Budae Jjigae is a traditional Korean dish of military origin similar to a stew, that’s why its name translates to “army stew”. It has a historical background with great meaning for Korean society, whose antecedents tell how Budae Jjigae has become a traditional dish and why it is one of the most recognized dishes in South Korea.
Shortly after the Korean War (1950-1953), South Korea’s population was going through an unavoidable food shortage, which caused citizens to begin to buy leftover food from United State military bases, to finally put everything that can be eaten in a pot. Since, in those years of war between The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea commonly called North Korea, supported by the Soviet Union, while The Republic of Korea known as South Korea, supported by the armed forces of different nations commanded by the United States, these being the ones that were housed in South Korean cities such as Uijeongbu (의정부시), Dongducheon (동두천시), Yangju (양주시) and Pyeongtaek (평택시).
Budae Jjigae incorporates in its preparation ingredients such as ham, sausage, spam (a variety of canned meat), kimchi (김치), the spicy sauce that is usually used for flavouring Korean food called gochujang (고추장), baked beans, as well as, instant noodles, American cheese, vegetables, and seaweed. These are the main ingredients that make the Budae Jjigae too special since combining all of them in one dish, those are an explosion of flavours. Over the years, the process of preparation and the recipe has not been modified, so that, Budae Jjigae is prepared in the same way since the war era. The preparation consists of cutting all the ingredients that are going to be used while the seaweed is soaked in a bowl with water which later will be the broth of this dish. Finally, cook everything in a pot with kimchi and other garnishes, when it starts to boil, it is necessary to add the instant noodles moreover the spices such as gochujang, garlic, salt, and pepper. Once everything is cooked, add cheese slices and it is ready to eat.
It is worth mentioning that the preparation style, the taste, and even the ingredients of Budae Jjigae may vary according to the historical development and according to the city or the person who prepares it, since that will depend on replacing or adding some garnishes such as tofu, Korean rice cakes or even mushrooms. However, the objective of this interesting traditional Korean dish will remain the same: be an easy and quick dish to prepare with common ingredients, which makes this a comforting meal. On the other hand, currently in Uijeongbu city exist more than one restaurant specializing in preparing Budae Jjigae, due to the fact, this is one of the cities where the history about that took place, being thus one of the most popular for preparing this delicious dish which over the years it has become one of the most traditional.
Definitively, Budae Jjigae is a dish with a somewhat nostalgic history for South Korean society. However, its history allows us to know and understand better the culture and the events that led Budae Jjigae to become a representative and important dish for South Korea. Nowadays, Budae Jjigae is still one of the most desired traditional dishes by residents and foreigners, so it is not superfluous to recommend you to try this fantastic traditional dish if you visit this beautiful country or, why not, try to make it in the comfort of your home.
Written by: Britany Sosa
Reviewed by: Luisa Quintero
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