Kimchi Jigae (Kimchi Stew)

from Marja Vongerichten

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2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 lb. pork belly, cut into 1/4-inch dice
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 cups coarsely chopped kimchi with a bit of its liquid (use the most pungent, sour kimchi available for best flavor)
1 tablespoon fish sauce or dashida
1 slice American cheese (optional)
5 scallions, thinly sliced
About 1/4 cup thinly sliced gim (see note), for garnish

Heat the sesame oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pork belly, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring now and then, until rendered, browned and crispy, about 10 minutes.

Add the onion and kimchi and stir to combine. Add enough water to nearly cover the pork mixture (5 or 6 cups), cover, and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat and simmer until the onion and kimchi are softened and teh soup is quite thick, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the fish sauce (or dashida), American cheese (if using), and scallions. If it's too thick for your liking, thin the stew with water. Cover the pot and simmer for 10 minutes to combine the flavors. Serve steaming hot sprinkled with gim.

Note: Gim is pressed and toasted sheets of laver seaweed. Japanese nori makes a good substitute.