Winter Relaxation: Recipes

Cut the Winter Chill with Spicy Kimchi Stew and Souped-Up Soju

Gettin’ jjigae with it.

By Benjamin Tepler December 20, 2016 Published in the January 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

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Recommended banchan (clockwise from top left): pickled daikon and carrots; spicy braised tofu; roasted seaweed; soybean sprout salad.


The secret ingredient to winter’s most comforting spread? Aged kimchi. Throw it in a vat with pork belly, serve it with DIY-flavored shots of Korea’s national beverage, soju, and you’ve got a spicy stew to cut any chill. 

Kimchi Jjigae

Recipe courtesy Choi’s Kimchi

Serves 2–3

  • ½ lb pork belly*, sliced into ¼-inch thick, ¾-inch wide squares and seasoned lightly with ground black pepper
  • 1 pint aged napa kimchi, like the Portland-made brand Choi’s**
  • 1 tbsp gochujang
  • 2 tsp mild gochugaru pepper flakes (Aleppo pepper is a fine substitute.)
  • ¼ yellow onion, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • ½ tbsp sugar
  • 1 green onion, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 1 cup medium-firm tofu, cut into ½-inch-thick, 1-inch wide squares (Matthew Choi, managing partner at Choi’s Kimchi, recommends Ota.)

In a heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat, sear pork belly for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until some fat has rendered and the meat is nicely browned. Add entire jar of kimchi (with brine), gochujang, gochugaru, yellow onion, and sugar, and cover with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, add tofu and green onion, and simmer, covered, for 5 more minutes. Serve with rice and assorted banchan (little side dishes).***

* At a typical western butcher shop, pork belly is sold in blocks. At Korean markets, it’s sold in thick, ¼-inch “barbecue-style” strips.

**The older and “riper” the kimchi, the better the jjigae. You can cheat by leaving an unsealed (but closed) jar of kimchi at room temperature for two or three days before using. Warning: fermenting foods like kimchi are explosive, especially after sitting at room temperature. Open the jar slowly,
in the sink.

***For banchan, Choi recommends picking up premade options at H-Mart, G-Mart, Gobugi Asian Market, or Boo Han Market.

Souped-Up Soju

Recipes courtesy Revelry’s David Sigal

Perilla Honey

Toast ½ cup perilla seeds (a sesame-like seed sold at Korean markets) in a dry pan over medium heat until they start to pop. Pound with a mortar and pestle. Pour ground perilla and 750 mL Jinro soju into a large vessel, cover and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Strain through a coffee filter and stir in 2 tbsp honey. Serve soju chilled in shot glasses.

Fig Herb

Combine 1 cup dried figs, 4 thyme sprigs, 1 rosemary sprig, 5 sage leaves, and 750 mL Jinro soju in a large vessel, covered, and let sit at room temperature 24–48 hours. Strain and serve.

Orange Fennel

Combine 2 oranges, peeled and cut into ¼ -inch pieces, half a medium fennel bulb, cut into ¼-inch pieces, and 750 mL Jinro soju in a large vessel, covered, and refrigerate 48 hours. Strain and serve soju chilled in shot glasses.

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