I first tasted Gyeranjjim when living and teaching in Daejeon, South Korea. At the time, my boyfriend (now my husband a.k.a “J”) visited while on scheduled leave from the Korean military. After sitting down for Korean barbecue, “J” requested a banchan that I could safely eat as someone with celiac disease. What came out was completely unexpected…Egg? Served with barbecue?
The dish set in front of me was entirely unfamiliar. The closest western food I can imagine is either a custard or souffle, but even these options are a distant comparison.
J then explained that the word Gyeranjjim (계란찜) comes from a combination of “geryan” which means “egg” and “jjim” which refers to “something steamed.” It is a side dish, banchan, served at home and restaurants for all meals of the day. The creamy and light flavor of the egg acts as a palate cleanser in combination with dishes that are heavier in flavor. With a leap of faith, I spooned out a bit of gyeranjjim from the bowl and fell in love.
How Does Gyeranjjim Taste?
When trying it for the first time, you will notice the fluffy and light texture before an actual taste. It melts away in your mouth leaving you with the lasting but gentle flavors of egg, drizzled sesame oil, and green onion. During the winter gyeranjjim warms you as it settles into your stomach. During the summer, it is light and easy to eat as it doesn’t leave you feeling too full.
In its simplest form, you can make gyeranjjim with eggs, broth, and green onions. If you want to get a bit fancier, add other chopped vegetables. I recommend carrots and onions if making an addition. In Korea, it is common to top Gyeranjjim with pollack roe.
How is Gyeranjjim Cooked and Served?
Gyeranjjim is cooked and served in a small traditional earthenware bowl called a ttukbaegi (뚝배기). It is a magical and necessary tool and that enables you to cook directly on your stovetop. I then serve from the same bowl after placing a protective mat on the table.
If you do not have a ttukbaegi, you can use other types of earthenware or coated cast-iron (such as a small Le Creuset or Staub) to make this dish on the stove. Other cooking styles involve using the microwave with ceramic wrap (not my favorite) or using a ramekin in a pot of boiling water to steam. I have attempted these different versions and they are honestly just “okay.” Sometimes the egg will become clumpy instead of silky and fluffy. I truly recommend investing in a ttukbaegi if you plan on cooking a lot of Korean food. Thankfully, they are not too expensive! You can find them at your local Asian market (like the chain H-Mart), on Amazon, or other online retailers.
Some Further Cooking Tips
- You can use a few different types of liquid as your base: anchovy broth, chicken broth, or salted water. My personal favorite is chicken broth. It adds that extra umami to the dish. Salted water works well for those who are vegetarian. I do not like the flavor vegetable broth adds when cooking the eggs (but this is just my personal preference based on the vegetable broths I have tried.)
- The eggs need to be beaten until smooth, otherwise, the mixture will clump into a mess. If you would like, try running your eggs through a mesh sieve. This will help break down the eggs further. I learned this tip from Korean Bapsang who uses a different gyeranjjim method than me!
- The cooking time can differ greatly depending on the type of stove used. A gas stove takes much less time than an electric stove. I cooked on both and noted that it takes about 5-6 minutes with gas and up to 8-10 minutes with electric. Keep an eye on this dish and check often. Once you know how to cook it on your stove, it is hard to mess up!!!
If You Are Cooking Korean Barbecue…
If you plan on cooking Korean barbecue soon, I recommend checking out our post about the best barbecue dipping sauces. My favorites are ssamjang and sesame oil. When eating beef, wasabi is a wonderful addition.
Koreans also serve stew as a side dish when eating samgyeopsal or other styles of barbecue. Typically, you will find either doenjang jjigae or kimchi jjigae on the table. If you have tried both, which do you prefer?
Let us know your favorite Korean side dishes in the comments below!
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