Fall is finally here and for many people, this means apple picking, pumpkin-spice everything, and the anticipation of the holidays to come. In my little Chicago apartment, smells of garlic and spices waft down the halls, as bottles of kimchi and broths are prepared.
So, to share the wealth, here are some of my favorite Korean dishes (and their histories) that will keep you cozy this fall.
1. Doenjang Jjigae: 된장찌개
As classic as chicken noodle soup is for Americans, Doenjang Jjigae is a traditional Korean dish that can be found on Korean stovetops everywhere this fall. This combination of fermented soybean-paste soup base, hearty vegetables, tofu, and seafood will fill and warm you up.
Don’t let the fermented soybean paste scare you, for the paste’s umami-rich body satisfies that weird craving that is neither salty nor sweet.
2. Yukgaejang: 육개장
For all you meat and heat-eaters out there, I introduce yukgaejang: spicy broth, spicy shredded beef, spicy vegetables. This steamy stew with a spicy background was a regular at the tables of Korean royalty alongside goldongban (bibimbap) and tteokguk (see below).
As winter approaches, I highly recommend this stew to rid the sniffles.
#SpoonTip: Noses will run, so keep a napkin on hand.
3. Tteokguk: 떡국
Simple flavors make up this Korean dish: broth and rice cakes. Tteokguk is traditionally eaten to celebrate the start of a new year. Like many cuisines, the components of the dish are symbolic of something greater.
The simple broth and white rice cakes of the dish represent a clean start to the new year. The rice cakes, also shaped like coins, represent prosperity to come.
4. Eomukguk: 어묵국
Similar to the Japenese Oden dish, eomukguk is a fish cake soup and is commonly sold by street vendors. Due to the many variations of fish cake, eomukguk never gets boring in flavor or appearance. It's warm, it's umami-rich, and it's the perfect accompaniment to a chilly and colorful fall day.
5. Mandu: 만두
No they're not pot-stickers or gyoza, they're mandu, which as basically Korea's dumplings. Mandu is great homemade, but for those on the fly (and on the budget) I personally recommend the mandu stand located right outside the Joong Boo Market.
For only a buck each (!!), these soft, fluffly dumplings are filled with spicy kimchi (their specialty), pork (also delicious), or red bean (a dessert mandu) and are best eaten warm.
#SpoonTip: Joong Boo Market has all your specialty Korean dishes and ingredients as well as a killer restaurant inside.
6. Manduguk: 만두국
In the spirit of mandu, manduguk is a cozy combo of broth and dumplings. Pick your choice of mandu and throw it into a vat of anchovy broth, spice it up with some veggies and an egg and boom, you're set.
Along with its delicious brethren, manduguk was another royal court favorite. As an easier alternative (especially during sick days), manduguk can be made with frozen dumplings and chicken broth.
Not ramen, ramyun. This cheap dish is essential Korean comfort food. When my family came over from Korea this summer, whenever they felt homesick, Shin-Ramyun was the answer. Fun fact: Shin is actually the Chinese character for spicy!
Ready in about 10 minutes, this Korean dish with Japanese origins is composed of broth and noodles (duh), and a spice packet with spices (duh, again), dried green onions, mushrooms, and carrots. Add vegetables, an egg, meat or whatever you fancy for this quick feast.
8. Kungnamulguk: 콩나물국
Kungnamulguk, or soybean sprout soup, is light vegetarian soup that can be spiced up or down. Personally, I like it spicy. This dish is super easy to make and consists of anchovies, soybeans sprouts, scallions, garlic, water, and salt and pepper.
This soup is a great healthy and light alternative to calorie-ridden lattés and meaty chilis.
9. Miyeokguk: 쇠고기 미역국
Another lighter soup, Miyeokguk is a seaweed soup that makes the perfect savory breakfast in the fall and winter. Although miyeokguk is typically vegetarian, beef or chicken can be added.
Believed to contain the essential nutrients for rearing newborns, this dish is traditionally consumed after giving birth or on birthdays to commemorate mothers.
10. Gimjang: 김장
Gimjang is a version of kimchi that is made with napa cabbage. Kimchi is literally found at every meal, all year round. You eat it with rice, you eat it plain, you put it in a mandu—kimchi is Korea.
Despite its stinky rep, kimchi has a long and glorious history. Gimjang is particular to fall months due to the limited vegetables that are available for fermentation. In preparation for winters, back when refrigerators and supermarkets were not a thing, large portions of gimjang were prepared and tucked away into the ground for proper preservation and preparation.
Although kimchi is not for everyone, for those who do love it or are willing to try, prepare for a spicy fall. Or try one of the other mentioned dishes to warm up on those crisp fall days.