One type of food that you’re likely to encounter in Korea sooner or later is jjigae (찌개) which is stew. One of the most popular is budae jjigae (부대찌개), or “army stew”. This stew was created after the Korean War, when the country used army surpluses such as spam and hot dogs to put into their stew. Hence the name for this hodgepodge of a stew. One of the most popular chains that specializes in budae jjigae is Norbu (놀부) which I went to with my English speaking meetup. You’re very likely to find a Norbu almost anywhere with its politically incorrect logo and bright red and white banners, but if you want to go to the one near Yangjae station (양재역);simply go out of exit 4 and head straight.
Norbu specializes in budae jjigae and bossam (보쌈), which is a pork dish with many side ingredients that you wrap up yourself with lettuce. All the locations I’ve been to have a modern, clean environment. It’s a very comfortable eating establishment, which is good because I can focus on the delicious food!
The side dishes (반찬) were only okay. I didn’t really go there to eat side dishes, so I wasn’t too put off.
Usually, your table would order the same kind of buddae jjigae and the would increase the portion size according to the number in your party. We ordered the Norbu Budae Jjigae which was 7,500 won a person. You can also order additional items to be placed into your soup, but it’s usually enough the way it is. The waiter will bring a tray of ingredients and proceed to pour the broth into it. Ours came with sausage, 3 different kinds of deli meat, pepperoni (the best part), beans, green onions, udon, kimchi, potatoes, a little bit of ground beef, and a small sliver of cheese that is more decoration than anything.
You have to wait a little while for it to be ready. It will become a deep red color and boil violently when it’s finally ready to serve. If you have ramen, be sure to add it after it boils over.
Most people scoop the food into a separate dish, but I like to put it on top of the rice and let the rice soak up the soup. Throughout your meal, the budae jjigae will most likely run out of broth. You need to call your waiter and request for more broth, or Yuksu (육수), and wait for the broth to turn red again. Then you’re good to go!
The mix of spiciness and ingredients truly make this one of my favorite dishes in Korea. There are so many textures and flavors in this dish without tasting overly salty. This easily makes one of my favorite dishes in Korea, next to Gamjatang (감자탕)!
I’ve been to a few budae jjigae establishments, but Norbu seems to be the best so far. They put various meats with nice flavors, and their soup is addictive. Be sure to try it at least once!