Spicy Korean Seafood and Vegetable Stew

Korean Seafood and Vegetable Stew #nourishedkitchen

I’m on vacation this week (you can follow our travels in pictures on instagram), and I’ve asked a number of up-and-coming natural foods bloggers to take my place and keep you completely sated with all sorts of mouthwatering recipes.  This recipe comes from Sarah Atshan, who blogs at Nutrients You Fools!  Hope you love it as much as I did.  – Jenny

Korean soups and stews are some of my favorite dishes to eat. Like last meal favorite. I used to frequent local restaurants for my fix, but as I became more concerned with the quality of my food and discovered just how bad all the nasties in restaurant food were (MSG, rancid vegetable oils), I set out to learn how to create my own. I hope this recipe satisfies the cravings for fellow Korean soup addicts.

One of the many reasons I love this dish is because I can enjoy it year round. In the winter and fall, it is comforting and medicinal. In the spring and summer, it replenishes lost minerals. For that reason, this soup is very versatile – no matter the season, you can find vegetables that work. It also works well as an “empty the fridge” soup for any vegetables that haven’t gotten used up during the course of the week. (If you participate in CSA or farm share programs, you know exactly what I mean.)

Korean Pantry Essentials

There are just a few must haves and unfortunately no good substitutions. So get out there and find an Asian grocery store, and for those of you who don’t live near a good Asian grocer, you can typically order them online.

Korean red pepper paste (gochujang) – This is a spicy, savory, fermented product that should ideally only have 3 ingredients: red peppers, rice and salt. Today lots of companies add high fructose corn syrup, maltose, wheat, MSG and other stuff we don’t want. Look for a paste in a glass container and check the ingredients. Some Asian grocery stores have their own homemade versions sold in the refrigerated section that can work.

When you get your paste, take a tiny taste of it, as different brands have different heat levels. The heat level can even vary within brands at certain times of year.  Tasting it before you cook with it will allow you to adjust the heat levels of your final dish.  You can find Korean red pepper paste here.

Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru) – Look for a brand made in Korea and store it in the freezer between uses. Please avoid the temptation to replace gochugaru with cayenne powder, Mexican chile powders or even Thai chile powder. They are all very different flavors and aren’t interchangeable in this recipe.  You can find Korean red pepper flakes here.

Fish sauce – I’m sure most of you know this ingredient very well. It’s a staple of Southeast Asian cooking. You should look for a brand that has simple ingredients. Anchovy, salt and sugar are the most a fish sauce should have. The small amount of sugar in the Thai fish sauce is of no concern since it’s fermented, so the live culture gobbles most of that up.  You can find good quality traditionally fermented fish sauce here.

Fresh Vegetables for Spicy Korean Soup with Banchan
Produce! The bounty!

I went to the farmers market and the Asian grocery store this past weekend. Since I cook so often, it’s not unusual for me to walk out with a healthy dose of fresh produce. While I have included the produce I used to make this soup I encourage you to explore what’s in your neck of the woods. A good rule of thumb: include something green, something colorful, something earthy, and something astringent. I’ve also listed a range of amounts for the produce I used and optional vegetables. You can make this as veggie-ful as you like. I went for the full effect and they all added a great variety of texture and aromas to the broth.

Most Asian vegetables are easily found at farmers markets and standard grocery stores. But it’s worth it to explore the options available at an Asian grocery store. I like their mushroom selection and hard to find veggies like water dropwart (also known as Korean watercress or minari).

As for the fresh chiles in this recipe, know your limit. If you love spicy food (let’s hang out) then go for the three like me. But I won’t make fun of you if you deseed your chiles and I won’t even make fun of you if you skip all of them. Keep in mind we are using powdered chile powder and paste as well.

Sustainable Seafood for Spicy Korean Soup with BanchanSeafood

For this stew I like a mix of fish and shellfish. I head to to the fish market and see what looks good and fresh. Select a firm white fish (like snapper, grouper, rockfish, or even monkfish – though note monkfish would take a bit longer to cook). The tautog is delicious. They feed on crustaceans and their flesh has a light shellfish flavor. I would recommend shrimp with the head or at the very least with the shell. It adds a lot of flavor and nutrients to your soup. Note about clams – never use clams that are open or chipped. If opened, slightly tap against counter and if they don’t close up, then toss them. You also want to soak the clams in the fridge with fresh cold water for 20 minutes prior to cooking to help them purge any sand.

Where to Buy Sustainable Seafood

While supporting a local fishmarket or fishmonger is often your best bet for good quality, sustainable seafood, you can also purchase it online at I Love Blue Sea and Vital Choice.

Spicy Korean Soup with Banchan


Spicy Korean Seafood and Vegetable Stew

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: serves 4 to 6

Spicy Korean Seafood and Vegetable Stew


    For the Broth
  • 4 tablespoons lard (purchase it here)
  • 1 small white onion, sliced thin
  • 2 fresh red or green chiles, such as finger chiles
  • 5 scallions, white portion sliced thin and green portion reserved
  • 3/4 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 6 cups warm seafood broth (this is a good option, if you can't make your own)
  • 1 tablespoon Korean red pepper flakes (available here)
  • 1 tablespoon Korean red pepper paste (available here)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce (available here)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Unrefined sea salt, as needed
  • For the Vegetables
  • 2 small young white radishes, preferably Korean or Daikon radish, sliced into 1/4 inch thick coins
  • 3 medium shiitake mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced into 1/4 inch thick coins
  • 1 handful enoki mushrooms, roots trimmed and separated
  • 4 baby tatsoi
  • 1 handful of pea shoots, if available
  • 1/2 bunch of water dropwort or watercress, if available
  • reserved scallion greens cut in to 2-inch pieces
  • For the Fish
  • 1 pound firm white fish cut in to large chunks
  • 1 pound shrimp
  • 1 pound clams
  • To Serve
  • fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • fresh mung bean sprouts
  • reserved sliced chile


  1. In a heavy pot, heat lard over medium-high heat until it melts. Add onion, sliced chile peppers, and sliced white scallion. Fry them gently in the hot fat, until they begin to brown slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  2. Add garlic and ginger, stir continually until very aromatic, about 2 minutes. Take care not to let the aromatics burn. Ladle in warm broth, scraping up any bits of aromatics they may have accumulated on the bottom of the pan with your spoon. Bring to a light simmer, and add Korean pepper paste and flakes, fish sauce and honey. Stir, taste and add salt as needed. If it's a bit too spicy for you, tone it down with more honey.
  3. Bring broth to a boil and add radish, shiitake, carrots, enoki and baby tatsoi. Once at a boil, decrease the heat to its lowest setting, cover, and then let it cook about 15 minutes. We want the vegetables to soften and add flavor to the broth.
  4. Add the water dropwort or watercress, pea shoots and reserved green scallions. Bring back to a light simmer for 5 minutes, then lower the heat again.
  5. Add shrimp and clams, cover and allow clams to open, and then add fish chunks. Careful not to overcook the seafood. Once the seafood is cooked, taste one last time, making any necessary adjustments for spice and salt.
  6. Remove from heat, add garnishes, and serve with rice.


If you cannot find it locally, you can order sustainable fish, clams and shrimp online here.

This seafood soup is traditionally served with a variety of banchan - traditional Korean sidedishes.


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What people are saying

  1. Susan says

    The product you link to with the , “You can find Korean red pepper paste here,” link contains both corn syrup and wheat. It seems incongruous to link to that after your statement about not going out to eat because we encounter the same product there.

    • Jenny says

      I’m seeing, “Rice (25%, produced in Korea), Red pepper powder (10.1%, produced in Soon-Chang, Korea), Jochung (rice malt syrup, rice produced in Korea), Water, Chun-il-yeom (sea salt produced in Sin-An, Korea), spirits (rice produced in Korea), Soybean cultured with aspergillus oryzae (soybean produced in Korea), Glutinous rice (produced in Korea), Seed malt (contains 2% or less of yeast powder).”

  2. Deitan says

    This looks like a fabulous soup! Question though : if one doesn’t eat shellfish what would be the optimal substitute protein? Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Deitan,

      Thank you! If you aren’t able to do shellfish you can just stick to fish. Maybe use a couple of different species for variety. You will still have a delicious soup.

  3. Leslie says

    This is fantastic! It’ll take me a while to get all the ingredients to make this..but this looks like a stew for a special occasion. I’ll have to make this for my parents some time. Thank you

    • Jenny says

      What I would do (and I’m not the recipe devleoper on this one), would be to take the heads and/or shells from the shrimp and boil them in chicken stock to make the broth. Or I’d use Japanese fish stock (dashi) which is super easy to make at home as it just uses bonito flakes which are shelf-stable and found in many health food store, asian markets and online.

    • says

      Hi Hilary- Jenny made some great suggestions.

      For my fish broth I like to use the fish carcass with the head (gills removed), shrimp shells and heads (crushed in my blender with a lil water) and a handful of dried baby anchovies. I also include vegetable scraps I have saved up in my freezer. That can be anything from onion and carrot trimming to bits of celery.

      Hope that helps! Thanks for your comment.

    • says

      Oh my goodness. You did a great job with this stew Sarah. We make this stew quite often and I commend you for making it! It’s not easy and it looks like you did a great job. To answer Hilary’s question about the broth…You don’t have to use fish stock. If you are already using a variety of seafood as pictured. When you make the stew, you are creating the stock with all the ingredients. When we make it, in addition to the seafood pictured here, we always add two fish heads….preferably, salmon! So just use filtered water and you’ll get automatic fish stock at the end! Now I’m hungry. (We also use crown daisy – green veggies – when in season)

      • caligirl says

        i agree about not needing any pre-made seafood stock. a thing i like to do is roasted shrimp shells in the oven for a bit til fragrant, add them to filtered water and slowly simmer for about a half hour then dish them out with a slotted spoon. takes a bit more time for yout prep, but the end result is a richer, earthier broth, in my opinion.

  4. Doug says

    Haemul jigae! Love this stuff! When I was in Korea several years ago, I had a fantastic bowl of this, and I encountered a new ingredient for the first time. It’s hard and chewy – like a piece of tire – whitish in color, and roughly the size of a marble. I asked the waitress what it was called, and she replied “mee-da-da”. I imagine it would be spelled 미다다. I asked what it actually was, and she got a friend who spoke better english, and the answer was, “It is of the sea.” FAAANTASTIC. Fast forward a few years, and I’m at an H-mart in Annandale, VA. Sure enough, in the frozen section, there’s a bag labeled “미다다”. I flipped the bag over and read everything I could. I still have NO IDEA what this stuff is! Very frustrating! Does anybody have a guess what it might be? 7 years, and I still don’t have an answer. As hard and chewy as it was, I’m guessing it’s just mean to flavor the stew, rather than be eaten. Not sure, though.

    • says

      Hey Doug, That’s so curious! I’ve heard of dried sea worms as the secret ingredient for pho…and the use of dried scallops in Chinese dishes, but not what you mention. We need to do some serious research. Hopefully someone knows!

      • ju says

        Hi, Came across this wonderful page. It’s mea-du-duk -[미더덕] stalked sea squirt – wash well in water and include in seafood soup. :) It can get very hot so don’t let it all burst in your mouth without cooling it. Also, you can use beef bone stalk for soup base and essentially use similar vegi but include beef meat instead for those who cannot eat seafood.

    • Jenny says

      Lard is healthy, Molly. It is comprised primarily of monounsaturated fat (the same heart-healthy fat found in olive oil and avocado), and is extraordinarily rich in vitamin d.

  5. says

    Ah…my mouth is watery, just looking at the photo. One of my all time favorite dishes my mom makes!

    But since some of us are allergic to shellfish, she only uses salmon and other types of fish. Salmon has healthy Omega-3 so it’s win win if you can’t eat shellfish.

    I don’t mean to add uninvited comments but since I grew up eating this all my life, I’d just like to add a few suggestions.

    Broth – you can make broth with Kombu or just use filtered water like my mom does since the fish and seafood you are using will make the broth while making the stew.
    Lard – traditional Korean seafood stew does not use lard, even if its healthy, since Salmon creates a lot of good fat.
    Honey – you can omit honey since onions makes the broth sweet enough.
    Cilantro – I love cilantro but it’s not used in Korean cooking. If you want to make it real authentic and you can find it, add “Crown Daisy” ( sukgat) or Chrysanthemum_coronarium at the very end, before serving. It almost tastes like cilantro but not quite.

    But even if you don’t use these tips, this recipe is as close to the authentic Korean Seafood Stew as it gets! Great job!

  6. Viola says

    Any advice about how to source sustainable shrimp? I almost never buy it because I have trouble finding any trustworthy sources.

  7. Sopretious says

    What substitutions do you suggest for the lard, fish stock, fish sauce, etc that would make this a good vegetarian (no fish, no poultry, no meat) dish?

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