After a day of driving around playing chaffeur for my kids and going to multiple stores for this, that, and the other, the last thing I want to do is cook. I then think about the the limited take-out options and reluctantly convince myself that I will be disappointed….again. And if all the stars are aligned, i.e. if I have all my staples on hand, dwaenjang guk is my “fast food” dish when I want to feed my family something healthy and that is ready in less than 30 minutes. It is basically composed of dwaenjang, tofu, and greens. This is also my “welcome home” soup after spending days in a hotel and eating out for almost every meal.
For accompaniments, I serve white rice and gheem (seasoned nori) for the kids, and add a side of kimchi for me and my husband. Now for the uninitiated, dwaenjang is a Korean fermented soybean paste that is a bolder, more pungent version of miso. As for the greens in the soup, I typically used baby kale or spinach. You can try radish greens, collard greens, or swiss chard. The greens with the thicker ribs will need to be cooked a little longer until tender. I have also made versions of this soup with some chopped beef or chicken. If you start the rice before you prep for the soup, your meal will be ready to serve when the soup is done!
- 2 Tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
- ¼ cup dwaenjang (Korean fermented soybean paste)
- 5-6 cups of chicken or vegetable broth or water
- 14 ounces tofu, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 5 ounces of bitter greens, cut into thin strips (chiffonade) if you’re not using baby greens
- In a large pot, heat a couple of tablespoons of cooking oil over medium heat. Add garlic and dwaenjang and cooked until the dwaenjang forms a crust on the bottom of the pan (fond), about 5 minutes. Note: If you want to incorporate meat, add a quarter pound of chopped chicken or beef with the garlic and dwaenjang and cook until meat is browned.
- Add 5 cups of broth or water to the pot. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pot and stir. Taste the soup. If the dwaenjang flavor is too strong for you, you can always add a cup more broth or water. Add the tofu and greens and bring to a boil again. Lower the heat to medium, partially cover the pot, and let simmer for about 20 minutes or until the greens are tender.