The History of Budae Jjigae 부대찌개의 역사

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Budae jjigae - army base soup

There's nothing like eating all the canned or preserved foods than eating them in budae jjiage. In Korean, budae (부대) means army base or army unit while jjigae (찌개) means soup. So the name of this food is literally translated to army base soup.

Growing up, I never had this food because my mother never made it for us kids. I assume because she didn't think it would make a nutritious meal. The first time I ever had the soup was when I was living in Korea. My first year there, I spent most of my days just living off tofu and cabbage and rarely went out. On most days, I went to work, to the gym, and then back home.

In my second year of living in Korea, I had a friend from the States that came to Korea to teach at the same school where I was working.  She also happened to live in the same building as I did, just a floor above mine. She used to come knocking on my door quite frequently to get me to go out and grab dinner with her. Because of her, I ate well and played well as she was someone who encouraged me to be more adventurous.

Without her, I don't know if I would've ever tasted this very salty but totally satisfying soup. 

The History Behind Budae Jjigae

After the Korean War (1950-1953), South Korea was impoverished and food was scarce. Those who lived around the U.S. army bases near Uijeongbu, Pyeontaek, and Munsan areas started cooking this so-called budae jjigae. They gathered a surplus of canned and preserved foods such as spam, hot dogs, and baked beans, which were smuggled, and started cooking with them. It is said that the budae jjigae actually started out like a fried dish but later incorporated broths along with some gochujang and kimchi. It was truly a Korean-American dish!

The soup is still wildly popular today and there are restaurants solely devoted to making this soup. Uijeongbu, a city slightly north of Seoul, is where these restaurants are heavily densed and is known for the best budae jjigae. 

Is Budae Jjigae Easy to Make?

Budae jjigae isn't exactly the most nutritious meal out there but it's definitely comforting food. I only introduced this dish to my husband a few years ago because I suddenly craved this soup one day out of the blue. Ever since that first introduction, it's been become a favorite and is requested quite often.

Honestly, I think that budae jjigae is probably the easiest and fastest soup you can make (minus canned or packaged soup). Just throw in all the canned and processed food in the pot and heat it up!

The Ingredients

The last time I made the soup, I made sure to write down what I personally put into our pot. To be honest, it was the first time I pulled out my measuring spoons just to make sure that the proportions of the ingredients produced the same flavor as to how I make mine. I typically eyeball all my cooking with a regular eating spoon. 

The Broth
1L (4 cups) of chicken broth (or water)
3 tablespoons of gochujang (고추장) 
2 tablespoons of rice wine (미린)
2 tablespoons of soy sauce (간장)
*2 tsp of sugar (or how many spoons to your liking; I leave the sugar as the last step. Depending on what I put in my budae jjigae, the soup may already be sweet.) 

The Meat of the Soup
16 oz of enoki mushrooms (any mushrooms) cut up
1/2-1 cup of Korean rice cakes
2 hot dog franks cut into bite-size pieces
1 can of spam sliced
1 can of baked bean
1-2 scallions chopped
2 slices of American cheese
1-2 packets of ramyun

Put all the ingredients of the broth into a pot and dissolve the ingredients.
Put all the meat of the soup into the pot except the cheese, ramyun, and rice cakes.
Bring the pot to a boil and lower the heat to simmer. 
Add the rice cakes and ramyun to the pot. 
Add cheese on top of the ramyun when it has become fully cooked and ready to eat. Enjoy!

Budae jjigae - army base soup



Post a Comment