Korean army stew (or army stew), known as Budae Jjigae, is an iconic Korean-American fusion dish. It’s made with canned processed meats such as Spam, but with the Korean flavor of kimchi and instant ramen noodles. It’s not high-class fare but it has an interesting history and tastes extremely good.

Korean army stew (Budae Jjigae)

It’s not an unusual scene in Korea to see a pot of steaming hot stew in the middle of the dinner table. This Budae jjigae (부대찌개) is another popular Korean stew to add to your repertoire.

Korean army stew (or army stew) is not only widely seen in Korean homes, it is also known as an easy camping food because of its non-perishable canned food ingredients.

Many budae jjigae restaurants, like Nolboo Budae Jjigae (놀부 부대찌개), serve this tasty stew all over Korea and in other countries, too.

Army Stew History

When the Korean War resulted in an armistice in 1953, the land of Korea was devastated and the economy collapsed. Food was scarce and many people relied on relief aid from the U.N and the United States to survive during the next several years.

People living near the U.S army base in the areas of Uijeongbu and Pyeongtaek were able to access the surplus processed meats (known as budae gogi, 부대고기) from the military bases, and they made good use of them. (These canned meats were often scrounged or smuggled through the black market, since American products on the army base were solely for the troops, and were not legally accessible to Koreans).

Budae jjigae began as a very humble stew mixing American canned food with local Korean flavors, making it the very first Korean-American fusion dish. Since then, this army stew gained popularity during Korea’s period of rapid growth, and evolved to become an iconic Koran culinary dish.

A pot filled with budae jjigae ingredients and ramen noodles are simmering over a portable burner.

Who would have thought this post-war humble stew would gain such popularity around the world? Anthony Bourdain, the famous cook and TV personality on Food TV, shared this Korean army stew recipe with Andrew Cooper on CNN’s Parts Unknown.

To be honest, I never tried this stew until I was in my 20’s. My parents never wanted to eat this stew as I was growing up. I think that for them, it brought back memories of the miserable post-war period that they had to suffer through.

But for most other Koreans, budae jjigae brings a feeling of nostalgia. Korean army stew teaches a lesson – to stay humble even in your abundance and to acquire strength to protect our freedoms and democracy.

Ingredients for making budae jjigae is arranged on the counter to display.

Budae jjigae Ingredients

This Korean army stew recipe might seem to have a long list of ingredients, but you can make it as simple or as hearty as you want. I am just offering you the options. So play with what’s available and the ingredients you like.

Must-include ingredients

Spam and other canned meats are displaying.
  • Spam: I prefer low sodium
  • Pork & beans: The original budae jjigae always includes this canned food. It brings the unique flavor of this stew.
  • Hot dogs and/or sausage: more processed meat to make it hearty and add umami flavor.
  • Kimchi: Kimchi is what makes this stew “fusion”
  • Stock: Try it with chicken stock. It adds more depth to the broth. Some people use anchovy kelp stock. Either one is fine, but I prefer chicken stock for this recipe for Korean army stew. Using just plain water won’t bring the flavor you want.

Other popular ingredients to add

More Korean army stew ingredients are laid on a counter to display.
  • Pork belly or ground pork: additional protein
  • Tofu: I recommend using soft tofu for its delicate texture. It absorbs the broth and holds the taste better than firm tofu.
  • Instant ramen noodles: Use Korean ramen noodles if you can
  • Cheese: You can use American cheese, but I prefer cheddar cheese.
  • Onion/green onion: additional aromatic ingredients
  • Mushroom: Any mushroom of your choice. I used oyster mushroom.

Extra add-ins you might like

Korean army stew sauce

  • Korean chili flakes + gochujang + Korean soup soy sauce + soy sauce + garlic + pepper

Tips for enjoying Budae Jjigae

  1. Make your budae jjigae in a large, shallow pan to hold all the jjigae ingredients. I used a brasier pan.
  2. Cook your army stew on a portable burner right at the table, and have people pick out what they like to eat while the stew is simmering. (Most of the ingredients don’t take long to cook.)
  3. Try to eat the instant ramen noodles sooner rather than later, since they get soggy quickly once cooked.
  4. Have extra soup stock and jjigae ingredients nearby while eating so that you can replenish the stew if more is needed.

How to make Budae Jjigae

Spicy budae jjigae sauce is mixed in a small bowl with a spoon.

Step 1. Prepare Budae jigae sauce.

Mix together Korean chili flakes (gochugaru), gochujang, soy sauces, garlic, and pepper in a small mixing bowl; set aside.

Sliced onion is placed on the bottom of large shallow pan.
A large pan filled with canned meats, tofu, kimchi and other ingredients are placed on a portable burner.

Step 2. Arrange ingredients in a pan

Put slices of onion on the bottom of a shallow pan. Arrange the jjigae fillings (Spam slices, hot dogs, sausage, tofu, mushroom, kimchi, and etc) as you please.

Stock is poured on the budae jjigae pot filled with canned meats, rice cakes, ramen noodles and cheese.

Step 3. Add noodles and stock.

Add instant ramen noodles, cheese and the seasoning paste. Pour in enough stock to barely cover everything.

Kitchen tongs are picking up cooked ramen noodles from the pot of Korean army stew.

Step 4. Bring to boil.

Place the pan on the stove (I recommend using a portable burner right on the table) and bring the stew to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer. Stir the seasoning paste to distribute it throughout the stew. Stir ramen noodles to cook evenly in the simmering stock.

How to serve Korean army stew

Korean army stew doesn’t take long to cook since most of the meat is already cooked.

When the ramen noodle is soft and chewy, enjoy the noodles first on individual plates or bowls before they get soggy. Then you can serve the stew hot right at the table, dishing out a portion.

You can also serve it with rice, drizzling the broth over the rice to soak up all the wonderful flavor.

A bowl of rice is topped kimchi budae jjigae Spam, hot dog and kimchi with a spoon.

More Korean Fusion Dishes

If you want to explore Korean flavors mingled in other global cuisine, these recipes will satisfy your taste palettes:

Korean army stew (Budae Jjigae)

Iconic Korean Army Stew (Budae Jjigae)

Korean army stew, known as Budae Jjigae, is Korean-American fusion dish. It's made with canned processed meats such as Spam, but with the Korean flavor of kimchi and instant ramen noodles.
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Ingredients

For Budae Jjigae sauce

For Budae Jjigae stew

  • 12 oz can Spam, sliced
  • 8 oz can pork and beans
  • 4.6 oz can Vienna sausage, drained
  • 3 hot dogs, sliced in half
  • 1 lb firm tofu, sliced
  • 2/3 cup sour kimchi, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 3 oz mushroom, sliced
  • 4 cup chicken stock, low sodium
  • 1 instant ramen noodles, noodles only

Optional stew ingredients

  • 1 slice cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 lb ground pork
  • 6 frozen dumplings
  • 3 oz rice cake rounds
  • 1/2 Asian leek, sliced

Equipment

Instructions 

  • To prepare Budae jigae sauce, mix together Korean chili flakes (gochugaru), gochujang, soy sauces, garlic, and pepper in a small mixing bowl; set aside.
  • To arrange ingredients in a pan, put slices of onion on the bottom of a shallow pan. Arrange the jjigae fillings (Spam slices, hot dogs, sausage, tofu, mushroom, kimchi, and etc) as you please.
  • Add instant ramen noodles, cheese and the seasoning paste. Pour in enough stock to barely cover everything.
  • Place the pan on the stove (I recommend using a portable burner right on the table) and bring the stew to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer.
  • Stir the seasoning paste to distribute it throughout the stew. Stir ramen noodles to cook evenly in the simmering stock.
  • Serving Tip: When the ramen noodle is soft and chewy, enjoy the noodles first on individual plates or bowls before they get soggy. Then you can serve the stew hot right at the table, dishing out a portion.
Calories: 855kcal, Carbohydrates: 54g, Protein: 48g, Fat: 51g, Saturated Fat: 17g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g, Monounsaturated Fat: 23g, Cholesterol: 131mg, Sodium: 3197mg, Potassium: 1222mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 1832IU, Vitamin C: 9mg, Calcium: 241mg, Iron: 7mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @beyondkimchee on Instagram. I love to see your masterpiece.

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