Budae Jigae (Miltary Base Soup)

Spam stew.

yes, Spam stew.

Many people have written about budae jigae, a very popular dish in Korea.
It’s considered to be the “first” fusion Korean dish, the attempt to Koreanize American Spam.

The legend goes like this:

Spoiled Spam and other “mysterious” meat products from US military bases were thrown out. Koreans living around the bases went dumpster diving to salvage the “spoiled” meat and made a spicy stew out of it. Apparently the spice camouflaged the rancid taste of the meat. It fell out of popularity as Korea became more wealthy but in recent years there has been a huge resurgence. You can find this stew in specialty restaurants and grocery stores (please refer to previous post) all around the country.

You can read more about them here:

Joe McPherson teaches you how to make it!


What’s in it?

Ready to eat budae jigae

Usually spam, hot dog, instant ramen noodles, a spicy kick, and some assortment of vegetables.

Budae Jigae have various names. It is often called GI stew, army camp soup, and piggie soup.

In her book, Cuisine, Colonialism, and Cold War, historian Katarzyna Cwiertka describes the stew as “a legacy of the militarized reality of South Korean life during the decades of the Cold War.” (2012: 117)

The fact that this stew is now available at megastores as a convenience food speaks volumes of its significance in the average Korean’s everyday life.

So I want to ask:

What does it mean to crave a stew that represents  poverty, struggle, and domination?

What is the meaning of eating and celebrating food that was invented during political turmoil?

Is this nostalgia for the past rooted in cherishing the efforts of those who made the best of their circumstances?

If you are interested in learning more about how Spam has gained cultural significance in places that underwent US occupation read:


Email me if you can’t access the article!


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