I’m so excited to introduce this simple and healthy soup to you!
Korean meals are usually served with rice, soup, and other side dishes. Just in case you don’t know what doenjang is, I’m telling you that doenjang is Korean fermented soy bean paste.
You could make so many different kinds of doenjangguk using different vegetables such as spinach, potato, radish leaves, fresh mugwort (ssuk)… Of all the vegetables, baechu (napa cabbage) doenjangguk is the most basic soup and every Korean loves it. (Let me know if you find any Korean who doesn’t like this soup) : )
I will give you a short quiz now. : ) What would you call doenjang guk made with spinach? … pause … yes, it’s called shigeumchi-doenjangguk. Shigeumchi is spinach in Korean. Heh, it’s easy, right?
When my grandmother made this soup, she always used milky rice water instead of water. Every day she made a huge amount of rice to feed her family. When she washed, rubbed, and rinsed her rice grains, she got the milky water. When she made doenjangguk, she used that milky rice water in her pot.
When I was in middle school, the lady next door ran a restaurant. She sold baechu-doenjangguk. She and my mother were friends, so we were like family. Most of her soup customers were male workers who needed a cheap and simple breakfast before starting work early in the morning. What time in the morning? Before dawn! To be ready to serve this soup, she probably should make it at 2-3 am? Her soup was very popular so that her restaurant was always crowded especially in the morning.
I saw her serving her soup to her customers. When her customer was sitting at the table, she ladled the soup into a large bowl from her huge pot and added a little barley rice (about 2 tbs?), and put it on his table. Only one side dish was there, kkaktugi (radish kimchi). That’s all! The worker’s stomach will get warm with the hot soup and a little bit of rice!
I used to wake up with the irresistible aroma from the soup she made. Sometimes the smell made me go crazy! : )
Her doenjangguk was not spicy and a little brown and milky. It was super tasty!
I saw she used flour instead of rice water. She made this doenjangguk exactly this way I’m showing in this video recipe. Only thing I skipped is MSG. : ) Instead of MSG, I use more dried anchovies.
I miss her now. We lost connection long time ago when my family moved to another place.
- Put about 700 grams of Napa cabbage directly into boiling water and stir it with a large spoon for 20 seconds. Boil it for a minute with the lid open.
- Rinse it in cold water a couple of times to clean any remaining dirt from the cabbage leaves. Gently squeeze the leaves to get rid of any remaining water.
- Chop the cabbage into small pieces and put them into a large pot.
- Add 1/3 cup soy bean paste, 5-6 cloves minced garlic, 1 chopped green chili pepper, 10 large dried anchovies (after removing heads and guts), and 2 tbs flour to the pot.
- Mix it by hand or a wooden spoon.
- Add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil for 20 minutes over medium high heat.
- Lower the heat and simmer another 10 minutes.
- Serve hot with rice and other side dishes.
*tip: Do you like spicy soup? Then add some hot pepper paste right before simmering (step 7).