Best and Authentic Korean Soups and Stews

korean soups

As of late, Korean food has been launched into the Western world as a trendy and modern style of cuisine. Many restaurants clamor to provide for an increasingly diverse range of food consumers. Among the most famous in Western knowledge are foods like KBBQ and bibimbap. Korean cuisine just embodies home-style comfort food to me,  and is chock full of dishes that your mom welcomes you home with.

However, those aren’t the only delicious Korean foods. It’s time for Korean soups and stews to get some limelight. There’s something wholly unique about the emphasis on whole ingredients in Korean soups that don’t necessarily have to include such add-ins such as meats and noodles. This makes many classic Korean meals very vegetarian friendly and whole-food focused.

My love from soup actually sprouted from my hatred of breakfast. Stacks of pancakes and waffles with bacon and eggs were never something that I craved or enjoyed. When a piece of toast and butter no longer was a satisfying way to start my day, my mom opted to feed me last night’s leftover soup for a more substantial breakfast. My mom’s delicious Korean soups were filling, but definitely did not weigh me down for the day. Since most of my life has consisted of eating soup for two meals of my life, I can confirm that all of the following soups are most definitely approved.

1. Kimchi Jjigae

Korean Soups

The basis of the recipe is just water and kimchi, which is fermented napa cabbage. This soup actually tastes best with well-fermented kimchi, which makes it perfect for using up any old tart and sour kimchi you may have.

Additionally, it is also incredibly versatile in the sense of the ingredients. Although classically made with pork cuts, you could substitute it with seafood, shrimp, clams, other meats, like SPAM and sausage, or even just make it vegetarian by excluding meat entirely.

2. Soondubu Jjigae 

Korean Soups

This soup is a variation of the kimchi jjigae, but differs with the addition of extra soft tofu. The tofu makes the soup into a completely different dish, bubbling in the soup like lava and making the tasting experience ultra smooth.

3. Doenjang Jjigae 

This is another classic home-style comfort food. Similar to miso soup, doenjang is a fermented soybean paste with a somewhat stronger flavor than the Japanese version. Considered to a staple in all Korean households, the soup is vegetable based with green onions, mushrooms, and zucchini along with soft tofu; it’s perfect for vegetarians. However, if you want to amp it up a bit, adding seafood like clams and shrimp won’t hurt. 

4. Tteokguk 

This is the iconic Korean New Year’s soup. Out of the 15 years of my life, I can’t remember a single year when my mom didn’t promptly make this soup on the morning of every January 1st and Lunar New Year’s Day. The rice cakes in this particular soup are shaped like coins, signifying good fortune for the upcoming year. 

According to my mom, when eaten on New Year’s Day, this soup is what causes you to age one more year. In Korean tradition, if you don’t eat this soup, you will not age another year. This may be confusing but here the distinction between “Korean age” and “international age” differ. In Korea, a baby is one year old at the time of birth. 

5. Miyeok Guk 

This soup actually celebrates one’s mother on your birthday. (Shoutout to my mom! ) Because of this, it is another symbolic soup that Koreans eat on their birthdays. The seaweed is rich in calcium and iodine in which Koreans believed were essential to pregnant or nursing mothers. The soup is composed of either anchovy or dashi broth with soy sauce, garlic and seaweed. Typically, the soup gets boosted with protein with small cuts of beef or more seafood.

These are some of the best Korean soups and stews.

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