Our budae jjigae/ Korean army stew for one person is super simple and easy to make - takes only 10 minutes! It's a super comforting and hearty stew, filled with all the classic ingredients like spam, sausages, kimchi, and instant noodles, completed with a mild spicy soup.
We know how crazy busy weekdays can be when your planners are packed to the max. That's why we love easy to make dishes like our Korean sausage stir fry and Instant Pot kimchi jjigae.
So today, we're adding another one to the list. Yup, yup! This super easy and simple budae jjigae for one!
It takes minimal preparations and only 10 minutes to make! We also simplify the steps so that you can have more time to enjoy your food and less time doing dishes.
What is budae jjigae (부대찌개)?
In the early 1950s, South Korea experienced food shortages after the Korean War. Meals were supplemented with processed foods from U.S. military bases. So canned foods like beans and spam were added to Korean dishes, like kimchi stew. One of the most popular Korean-American fusion dishes created was budae jjigae (부대찌개), aka the Korean army stew.
Today, budae jjigae is still a very popular dish, enjoyed as a comforting stew, a cheap meal, and a frequently requested food to eat with alcohol (or anju). It is a "must-try-dish" if you ever visit South Korea.
What makes this version of budae jjigae simple?
Our budae jjigae for one is made simple to keep cooking and cleaning to a minimal. Most recipes for budae jjigae instructs for a soup base paste to be made with a long list of ingredients. But Korean army stew is meant to be super quick and easy to make. So, here we made it no fuss, no hassle. No soup base paste need to be made and all you need is a small pot.
Ways to enjoy budae jjigae
Budae jjigae is one of those comfort foods that does not judge how you enjoy it.
- Rice - If you eat Korean army stew at Korea restaurants, you'll probably also get a small serving of white rice. The white rice is for you to "bibim" or mixed into the stew after you've finish the ramen. You can also eat it with japgokbap (Korean multigrain rice) for an extra boost of nutrition.
- Tteok/ rice cake - Some people enjoy eating their budae jjigae with rice cakes instead of rice, along with rice, or in place of the ramen.
- Ramen/ instant noodles - Adding ramen is the classic way to enjoy Korean army stew. To make it a little healthier, instant noodles can be replaced with rice cakes, rice, or without starches.
Ingredients to make a simple budae jjigae:
Our simple budae jjigae for one is adjusted to make one person very happily full without skimping on varieties of ingredients.
The main ingredients:
- Instant noodle/ ramen - Because budae jjigae and ramen are both considered to be "cheap" meals, they are great complements for each other. Plus, it's also classic to serve Korean army stew with ramen. Our favorite ramen brand is Nongshim Shin Ramyun. It has great texture and doesn't bloat as fast as some other ramen brands.
- Korean style vienna sausages - These add texture and a nice subtle smokey flavor to the stew, but can be replaced by any mini cocktail sausages, hotdogs, or even regular canned vienna sausages.
- Spam - Not exactly a must, but definitely a what budae jjigae is known for. Any version is great, but we prefer either the lite version and the Korean luncheon meat because it's not as salty but still amazing!
- Yellow onion - Onion replaces the sugar a lot of recipes adds to their budae jjigae soup base. This adds natural sweetness and flavor.
- Tofu, mushrooms, green onion - These are optional add-ons to customize your personal budae jjigae. Feel free to do without or substitute for softer tofu or other mushrooms, like enoki, shiitake, and portobellos.
- Sliced cheese - Particularly American cheese, is a popular cheesy add-on that makes budae jjigae even more of a fusion dish. Totally optional, but a great addition if you want some cheesy, creamy flavor.
The "soup base":
- Water or stock - With just water, Korean army stew is already super flavorful. But if you want extra flavor and nutrition, use homemade chicken or beef stock or anchovy stock.
- Fermented kimchi - Another must have for Korean army stew. It's the main seasoning for soup base and gives the stew just enough acidity to balance the flavor.
- Gochugaru, gochujang, garlic - These three are the other "soup base" seasonings for budae jjiage. All three can be adjusted to make your army stew spicer, milder, or more garlicky. Just don't add too much gochujang or you'll have gochujang stew instead!
How to make Korean army stew/ budae jjigae for one:
1. Arrange the all the main ingredients for this simple budae jjigae in a small pot (ie. canned meat, sausage, tofu, veggies).
2. Add the "soup base seasonings": gochugaru, gochujang, garlic, and black pepper (optional).
3. Add the water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Let the stew cook for a minute or two.
4. Add your favorite instant noodles and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, until almost done.
5. Add the sliced cheese and green onion and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the noodles are just done.
6. Enjoy immediately and serve with steamed white rice if you'd like!
1. Trick to remove spam easily out of its can. Kyong showed me this mind-blowing trick to get spam out of the can. After opening the can, simply squeeze the short sides of the can to release the long sides from the spam. Flip it upside down and shake. It'll slide out easily!
2. Cut mini cocktail sausages into "octopuses". You could simply slice the sausages or hotdog. But you can also cut the mini sausages into cut octopus shapes. No one said you can't have fun and enjoy good food!
To make octopus sausages:
With the sausage laying down, cut the sausage lengthwise, half way. Turn the sausage 90 degrees and cut it lengthwise half way again. When you cook the sausages, they'll open up like octopuses. If you want, you could cut two more times, in between the other cuts, to get eight tentacles.
3. Use good quality fermented kimchi. Because the fermented kimchi is a large part of budae jjigae's soup base, it is important to use good quality kimchi if possible. Make your own kimchi or use one with generous kimchi marinade that's not watery. Also, make sure it's well fermented. We want the tanginess!
4. Don't overcook the instant noodles and enjoy immediately! Ramen has the best texture when it's just cooked. So make sure to add it to the stew when it's boiling and cook until just done, about 2-3 minutes. Enjoy immediately, as the noodles will slowly bloat as they sit.
Budae translates to "military/ army base" and jjigae translates to "stew". Hence the name, army stew or army base stew.
Budae jjigae/ Korean army stew soup base is essentially flavored with fermented kimchi, gochugaru, gochujang, garlic, and sugar (if needed). Just add these seasonings to the rest of the budae jjigae ingredients and water/stock and you've got a classic Korean army stew!
Budae jjigae is a super customizable stew. All you need are fermented kimchi, gochujang, gochugaru, garlic, instant noodles, and canned meat (spam). Other ingredients you can add to your Korean army stew are hotdog or mini sausages, bacon, rice cakes, vegetables, baked beans, and cheese.
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Simple Budae Jjigae for One (Korean Army Stew)
- 5 Korean style Vienna sausage sliced or cut into desired shapes* (you can also use mini cocktail sausages or a hotdog instead)
- ¼ can spam sliced
- ½ cup fermented kimchi cut into bite size
- ½ small yellow onion sliced
- ¼ block firm tofu drained and sliced (optional)
- 1.5 ounce shimeji mushrooms root removed (feel free to use any mushrooms of your choice or not at all)*
- 1 tablespoon gochugaru (coarse) (Korean red pepper flakes)
- ½ tablespoon gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
- ½ tablespoon garlic minced (1 large clove)
- 2 cups water or stock
- 1 pack instant noodle (our favorite is Shin ramyeon because it has really nice texture, but feel free to use what you have.)
- 1 slice American cheese or your preferred cheese (optional)
- 1 stalk green onion sliced (or Korean leeks)
- Add the ingredients for budae jjigae in a medium pot, except for the water, instant noodles, cheese and green onion. Feel free to nicely arrange all the ingredients if you'd like.*We like to have our main ingredients around the pot and save the center for the "soup base" (gochujang, gochugaru, garlic, etc).*
- Pour the water over the ingredients and bring the stew to a boil over medium high heat and cook for a minute or two.
- Add the instant noodle into the pot and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the noodles are loosened.
- Finish the budae jjigae with the slice of cheese and sliced green onions. Cook for another 30 seconds to a minute, or until the noodles are just cooked.
- Serve the stew immediate and enjoy while it's hot. You can also eat the budae jjigae with a small side of steamed white rice.
- Fermented kimchi - This is a must for budae jjigae, as it is the main flavoring for the stew. Make sure to use fermented, sour kimchi to give the army stew more depth of flavor.
- Korean vienna sausages - Feel free to substitute these sausages with whatever mini sausages you have available. You can also use a hotdog instead. We like to use mini sausages so that we can cut them into cute "octopuses".
- To cut octopus sausages: Make two lengthwise cuts, half way up the sausages.
- Mushrooms - Totally optional. Also feel free to use whatever mushrooms you'd like. If using mushrooms with large caps (like shiitake and portobellos), sliced them.
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