Army Stew (부대찌개), pronounced Budae-jjigae, is one of my favorite Korean Dishes. Budae-jjigae is an incredibly delicious hodgepodge of ingredients, and like many great dishes, poverty was the reason for its creation. During the Korean War, food was scarce and many Korean families had to incorporate cheap foods from the local army bases into their traditional recipes. This meant utilizing foods like spam and hot dogs, and these were usually leftovers. These desperate times, however, resulted in one of South Korea’s greatest culinary gifts to the rest of the word, Budae-jjigae. When the weather starts to get frigid in Seoul, nothing makes me feel better than a steaming hot bowl of Budae-jjigae. My favorite place to have this is located in a back alley near the Dongdaemun Design Plaza. The shop is inconspicuous, just a large, average looking, white neon sign can be seen from outside. What it lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in popularity. As dinner time approaches, the place becomes crowded with hungry people. The old women in charge of the restaurant constantly sprint back and forth between tables taking orders, refilling side dishes, and distributing copious amounts of alcohol. The stew is served in a large metal pot and cooked in the center of the table. Each serving costs 7,000 won, so between 4 people we spent 28,000. The metal bowl was huge and it was loaded to the brim with spam, hotdogs, kimchi, ramen noodles, and some other vegetables. The stew is spicy and the smoky flavor from the boiled spam and hotdogs makes a wonderful broth. I should say upfront that I was not a fan of spam and that I probably only tried it once before coming to Seoul, but in this soup it is transformed into something not only edible but delicious. I actually find myself digging through the bowl, every time I eat budae-jjigae, desperately searching for any pieces that my friends might have missed. On paper, this dish sounds like a catastrophe. How could all of those ingredients possibly combine to create such an incredibly delicious, rich, complex, and satisfying food? It beats me, but if you live in South Korea and have not had this dish yet, then you should change that as soon as possible. Your taste buds will thank you.
Go to Dongdaemun History and Culture Park
Take Exit 12
Immediately take a left and walk straight (away from DDP, AKA the thing that looks like a spaceship)
Walk two streets down and turn left
The restaurant will be the second one on your right
We're just a couple addicted to great food. We love Anthony Bourdain!