아침(Achim)- “Morning” 먹다(Meokda) “to eat” 아침식사(Achim-Siksa) “breakfast” 반찬(Banchan) “Side Dishes” 된장찌개(Doenjang Jjigae) “Soybean paste stew”
Let’s have a heart to heart about breakfast. Secretly, I do not like breakfast food. I could die happy without having another piece of bacon (Ah! I know! Shocker), eggs are boring to me if they aren’t covered in hollandaise sauce or cooked in shakshuka, cereal and milk is just meh, and French toast is something I’m only willing to have every five years. Yeah, I’m a freak, I know. (Though I am totally team grits, waffles, and hash browns.)
Basically, American breakfasts are boring to me. Instead, I am usually squatting in front of the fridge every morning for some dinner leftovers. Cold, leftover pizza is the peanut butter to my jelly, the bee’s knees, my cat’s pajamas.
Introduction to Korean Breakfast
While living in South Korea and spending time in Japan I discovered how good breakfasts are in other countries! In both Japan and South Korea, meals are a balance of protein, vegetables, and carbs. Today I am going to teach you all about a typical Korean breakfast!
- The first thing to learn about Korean meals is that they are all served with a bowl of rice. Most people here in the U.S. would never think to serve rice with breakfast, but they do in Asia! The rice is your own personal dish in the meal. The rest of the dishes sit at the center of the breakfast table and the family shares them (If you live alone, more food for you!). A note of etiquette: In South Korea it is rude to lift your bowl to your face. In Japan, it is rude to leave your bowl of rice sitting on the table.
- All meals are served with Banchan. Banchan are side dishes that everyone shares. Some side dishes include different types of Kimchi, braised lotus root, seasoned spinach, seasoned bean sprouts, and more. Many side dishes are fermented, made in advance, and stored. The other side dishes are quick to make.
- All meals include a protein dish. Sometimes seared fish is served. Other times there is a meat, poultry, or tofu dish. Even further, a quick fried egg suffices if you are alone. The protein is once again in the middle of the table as a Banchan. We made tofu and egg pancakes for our breakfast.
- Soup: Typically, you will have a soup or stew as a part of a traditional Korean Breakfast. In Korea, seaweed soup is for birthday meals. For this breakfast, we made soybean paste stew!
Breakfasts in Asia are obviously different than they are here in America. While living overseas I adapted my breakfast style to match those around me. I liked how the balanced meal made me feel throughout the day. It gave me plenty of energy and my work improved because of this. I also ate smaller meals throughout the rest of the day because the large well-balanced breakfast sustained me! Who knew, right?
Doenjang Jjigae: The Most Popular Korean Breakfast
Anyway, the stew is the recipe of the day. Soybean paste stew, 된장찌개 (Doenjang Jjigae), is common in Korea. Though Koreans eat it during any meal, I most often ate it for breakfast. The base of the soup is doenjang, which means “soybean paste.” It is a very salty and earthy-tasting fermented paste that Koreans use for soups and certain sauces. It is traditionally made entirely of soybeans and brine. Modern, mass-produced versions often contain wheat. So, for all of you gluten-free people out there like me, you can’t just go buy any old doenjang. Read the labels and inform yourself before making a decision.
It is also important to note that Doenjang is not miso. Many westerners make this mistake and assume they will taste the same. It will not taste like miso just because many people label it as “Korea’s Miso.”
Like I stated before, though I prepared this for a morning meal, you can serve doenjang jjigae for lunch and dinner! Jay prefers to sip on soybean paste stew while eating samgyeopsal, Korean pork belly barbecue. I think I will definitely be serving this next year at my annual Chuseok Party or try it along with homemade kimchi!
**Note: I used a traditional Korean ttukbaegi to make this recipe. You can use these bowls over high heat. If you do not have one, a small pot works fine!
If you love Asian cooking like me, here are some articles that you might find interesting:
- Gyeranjjim: Korean Steamed Eggs
- Is Sake Gluten-Free? How to Find Gluten-Free Sake
- Korean Barbecue Dipping Sauces
- Dakjuk: Korean Chicken Rice Porridge
- Chicken Yakitori: Japanese Chicken Skewers
- Korean Thanksgiving Meal
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