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#SamLikesItHot: Kimchi jigae

Sam Oh
A warm bowl of hearty and spicy kimchi stew can give someone the strength to give of himself

BRING IN THE SOUP. Hot and spicy kimchi stew will make you warm and oh so happy. Photo by Sam Oh

MANILA, Philippines – This week has been absolutely brutal. I hope you are all safe and dry by now and well on your way to healing and helping.

I found myself in a bit of a conundrum while writing today’s column. With everything that has happened in the last few days, writing about food seems…frivolous. It also doesn’t help that I’m doing rainy day favorites this month. What is this? A mockery?!

After much thought, I’ve decided that we need to help ourselves first to be able to help others. And if a warm bowl of hearty and spicy kimchi stew can give someone the strength to give of himself/herself or just to get through the day, then maybe it’s not so trivial. 

So I beg you, please get on board.

Here’s to hoping that my Mom’s kimchi stew can give your tired spirit some delicious respite, your chilly bones some warmth.

To make 2 servings, you’ll need:

  • 1½ T neutral-tasting oil
  • About 200 g pork belly, sliced into strips
  • 1½ cups Chinese cabbage kimchi
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 2½ cups water
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 green chili, chopped
  • A stalk leek, chopped
  • 1½ t beef dashida (This is a Korean beef stock powder available in Korean grocery stores. It’s optional and can be substituted with salt.)
  • Firm tofu as desired

1. Start by first soaking the tofu in water. Store-bought tofu comes packed in a light brine and you want to draw out as much of it as you can.

Heat a medium pot on medium heat and swirl in the oil. When the pan is ready, add in pork belly, kimchi and minced garlic. Stir and let cook with the lid on until the kimchi starts to go limp, about 7 minutes.

Photo by Sam Oh

The quality of your kimchi will determine how good this stew will turn out, so a little intermission on the Korean staple:

I have never encountered great-tasting kimchi in a supermarket aisle. You know, the ones that are sold in bottles. They also look a little too dry. In my experience, your best bet is the neighborhood Korean grocery store. They usually import kimchi straight from Korea or, even better, are supplied by a Korean lady in the vicinity who makes them at home. That’s as legit as it gets. Choose kimchi that is still a bit firm to the touch with lots of marinating liquid.

After 7 minutes, the contents of your pot should look a little something like this:

Photo by Sam Oh

2. Add water to the pot. Bring everything to a boil and then let simmer for about 7 more minutes. If you want a more flavorful broth, you can add some of the kimchi liquid here.

Photo by Sam Oh

3. Add chili and onions. Season with beef dashida (or salt) and let simmer for 10 more minutes.

Photo by Sam Oh

4. This step is optional. If you’ve ever been to a Korean restaurant, you’d know that stews like this one are served in a clay pot. I happen to have one at home and transferred a serving for added authenticity and just for kicks. You can just leave everything in the pot, of course. Just make sure to top the stew with thick slices of tofu and some chopped leeks. Bring to a boil one last time.

Photo by Sam Oh

And my Mom’s kimchi stew is done!

Photo by Sam Oh

The traditional way to eat kimchi stew or any Korean stew for that matter is to dump in some rice and mix everything. Make sure you get a bit of everything in every spoonful!

Photo by Sam Oh

This is pretty common fare in any Korean household. It’s one of those dishes that each family has a version of and everyone’s mother makes it best. I’m glad I’m able to share one of my Mom’s recipes with all of you. And, yes, hers is the best!

My Mom puts a lot of love into her food and I hope you’ll taste it, too. I think it would do wonders for your soul. –

Check out our other recipes:

Sam Oh

Sam Oh is a professional TV and events host, radio jock and foodie. Catch her on radio at First Thing In The Morning with Sam and Gibb on Magic 89.9, Monday to Thursday, 6am to 9am. She is also a food blogger at Sam Likes It Hot. If you have questions or recipe requests, email with subject heading SAM LIKES IT HOT.

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