, get a small table in the corner and order my stew, knowing it will cheer me up.

Nothing makes me feel better than sipping the savory broth, feasting on the tender meat and tofu, and enjoying the harmony of ingredients that this stew offers.

gochugaru
Gochugaru (Hot Pepper Powder)- an absolute necessity in Korean cooking

Kimchi Jjigae- Sensory Overload

I can smell my meal before it reaches my table. The warm, spicy scents of hot pepper powder and cabbage attack my nostrils. I wish that I could capture the scent in an air freshener and have my home smell that way all the time.

My eyes begin to tingle in anticipation of the spiciness and sharpness of the dish. The kimchi, onions, and other vegetables simmered together give the dish a strong scent that creates a feeling of comfort that rivals that of a home-cooked meal made by my mother.

As my waitress carefully sets the hot dolsot (stone bowl) in front of me, the broth of the stew is still boiling. I want to dive right in, but I know I will burn myself if I don’t give it sufficient time to cool off.

Seoul Garden Kimchi Jjigae
Best Kimchi Jjigae Ever! Seoul Garden- Copperas Cove, TX

It’s So Tempting

While I’m waiting for the stew to cool, I sneak small amounts of the broth onto my spoon and eat it with sticky rice. The stew is the most beautiful culinary dish I have ever laid eyes upon. Its dark red broth is like fire breathed out of the mouth of the dragon hanging on the wall above my chair.

As I stir the broth and watch the ingredients combine, I witness the deep red color turn to a rustic orange. The green of the scallions and white of the onions show brightly in the background.

Chunks of tofu and round slices of rice cakes compete in the background, creating a texture of depth. The cabbage and pork fight for attention amidst all of the other delightful ingredients.

Finally, my stew is cool enough for me to take my first real bite. As soon as the hot, spicy liquid hits my tongue I can feel my sinuses begin to tingle. The broth is so spicy my ears begin to burn.

Homemade Kimchi Jjigae
My attempt at homemade Kimchi Jjigae (not bad, but definitely not the best)

If you feel adventurous and want to try it for yourself, check it this video tutorial!

A True Culinary Experience

My nose starts to run and I am forced to shovel sticky rice into my mouth to ease the assault on my tongue. The combination of chili powder and sesame oil creates a savory, rich flavor. The kimchi has a slight vinegar taste and is toned down by the nuttiness of the sesame oil.

The soft chunks of tofu melt in my mouth and contrast nicely with the crunchiness of the vegetables. The chewiness of the slimy, white rice cakes compliments the tender chunks of pork as I chew.

I am disappointed when I see the bottom of the bowl. My mouth is begging for more, but my stomach is signaling surrender. I have once again filled myself to the point of having to loosen my clothes in an effort to sit comfortably.

As I prepare to leave, I take note of the absence of a headache or sinus infection, and the blues that I may have been feeling an hour before are not even evident. Kimchi Jjigae truly is my cure-all meal.

Now that I’ve given you an insanely intimate peek into my love of food, I hope you’ll stick around and check out the rest of my blog! I provide tips for living on a budget, along with recipes and the occasional deep post (like this one!)

If you haven’t had Kimchi Jjigae before, find your nearest Korean restaurant and GO get some!

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