Budae jjigae

Budae jjigae – the literal translation of this is army base stew.  It is a type of jjigae, a thick Korean soup similar to stew. During the Korean War meat was scarce in many parts of Seoul and South Korea and the local people began to scavenge the surplus foods from the US Army bases. 

The Americans brought in their own food and much of it food that had never been seen in Korea before such as Spam, Frankfurter sausages, baked beans, and pre-sliced ‘Army’ cheese. In true Korean fashion the local people took these ingredients and mixed it with their own traditional food to make a spicy stew that they named Budae Jjigae.

Budae jjigae is still very popular in South Korea and one of my favourite meals.  Today the dish often incorporates more modern ingredients such as instant noodles as well as ground beef, onions, green onions, tteok, tofu, mushrooms and other vegetables in season.  Each restaurant has their own version and the level of spice and garlic seems to vary a lot, as do the side dished that always accompany it.

This very spicy dish is normally cooked in a big pan set in the middle of the table and everyone serves themselves, this is not a meal you can go to a restaurant on your own to eat. If you are single and don’t think you can live without your fix of budae jjigae you can take the cheats way out (like I do) and purchase a ready to cook version from your fav restaurant and make it at home!

Budae jjigae ingredients


The liquid for cooking the above in!

I am yet to find out what is in the liquid that the Budae jjigae is cooked with and all the recipies I have found would not produce this milky looking liquid, but I have had a couple of Korean friends that have offered to teach me how they make it.  I’ll let you know as soon as I find out!

I have found a recipe that looks pretty good though and thought I would add it in just in case anyone got the urge to have a go, but be warned this really is very spicy dish and not for those that don’t like chilli type hot food.


1 Onion sliced finely

2 chilli peppers

Green leafy vegetables (Spinach, Chrysanthemum Leaves, kale etc)

2 spring onions but do not remove the long green leafy bit – add it in

800ml of Water with Chicken Stock

150g of Spam sliced into thin strips

3 Frankfurters (hot dogs) cut thinly lengthways

1 handful of Bean sprouts

250 g of ground beef

150g of Tofu (optional)

1 Onion cut finely

1 leek

2 Mushrooms, sliced

budae jjigae ingredients

1 Tablespoon of Gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
1 Tablespoon of Red Pepper Powder
1 whole bulb of crushed garlic
3 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon of Sugar
1 Tablespoon of Sesame Oil

Start by putting about 800ml of water in a pan, add to this about 2 tablespoons of chicken stock and mix well. Cut the Spam, sausages and tofu in to slices and cut all the vegetables. In a bowl add all the ingredients for the sauce and mix well, Place the sauce into the pan and add the other ingredients around it.

budae jjigae cooking

Bring the entire mix to boil and cook well, this should take no more than about 10 minutes, the easiest way to check is to see if the onion is soft.

Serve in a bowl with a little cooked rice in the bottom.  The above suggests its for about 4-5 people, but that will depend on how hungry you are – or how much you like this wonderful Korean dish.


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