A Budae-jjigae Party

Budae-jjigae, a.k.a. Korean “Army Base Stew”. Image courtesy of Maangchi.com

I’m going to start this post by honestly saying, I rarely eat SPAM®, except on occasion for the experimental fun stuff worth blogging about (or at least I think it’s worth it lol). However, with the fever of the Waikiki SPAM JAM upon us, happening exactly a week from now, I’ll bite (again), as you’ve seen in my last post about the soon-to-be-released SPAM® Portuguese Sausage flavor.

And with that whole buzz, I came across this incredibly fascinating Korean-American fusion dish called Budae-jjigae, which translates directly as “Army Base Stew”. Literally “Budae” meaning “Army Base”, and “jjigae” meaning “stew”. Why it’s hyphenated as “Budae-jjigae”, I don’t know. Then again, how exactly do you spell “Meat Jun”, a.k.a. “Meat Joon”? Or “Kim Chee”, a.k.a. “Kimchi”. Whatevahz. As long it’s mashi-e-sseo-yo, who cares!

According to Korecipe.com, this is the deal: “Budae Jjigae can directly be translated to “Army Base Stew.” The dish originated from Euijeongbu just a few miles north of Seoul during the Korean War. Food was scarce in Seoul and people starved to death. Fortunately enough, Euijeongbu was where many U.S. Army bases were located. People who lived around the bases gathered leftover canned sausages and Spam from U.S. Army facilities and combined them with whatever ingredients they were able to find. All ingredients were boiled with water in a large pot into a spicy soup flavored with gochujang (red chili paste) and kimchi. A funny side fact is that Budae Jjigae is also known as “Johnson Tang” named after former American President, Lyndon B. Johnson.”

OK, you heard that, right? “Canned sausages and SPAM®”. In a Korean stew. Not only that, but there’s also a GAZILLION other ingredients that goes into a stewing hot pot of Budae-jjigae!

According to the incredible Maangchi, who is originally from South Korea and now living in New York City, here’s her take on what goes into a pot of authentic Budae-jjigae…


For the stock:

For the seasoning paste:

For stew:

  • ½ pound pork belly (or pork shoulder), cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 ounces of sweet potato starch noodles, soaked in water for 30 minutes and drained
  • 1 cup worth cabbage, cut into bite size pieces
  • ½ of a medium onion, sliced
  • 2 green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • ½ cup fermented kimchi, chopped
  • 4 ounces of Polish sausage, sliced
  • 4 ounces of  spam, sliced thinly
  • ½ of packaged instant ramyeon
  • 1 cup worth radish sprouts (or spinach, watercress, arugula)
  • ½ cup worth tofu, sliced (Optional)
  • ¼ cup canned baked beans (Optional)
  • 12-16 sliced rice cakes (Optional)
  • 1 slice of American cheese (Optional)

And that’s all I’m going to copy-paste from her awesome website all about Korean cuisine. For the complete recipe on Budae-jjigae, please visit Maangchi’s web page here!

Also, please watch this AWESOME Budae-jjigae cooking demonstration YouTube® video by Maangchi. It will open your mind to a whole new way to “cook” with SPAM®!…

Buddae-jjigae main ingredients. Image courtesy of Maangchi.com.

Notice Maangchi also incorporates Pork & Beans and American Slice Cheese, along with the Polish sausage and SPAM, really underscoring the “Army Base” into this otherwise Korean stew. Now THAT is something I must try!

Korean “Army Base Stew” toppings, including instant RAMEN!!!??? Crazy, right?!!! lol Image courtesy of Maangchi.com.

While it’s essentially a leftovers one-pot “peasants dish”, making Budae-jjigae can be somewhat complicating and lengthy in process, as illustrated by Maangchi. On the plus side, it’s clearly very flexible, where yourself can make it as simple or complex as you like, depending whatever you have in the kitchen, and what time you have to make it.

I’m so fascinated by this Korean wartime stew that actually has the b@lls to have SPAM® in it, that I posed the question to my fellow Honolulu Yelpers yesterday, asking where to find Budae-jjigae on Oahu, and so far, these are two responses I got:

Lynn L. – “Chogajib on keeaumoku is pretty good. Also remember to take a few people with you as budae-jjigae is not meant for one person.”

Cin T.“It’s more of a nostalgic comfort food type of stew. My friend’s grandma calls it her special “kitchen sink stew”, lol.

I never order it because it’s way overpriced and something I can make at home. But there’s a few places that serves it:
1) Yakiniku Don Day: We got it on the house a few times, so I’m not sure on the price.
There are a few pics posted by other yelpers you can check out.

2) The Day The Princess Pig Craves A Drink/Princess Pig Cafe charges $20 for theirs.

3) Uncle Sim’s on Keeaumoku charges $35. Way overpriced. I hear they use luncheon meat instead of spam too. yelp.com/biz/uncle-sims-…

All I know is, whether at a restaurant or homemade, as awesome as it looks and sounds, I am SO trying Budae-jjigae!

Emily “Maangchi” Kim. Image courtesy of marina-kim.com.