Happy 2,554th Birthday, Buddha! There are children in the street shooting off fireworks. I'm sure the small Buddha statue looks pretty festive, we'll be sure to run down there and take photos in the morning. Buddha's Birthday (like many holidays in Korea) is a three day festival. I wish I knew how to get to the nearest temple. I'm sure its very alive right now and hearing the fervor out our window makes me wish I had put more thought into this day as a holiday instead of just a day off.
But, we are making doenjang jjigae tonight! Doenjang jjigae is to Korea as chicken soup is to Americans. Comforting, ubiquitous, but ever changing. There isn't just one recipe for this bean paste stew and it easily lends itself to alterations.
We had it on Jeju island when we rolled into our hostel later than expected (we got lost). When we arrived, no one was there; but, the manager (actually, he was just one of a few people that rotated while the real proprietor was away, bad luck on our part) spotted us as we were walking back down the street. He asked if we had eaten and when we told him we hadn't, he insisted that he get us to a restaurant. Most places were closed, but a little jjigae shop was still open, the owners sitting around watching t.v. and later drinking soju. We showed them our vegetarian cards and the hostel manager helped us explain. The cook said she could do that and we were served simple, delicious doenjang jjigae, white rice and plenty of banchan including fried eggs. All for about $12 total.
Ingredients: 3-4 cups vegetable broth (we use powder), 1/4 cup doenjang, 5 cloves of garlic, 1 piece of dried kelp, 1-2 green onions, 1/2 block firm tofu, red pepper (gochu) powder to your tastes and whatever vegetables you like. We went with yellow potato, shiitake mushrooms, zucchini, and cabbage.
Put vegetable stock and doenjang in a stock pot and stir until dissolved. Add kelp and garlic and bring to a boil.
Add vegetables (but not the green onions, yet) and tofu and return to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes.
Add green onions and red pepper. Boil until bright and fragrant, but don't exceed 15 minutes. Remove kelp and serve very hot with a side of your favorite rice.