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Kim Chee Chi Ge

Korean Soup

Korean Soup

We know it as Kim Chee Soup, or Stew. I had never eated it until my sister took me to a tiny Korean restaurant in Richmond, Virginia. I have never made this dish, but I eat Kim Chee occasionally, and even find it at my local supermarket in the Produce section – It usually sits in the refrigerated case near the tofu, wonton wrappers and “The Devil.” “The Devil,” in this case, refers to the soy-based fake hotdog and sausage selection, but I digress. I have seen entire cases of different Kim Chees (is that the correct plural usage?) in my Asian market, Super H Mart (See This Post) How does one choose from a selection so big? There was Kim Chee in bottles, Kim Chee in jars, and Kim Chee in plastic bags like you were taking a goldfish home from the pet store. I will have to explore this further at another time….

No real research was done before I made this dish – I happened to be looking in the fridge to see what I could use for dinner. I saw the Tofu (Yes, I occasionally eat Tofu – I slice it, fry it, then sauce it. Although it sucks by itself, it is the perfect “vehicle” for flavor and can be very versatile in that regard). I also had a collection of carrots, cabbage, and onions left over from Saint Patty’s day, and a thought somehow entered my mind: Kim Chee Soup! All I had to pick up was the Kim Chee itself.

My research since has found that Pork is traditionally added to this dish. I didn’t know that when I made it, and God forbid I actually get caught making a purely vegetarian dish! So I started by sauteeing some small bits of homemade Tasso ham to give it some richness and flavor. When I had this dish at the Korean restaurant, it was made and served in a wide, somewhat shallow dish. After scouring our basement, I discovered our long-forgtten “paella pan”, which fit the bill nicely.

Next I added my vegetables – Onion, cabbage, and carrots, all chopped down to bite-sized pieces. I also had a package of sliced mushrooms so I added those as well (our Kitchen Sink was in use so that did no go in!) After a few minutes, as they started to get soft, I added enough chicken stock to cover (OK, that’s now 2 shots across the Bow to the Vegetarians!) I let that simmer just a couple of minutes to further soften up the vegetables, then added the jar of supermarket Kim Chee and stirred than in. Soon, the kitchen started to pick up that rich tangy aroma of Kim Chee, which was good for a moment (but you may want to air yours out the rest of the night!)

Now to taste and adjust – The heat was close, and I added a bit of salt and pepper. If it is too spicy for you, add more stock or water, and too bland, well, add any heat you want – Red Pepper flakes probably being the easiest. Now I planned on adding some noodles to this dish so I cooked up some pre-packaged curly noodles from the Asian market – I found these a year or 2 back, and I wish I could give you the name, but there is no English translation on the package(I have an empty wrapping in my car to take in the store with me when I go back since I don’t know the name!) I actually added some of the spice packet as well, which gave the dish a bit more depth and a little more heat.

Dumpling night was the week before, and I had some frozen chicken dumplings just waiting to be eaten. I quickly boiled these up and added them to the pot. You can use any frozen dumplings that you enjoy, just be sure not to add them to early – Or you may end up with Dumpling Mush.

I already had the firm tofu – I always use the firm stuff, unless you are going to be smashing it up.) I sliced that up and layed the pieces on the top of the soup. After spooning some of the sauce over them and the dumplings, I let things mingle for just a few minutes before serving.

The result was very close to what I remember at the restaurant – Teh vegetables were cooked but still had some teeth to them, the sauce was rich and spicy, and the tofu, dumplings, and noodles helped round things out. I brought the entire pan to the table for that “communal eating” vibe, and gave each place setting a bowl, chopsticks, and a Japanese soup spoon.

There are lots of things you can do to this dish to make it your own – try other varieties of vegatables, add a pork chop, sliced pork, or even beef or chicken. Don’t worry about dumplings or noodles if you don’t want to. You could even either add rice or reduce the amount of liquid and spoon it over rice.

Either way, if Kim Chee is your thing, having a jar in the fridge is a good idea. It keeps for a while (After all, it is already fermented!) and is a good side dish for any other Asian meal, especially if you need to pack a punch or just want a different palete cleanser.

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