Two Eat Round-The-World: Kimchi chigae | Two Go Round-The-World

Two Eat Round-The-World: Kimchi chigae

| November 30, 2009 | 8 Comments
6water1 Two Eat Round The World: Kimchi chigae

Kimchi chigae is a stew-like Korean dish...

Between 2002–04, Kathryn and I lived in Gwangju, South Korea. Gwangju is the provincial capital of South Chŏlla (South Jeolla) province, and is located on southwestern portion of the peninsula. It’s an old city (the sixth largest in the country) on the edge of a mountainous area and is located at the foot of Mount Mudŭng, which rises to 3,894 feet. The city has been a centre of trade and of local administration since before the common era. It’s a neat little city, and a place we called home for two years.

Here we worked at a university teaching English. And here too, we developed an affinity for a local dish known as kimchi chigae. Our favourite haunt was a small hole in the wall (literally) in the student ghetto adjacent to our apartment.

Kimchi chigae is a stew-like Korean dish made with kimchi and other ingredients such as scallions, onions, diced tofu, pork and tuna. However, pork and tuna are generally not used in the same recipe.

The principal ingredient is kimchi. Older, more fermented, (and tastier) kimchi, is preferred. It creates a much tastier stew and contains greater amounts of “good” bacteria (similar to those found found in yogurt). Fresh kimchi may not bring out as full and rich a flavour. Like many other Korean dishes it is accompanied by various banchan (side dishes) and rice. It is often cooked and served boiling hot in a stone pot.

We buy homemade kimchi at the Korean market. Sometimes we’ll hit up Koreatown when in Toronto, but there’s also a small Korean grocer in Hamilton that carries everything we need (and more).

In my opinion, kimchi is at its best about seven to ten days after it’s packaged, so we usually buy a fresh jar and just let it sit in our fridge for 8–12 days, or we’ll buy an already-fermented jar. Open the jar and smell it — you’ll know right away if it’s ‘ripe’ enough.

This recipe, like a lot of the foods we’ve learned to cook while travelling, were learned through observation, reading recipes, eating (the preferred method) and trying to reproduce tastes at home. Often this results in us not being ‘true’ to the orginal recipe. So if this isn’t the way you make the dish, feel free to post your suggestions and variations in the comments.

Kimchi Chigae

  1. A glug or three of sesame oil
  2. ½ lb of pork stew meat, cut into cubes or strips (or substitue tuna if you prefer—that’s what we use. You can find special tuna for kimchi chigae at your local Korean grocer. If not, just substitute regular tuna).
  3. 1 package of firm tofu, cut in cubes. Often we’ll leave out the tofu.
  4. Tteok (also spelled ddeock, duk, dduk, ddeog, or thuck). A glutinous rice flour ‘cake’  made by steaming. Pick it up at your local Korean grocer.
  5. 5–6 cups of fermented kimchi. Giddy-up—this is the best part. The stinkier the better. 1–2 week old kimchi preferred.
  6. A pinch of dashida powder (If we don’t have any dashida on hand, we’ve used chicken stock instead. It’s not exactly authentic, but it still pretty tasty.)
  7. A dash or three of soy sauce
  8. A pinch of sugar
  9. Baengmansongi mushrooms (very fragrant Korean mushrooms often called “baengman,” or “baek-man” meaning “one million”. Substitute regular western ‘button’ mushrooms if you don’t have access to them).
  10. A couple of green onions, cut into strips
1sesameoil Two Eat Round The World: Kimchi chigae

A glug of sesame oil...

Add a glug of sesame oil to a dutch oven…

2tuna Two Eat Round The World: Kimchi chigae

You can find special tuna for kimchi chigae at your local korean shop.

Heat the sesame oil in a dutch oven on medium heat, then brown the pork or tuna.

3kimchi Two Eat Round The World: Kimchi chigae

Add the kimchi.

Add the kimchi and saute for five minutes. The older, more fermented, kimchi, is preferred. It creates a much tastier stew and contains greater amounts of “good” bacteria (similar to those found found in yogurt).

4saute Two Eat Round The World: Kimchi chigae

Saute for five minutes.

If you want really spicy chigae, add some of the leftover juice from the bottom of the kimchi jar.

6water Two Eat Round The World: Kimchi chigae

Pour in enough water to cover the kimchi and pork mixture.

Pour in enough water to cover the kimchi and pork (or tuna) mixture, plus one inch or so.

7dashida Two Eat Round The World: Kimchi chigae

Throw in the dashida powder.

Throw in a few liberal dashes of dashida powder and a few dashes of sugar.

9mushrooms Two Eat Round The World: Kimchi chigae

Throw in some 'shrooms!

Add the ‘shrooms! Add tofu (if desired). Simmer for twenty minutes.

8onions Two Eat Round The World: Kimchi chigae

Throw in the cubes of tofu, dashida powder, soy sauce and sugar.

Add green onions, and cook five minutes more. Serve with steamed rice.


A lot of the foods we’ve learned to cook while travelling were learned through observation, reading recipes, eating (the preferred method) and trying to reproduce tastes at home. Often this results in us not being ‘true’ to the orginal recipe. So if this isn’t the way you make the dish, feel free to post your suggestions and variations in the comments.


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For nearly ten years now, Daniel of Two Go Round-The-World has explored how travel captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. One half of the duo that maintains the widely read Two Go Round-The-World blog, Daniel treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. Check him out on Google+.

Comments (8)

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  1. Jen Laceda says:


    You’re brave to make homemade kimchi! I have a few Korean friends and they don’t even know how kimchi is made unless it came from a bottle or as a restaurant side dish. Kudos!

    • Daniel says:


      Hey Jen! Thanks for the reply! Generally, we buy homemade kimchi at the local Korean market. Sometimes we’ll hit up Koreatown when in Toronto, but there’s also a small Korean grocer in Hamilton that carries everything we need (and more).

      That being said, I’m pretty well versed at making kim-chi from scratch. My students at Chonnam university had me over on several occasions to show me how it was done. As soon as we score some of those large earthern jars, we’ll be sure to bury some to ferment in our backyard!


  2. My mouth literally just watered. Kimchi chigae is my favorite food in the whole wide world. I used to eat it every day without fail… and sometimes twice a day. But at the very minimum 5 times a week. Disappointingly, since I’ve been back to the states, I haven’t had any for almost 5 months now.

  3. Nomadic Matt says:


    mmm kimchi….I love how in south korea if you get sick, you get prescription to eat more kimchi! Then again, it is really good.

    • Daniel says:


      Agreed, Matt. I remember living in Korea during the SARS ‘crisis’. I believe I recall the Korean government attributing the lack of cases in Korea to the health benefits of kim chi. Bit of a stretch, methinks, but at the same time it is delicious!

  4. KewlGadget says:


    I love Korean Cuisine. Basically I like anything that is spicey and has mushrooms. I personally like kimchi with pork, I dont think I have had it with tuna though.

  5. Joel Tillman says:


    I saw people putting clear or ramen noodles in it as well as different meats (beef or chicken usually.) I even ate at a few places in Seoul where it was just Kimchi, Ramen, Sesame Oil and water.

    Where were you teaching at in SK?

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