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.
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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.)
What's in it?
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.
Spicy Korean Seafood and Vegetable StewPrint Save Recipe Saved!
For the Broth
- 4 tablespoons lard
- 1 white onion (sliced thin)
- 2 Thai chilis
- 5 green onions (finely chopped, whites and greens separated)
- ¾ tablespoon ginger paste
- 2 tablespoons garlic
- 6 cups fish stock
- 1 tablespoon gochugaru
- 1 tablespoon gochujang
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon honey
- finely ground real salt (as needed)
For the Vegetables
- 2 small young white radishes (sliced ¼-inch thick)
- 3 shiitake mushrooms (sliced ¼-inch thick)
- 1 carrots (sliced ¼-inch thick)
- 1 cup enoki mushrooms
- 4 small tatsoi
- 1 cup watercress
For the Fish
- 1 pound cod
- 1 pound shrimp
- 1 pound clams
- fresh mung bean sprouts
- Thai chili
- steamed rice
- In a heavy pot, heat lard over medium-high heat until it melts. Add onion, sliced chili peppers, and sliced white scallion. Fry them gently in the hot fat, until they begin to brown slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add the watercress and reserved green scallions. Bring back to a light simmer for 5 minutes, then lower the heat again.
- 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.
- Remove from heat, add garnishes, and serve with rice.