Soybean Paste Stew (Doenjang Jjigae)

Introduction

Featured Image: 이동원,Doenjang-jjigae

Winter in Beijing was lengthy and tedious. Chilling wind kept Beijingers from all the outdoor activities. On a typical Saturday evening in winter, my parents and I would go to a Korean restaurant near my home. We would order a soybean paste stew, chat in the aroma of steaming soybean paste stew and enjoy the cozy family time. As for me, soybean paste stew not only means my favorite food, but also reminds me of my family. However, when I came to Atlanta and learned to cook soybean paste stew on my own, I found that some ingredients were not very easy to get. Instead of driving 16 miles to Hmart to get all the ingredients, I began to think about substitutions.

In my original recipe of soybean paste stew, there were 6 ingredients: soybean paste, pork, potato, tofu, zucchini and enoki mushroom. During my field trip to Publix, however, I found that 3 of them are not available at Publix. The first one is soybean paste. It is a kind of Korean condiment that is crucial for soybean paste stew: how can we make soybean paste stew without soybean paste? Since soybean paste is imported from South Korea and is rarely used in American cuisine, it is no surprise that we are not able to find soybean paste at nearby grocery stores. Nevertheless, we still need to get a box of soybean paste from Asian market or Amazon due to its dominant role in soybean paste stew.

For the other missing ingredients, I replace them with other options since it is very expensive and not sustainable to use imported exotic ingredients. Shiitake mushrooms can be a perfect substitution for enoki mushrooms. Besides shiitake mushrooms’ accessibility at local grocery stores, the mark of “Product of USA” also encourages us to choose shiitake mushrooms to replace enoki mushrooms. Since shiitake mushrooms are grown in local farms and enoki mushrooms are imported from foreign countries, shiitake mushrooms are much cheaper than enoki mushrooms. Choosing local products is also more sustainable since transporting local products from farms to grocery stores consumes less energy than transporting exotic products. By purchasing local products, we also help to support local farmers.

Speaking of zucchini, I did find it at Publix. The type of zucchini required by soybean paste stew has light green color. However, I could only get a kind of dark green domestic zucchini at Publix. I tried to use domestic zucchini to make soybean paste stew, but it turned out that the result was horrible. Thus, I decided to choose a substitution between baby spinach and nappa cabbage. Finally, I chose nappa cabbage since it is cheaper than baby spinach, and it tastes better in soybean paste stew. I also used shrimps to substitute pork, because shrimps per serving emits less carbon than pork.

According to the price tags at Publix, one serving of soybean paste stew only costs 4.11 dollars after my revision. Beyond reducing cost, energy consumption and carbon emission, this revision also contributes to social equity. Rebecca Burns declared in her article Stranded in Atlanta’s Food Deserts that “Living in a food desert doesn’t just make it tough to get your daily servings of fruit and veggies. A 2011 Food Trust geographic analysis of income, access to grocery stores, and morbidity rates concluded that people who live in metro Atlanta food deserts are more likely to die from nutrition-related sicknesses like diabetes and heart disease” (Burns, “Stranded.”) I believe my revised recipe can help the poor stranded people since it is nutritious. A soybean paste stew that includes shrimps, vegetables and bean products is a much healthier option than burger and French fries. Plus, it is absolutely affordable and easy to cook. In addition, the ingredients, such as potato and nappa cabbage, can stay fresh for a long time before they start rotting. People who live in food deserts can buy lots of potatoes and nappa cabbage when they go to grocery stores and put potatoes and nappa cabbage in storage room. These ingredients can always provide them with healthy diets.  Thus, I believe soybean paste stew is a good choice for people who live in food deserts.

Although soybean paste stew is a good option for the stranded poor people, I don’t think it is a solution that can help them get out of the stranded conditions. In the essay Think Little, Wendell Berry encourages people to Think Little and solve the problem by personal behavior. As far as I’m concerned, however, Think Little is just like a Tylenol. It is true that Tylenol can relieve pain, but it can never cure illness. Similarly, personal behavior can only make the stranded conditions tolerable for the poor. In order to completely eliminate the food deserts, the government must take actions to cope with the social problems. I’m looking forward to the day when food deserts no longer exist in Atlanta and every resident in Atlanta is able to follow a healthy diet.

 

Original Recipe

Ingredients

  • 70g Pork
  • 50g Potato
  • 100g Tofu
  • 50g Zucchini
  • 30g Enoki mushroom
  • 2 spoons Soybean paste (Doenjang)

Directions

  • Cut pork, potato, tofu, enoki mushroom, zucchini;
  • Add water and potato in to a pot, cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes;
  • Add pork, cook over medium heat for 3 minutes;
  • Add 2 spoons of soybean paste, tofu, zucchini, enoki mushroom, cook over medium heat for 2 minutes.

Revised Recipe

Ingredients

  • 70g Shrimp
  • 50g Potato
  • 100g Tofu
  • 50g Nappa Cabbage
  • 30g Shiitake mushroom
  • 2 spoons Soybean paste (Doenjang)

Directions

  • Cut potato, tofu, shiitake mushroom, zucchini;
  • Add water and potato in to a pot, cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes;
  • Add shrimp, cook over medium heat for 3 minutes;
  • Add 2 spoons of Soybean paste, tofu, nappa cabbage, shiitake mushroom, cook over medium heat for 2 minutes.

 


Work Cited

Burns, Rebecca, “Stranded in Atlanta’s Food Deserts,” Atlanta Magazine, March 3, 2014, http://www.atlantamagazine.com/great-reads/stranded-in-atlantas-food-deserts/

 

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