Spicy stuffed steamed eggplant

Gochujang gaji-jjim 고추장 가지찜

Today’s recipe is a delicious and easy recipe for spicy stuffed steamed eggplant (Gochujang gaji-jjim: 고추장가지찜). It has a deep, savory, spicy flavor and is a great side dish for rice. The eggplant is soft and a little sweet, and if you like spicy food I guarantee you’ll be eating the sauce right out of the bottom of the pan after the eggplant is done! : )

I was inspired to develop this recipe by watching a Korean TV show about a family who escaped from North Korea about 12 years ago. To defect to South Korea, they first had to cross the border to China, and during the crossing they got caught by the Chinese police. The Chinese police gave them a choice: either the whole family goes back to North Korea, or the daughter can go back by herself and the rest of the family can continue to China.

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Either option was terrible, but they decided that the daughter would go back to North Korea and the rest of family would go to South Korea via China. Probably the mother told her daughter she would bring her as soon as they settled down in South Korea.

But it could never happened. They came to South Korea and tried hard to find their daughter but they couldn’t get any information at all. She and her husband are currently living near the North Korean border, missing their daughter everyday.

The mother said: “My daughter loves spicy food. Whenever I made this spicy steamed eggplant and steamed green chili peppers, she really enjoyed it! She mixed her rice with cold water and ate it with these side dishes!”

She said: “My heart is really broken whenever I think about her eating this dish so deliciously.”

I may post the other dish steamed stuffed peppers someday too. The TV show was very touching and sad, and I couldn’t help crying, but I was also so curious about the dishes. I really wanted to taste her spicy stuffed eggplant! I could see her making it, but there was no recipe given, so I tried recreating it. In my first experiments I added some meat or seafood to make it more tasty, but eventually I went back to the meat-free version like the mother on the TV show. She didn’t explain how to make her red seasoning paste, so I had to do some experiments and come up with my own.

So my recipe may taste a little different from her original recipe, but I can say that it’s delicious enough to share with my readers. I hope her family reunites someday. As a mother myself, I can’t imagine how tortured she must be.

Enjoy this recipe, and be thankful of the people you have around you who love you. We need to cherish them everyday.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 pound Asian eggplant (about 3 long and thin eggplants), washed.
They should be small enough to fit into the bowl you are steaming in. If not, cut them into smaller pieces.

Asian eggplant works best for this because they are thinner and smaller than the eggplants I find in the USA and Canada, and they have a thinner skin, too. But you can use those bigger eggplants. Just cut them into smaller, thinner pieces. You may need to steam them longer, just keep checking as you steam.

Asian eggplant

Gochujang gaji-jjim made with American Eggplant

For seasoning paste:

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Directions

Make seasonings & prepare steamer:

  1. Heat a pan over medium high heat. Add vegetable oil, garlic, onion, and stir fry for 1 minute.
  2. Add green onion and stir fry for 4 to 5 more minutes, until the garlic turns light brown and fragrant.
  3. Remove from the heat and cool for a few minutes. Add hot pepper flakes, soy sauce, hot pepper paste, sugar, ground black pepper, sesame oil, and salt. Mix it well with a spoon.
  4. Fill your steamer pot with about 1 inch of water and insert the steaming basket. Cover and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, prepare eggplants:

  1. Cut off the stems of the eggplants and discard.
  2. Slit the eggplants a few times lengthwise, starting about 1 inch from the stem end and keeping the ends intact so the slit pieces are still joined together. The slits should be ½ inch apart.
  3. Stuff the eggplants with the seasoning paste by hand (or a spoon) evenly. Use all the seasoning paste and put them into a heat proof bowl.

Steam

  1. When the water in the steamer is boiling, your steamer is ready. Put the eggplant bowl into the steaming basket.
  2. Cover and steam for 12 to 15 minutes over medium high heat until the eggplant is nicely cooked, but not mushy. You can check by poking with a wooden skewer or a chopstick: it should go through with some firmness. If it can’t go through easily, you need to steam it longer. If it goes through like butter, you steamed too long.

Serve

  1. Remove the steamer from the heat and take out the bowl of eggplant. Serve right away with rice and other side dishes.
  2. The North Korean way of eating it is to take a bite of rice, then tear off a strip of eggplant with your fingers. Put your head back and drop the strip in your mouth!

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19 Comments:

  1. Phelpsrs Michigan joined 12/17 & has 4 comments
  2. bertman4 Seattle, WA joined 10/17 & has 8 comments

    I cook for my friends and they all loved it! They said it was spicier than it looked.


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  3. Jtbacik Texas joined 9/17 & has 1 comment

    Maangchi,
    I made this lovely eggplant dish tonight and it is FABULOUS! I’so glad my husband found you on YouTube. I also made the mushroom beef stew tonight as well. YUMMM!
    You are teaching a Southern ‘Belle to cook Korean delicacies. Thank you so much.
    I ordered your cookbook from Amazon last night as well.

  4. Amy Graham Iowa joined 9/17 & has 1 comment

    Hello Maangchi!! Your are soo adorable! I love watching you cook. My mom and I love to cook and we both love purple Asian eggplants. I can’t wait to make this dish and share with her when she returns from her California trip later this month. Farmer’s market is where I get them too right now but later will have to shop at the local Asian market in town. You make eating so delicious. Can’t wait to try it out!!

  5. Inge Holland joined 12/13 & has 14 comments

    Hi Maangchi, what a lovely recipe, but sad sad story… Let’s hope the mother and daughter will see your video and recognise themselves and maybe they can find eachother again… Thank you for sharing. Love, Inge

  6. stonefly Olympia WA joined 11/11 & has 45 comments

    Another wonderful dish from a wonderful chef. If only more leaders were as kind, thoughtful and loving as Maangchi. We would have less pain and more peace in the world. Thank you , Maangchi, for a wonderful recipe and a wonderful story behind the recipe.

  7. peonygirl portland, oregon joined 8/09 & has 38 comments

    Dear Maangchi,

    Thank you for sharing the story with us. It is very sad to know the long and terrible history of families being separated for so long. I hope this couple one day can see their daughter again. I’ve told you before that I was born in the Chongchongnam-do province in 1968 and was adopted along with my sister. I don’t know if my Korean mother is still alive but I sometimes wonder if she had family in North Korea.
    War does terrible things to everyone.
    Thank you for honoring this family.

  8. Ina Maryland,USA joined 10/08 & has 13 comments

    My family’s dinner this evening! Thanks Onni Emily for your awesome recipes.


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  9. mou dhaka, bangladesh joined 9/17 & has 1 comment

    dear Maangchi
    last few days I have been watching your cooking on youtube. already I have tried and it was nice. today I hv registered. interesting thing has happend u know!!!!! yesterday suddenly I found my 13 years old son was giggling by saying wowwww….
    guess what? it was you!!!! he has started to watched ur cooking and said : Maa, Maangchi aunt is a nice person, funny and spleding chef.
    God bless u sis. hope to get more recipe and vedio.

  10. Ina Maryland,USA joined 10/08 & has 13 comments

    Hi Onni Emily, How you been?I love eggplant too.It’s been awhile since I posted something on your website. I was so touch with the Korean defector story you told at the end of your recipe. After many years of watching you on your video blogs this is the first time I was teary. You normally so bubbly and I had not seen you emotionally touch in any of your video. Anyhow, this only shows you have a big heart and a loving person as well. May you have more success and I will continue watching over your cooking videos and perhaps a new cookbook in the near future. Lots of Love, Ina Wendel

  11. Ermin Fei Indonesia joined 2/15 & has 26 comments

    Hi Maangchi.. thank you for the story you have shared.. it is a very sad story, and I do hope one day South and North Korea will be reunited, especially the separated families..
    Keep praying for the peace between the 2 countries.. wishing you love and peace.. ❤️

    In relation to the eggplant recipe you shared, we do have similar item in Indonesia.. it is called Balado Terong (balado->seasoned with chili; terong->eggplant).. i always love Balado Terong, and I am sure that I would love this Korean version of yours ^o^
    The only difference is, we use fresh chilies in Balado Terong.. I would try your recipe soon ^o^

    Thank you ! ^o^

  12. leinunge Winton, Queensland, Australia joined 9/17 & has 3 comments

    Thank you for your story on North and South Korea, I would love to visit one day, when things politically have settled down. Hopefully soon.
    Regards, Erika

  13. leinunge Winton, Queensland, Australia joined 9/17 & has 3 comments

    Hi Maangchi, Just registered, because I wanted to say thank you for your sharing of cooking Korean style, I am always moved by your enthusiasm, style and you make me smile and make me happy, I have already purchased your book, just need to get to a shop with the right ingredients, much love to you from Erika

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