Budaejjigae: History and Evolution

The Korean War

Budaejjgae or the army stew is a Korean delicacy that was introduced after the Korean War. It was one of the aftermaths of the war. Soon after the war ended, there was an extreme scarcity of food in Korea, so to prevent starvation of their people, they scourged and smuggled surplus food products from the US army bases. To make this stew, they mixed canned pineapples, cabbage, onions, beans, American cheese, and a slice of mystery meat called “ggulgguri-juk.” Though there are many improvised versions of this dish, the same recipe is followed today as well but with an addition of kimchi, anchovy broth, and gochujang (Korean red chili paste).

The ingredients

  • Kimchi
  • Ramen noodles
  • Green onion
  • Ham and various meats
  • Mushrooms (Oyster mushroom or Enoki mushroom)
  • Sauce (Gochujang)
  • Vegetables – Green onion, Garlic, Baked beans, cabbage

Uijeongbu Budae-jjigae Street

The city of Uijeongbu, which is bordered by Seoul at its south and had many army bases, was famous for its budaejjgae. In the 1960s, a snack cart in Uijeongbu began to sell a buttery stir-fried meal made up of surplus food products from the army bases. Soon after this occurrence, the idea of a snack cart became an ongoing trend. However, during that time, selling food that was made up of ingredients stolen from the army base was banned so, the Korean public started acquiring the ingredients legally and added more to it. They managed to transform this buttery stir-fried meal into a dish that is today known as “Budaejjgae.”

This dish was created for the sole purpose of feeding the hungry but it ended up being a very popular meal. It can also be said that somehow budaejjgae has become a souvenir from the war and it’s a constant reminder of what the Koreans had to go through to get where they are today.

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