Korean Kale Soybean Paste Stew (Kale Doenjang Jjigae 된장찌개): On giving the rice cooker the night off

Since Husband’s return to regular hours with the family, Children have been slightly disgruntled, as they say,”It’s ALWAYS rice mom.”

Husband loves his Korean food and it seems that since he’s spent a majority of the past 10 years in Asia, that desire for a hearty Asian meal is not at rest.  It is, in fact, more fired up than ever, and what he wants ALL the time and asks for ALL the time is some sort of soup with rice and kimchi.  Every. Single. Night.

I can’t even handle the daily rigor of a full Korean meal for dinner as I often don’t have the ability to pull one out every single evening, and Children are also just DESPERATE for something different.  “Anything mom, just not Korean.”  I’ve taken to batch cooking some Korean comfort dishes and preparing some non Korean dishes on other nights, so that Children get a break from the onslaught of Korean meals.  Husband will come home, and on some nights ask, “What did everyone else eat?” and I’ll tell him and he’ll politely say that he’d like both menus – Western and Korean.  Sigh.

On a recent weekend, after I had not gone to the market to replenish a variety of supplies, Husband declared that he needed to have some sort of soup with his dinner that evening, which I was trying to keep simple for the sake of simplicity.  I held in the exasperation because on some level, it’s rather reassuring that Husband thinks that I can bang out dishes at his request.  Only this time, I didn’t have very much to make and so I began scrambling for ingredients, and what I came up with was kale, tofu, onions, and a bit of meat.  I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but I was pretty sure that a kale soybean paste soup had great potential to be tasty.

Turns out – very tasty.  And Children happened to really like the kale in the soup (with Son declaring that he ATE IT ALL loudly) and the picky Husband slurped the soup like it tasted good.  Daughters even enjoyed it despite their protest of Korean AGAIN, and it was a great find.  I’ve taken to making a large pot of this so that I can have it at the ready should Husband need his daily Korean fix and the kids are in rebellion mode.

Korean Kale Soybean Paste Stew (Kale Doenjang Jjigae 된장찌개)
Serves 6 to 8

1 tablespoon sesame oil
¼ lb of steak, or some sort of lean meat, chopped into small pieces
1 large onion, chopped into 1 inch pieces
4 scallions, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 jalapenos, sliced
1 teaspoon crushed sesame seeds
1 bunch of kale, tough stems removed, and roughly chopped
½ cup of Korean soybean paste (된장) – but there is great variances in the flavor of doenjang so you may have to adjust accordingly
6 cups of water
1 large block of firm tofu, cut into chunks

Heat a heavy pot over medium high heat and sesame oil, meat, onion, scallion, garlic, jalapenos, and sesame seeds.  Saute and cook until meat is browned, onions, translucent, and entire mixture is fragrant.  Add chopped kale all at once and begin wilting kale until it is slightly softened and more pliable.  Add Korean soybean paste and stir until it is mixed throughout vegetable meat mixture.  Add 6 cups of water, and cover, reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes, until kale is tender.  Add chunks of tofu and bring to boil again.

Serve with rice and kimchi.

Printable recipe

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