Budae Jjigae (Korean Army Stew)
The other day we made a unique Korean stew incorporating the best of Korean and American staples--kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage) & Spam and hot dogs. Yes, you heard me right, Spam and/or hot dogs are cooked up along with kimchi and a multitude of other ingredients that make up a dish called budae jjigae, famously known as Army Soup in Korean. This is quite a popular dish that conjures up memories of Korea's distant past, when the country was devastated by the war and food remained a scarce commodity. Shortly after the war, a surplus of foods like canned ham, Spam, and hot dog varieties from the US Army bases remained, so Koreans simply made them into a traditional spicy soup flavored with gochujang (red chili pepper paste). McDonalds and Burger King are common fast food fixtures for the young today in Korea, but budae jjigae has remained a nostalgic and sentimental dish that is favored among the elder generations. Although we made this dish specifically for our food blog, we thoroughly enjoyed throwing in whatever ingredients that literally lay around in our fridge and pantry. In the more a traditional stew, you will most likely find a good dose of sliced Spam, hot dogs, kimchi, rice cakes (tteok), ramen noodles, and a few green varieties. But as long as there's canned ham or Spam along with kimchi, you can say that you've eaten Army Soup.