Happiness is a hot soup on a cold day. While we brace for a particularly chilly week, every Melbournian needs a “winter warmer” in the middle of our unruly spring. While Korean food might be synonymous with barbeque like galbi and bulgogi, it is the hearty soups, broths and stews that are the cornerstone of Korean cuisine. Korea’s soup culture has been an artefact of history. Big families and constant wars meant that the Koreans had to cater dishes to get the most number of people fed quickly while not skimping on quality.
Korea is one of the few countries where a soup is one of the main courses. Known as guk (국) or its thicker version A good soup demands a good base. Dashi, radish, or meat bones all simmering on for hours to develop flavors are the beginnings of every good soup. Ganjang (soy sauce made for soups) is the other crucial component in a good Korean soup. Gomguk (곰국) is the quintessential oxtail soup; made for surasang (the royal Korean table); its milky, hearty flavor is loved by all Koreans. Everyone must try a delicate bowl of samgyetang (삼계탕) or the Korean version of chicken soup. With ginseng, a whole young chicken, jujube and garlic, this is a traditional soup meant to boost health. Samgyetang is one of the unique soups where one would consume it on the three hottest days, aiming to fight heat with heat!
Jorim (조림) is a classic, simmered, and uniquely Korean dish. Key ingredients like tofu
or potatos are first pan-fried and let to simmer and braise until reduced down leaving an intense. Jorim requires liberal use of soy-sauce for umami and gochujang for the heat. Jorim can appear table-side as banchan with dishes like Gamja Jorim or glazed potato. However various different seafoods like Godeungeo Jorim which features mackerel in spicy soy-sauce is also popular among Koreans.
Dishes like jjigae (찌개) are the stews of Korea. Thick, silky, with rich rustic flavors, accompanied with a generous serving of meat. Jjigae is almost always a communal meal, therefore, it is always the centrepiece of the Korean table in a ttukbaegi (뚝배기); a heavy glazed earthenware pot. These pots were largely used to retain the heat after being removed from the flame. While jjigae may be made from any meat, the most commonly enjoyed version known as doenjang-jjigae (된장찌개) features doenjang (soy bean paste; learn more about the pastes and condiments used in Korean cooking here), anchovies or sardines for the salty, umami flavor; tofu, peppers, courgettes, and delicate seafood like shrimp or clams.
Every proper Korean meal has to have a guk, jjigae or a jorim. Ward off the blues with our selection of soups, broths and stews at Miss Korea Kitchen 288.