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!


Impromptu Summer Picnic


The text read: “Do you fancy a picnic in Finsbury Park?”

The sun had been out over London that day and a simple picnic sounded like a lovely way to spend my last night with my friends.

I quickly texted that I would have everything prepared by the time they both came home.

Moments after, I was on the tube to the nearest Waitrose with two canvas bags slung over my shoulder. I was on a mission!

I carefully strategized the meal that would limit prep time, utensils, and clean up. I also wanted to include one thing that would push my friend to be adventurous.

Her boyfriend and I share an ongoing joke that I have a special talent in persuading her to try and like things she normally thinks she doesn’t like. He claims that she only will begin to enjoy certain foods after she tries them with me even if he has suggested them to her year after year. First was beer, than salmon.

I think the truth is that he lays the solid foundation for her to be open to the food, which is crucial for her to want to try it when I suggest it to her.

After 45 minutes, I emerged with 13 items.

The spread: whole roast chicken, baguette, smoked salmon terrine, two kinds of pâté, salad greens, green pea and pea shoot salad, marinated olives, blueberries, cured meats, and three hard cheeses.

I had, after much deliberation, chose two types of pâté. One  flavored with honey and orange and the other with herbs to see if my friend would like them.

The verdict?

She ate them both but said they tasted a bit metallic. But she did continue to eat.

England Preserves

What do I miss most about living in London?

Access to delicious cream tea (a pot of tea with scones, jam (raspberry, preferably), and clotted cream).

Of course the best part of cream tea is the scrumptious scone. My favorite ones are with sultanas, crunchy on the outside but flakey and soft in the inside. Think of buttery biscuits that can be found in the south rather than the tasteless bricks sold at Starbucks. Also, a scone is round, not triangular!

I’ve tried making scones but I’ve never been able to make them taste like the ones I found in the UK. I’ve accepted that I can’t get proper scones outside of the UK but what I can have is the unforgettable raspberry jam made by England Preserves.

I’ve been obsessed with the jams since I opened my first bottle of the Raspberry Deluxe back in 2008. It has full raspberry seeds, slightly watery (no jiggling allowed), and it has the perfect balance of sweet and tart.

After devouring our sandwiches at the Borough Market, we proceeded to search for the England Preserves stand. Borough Market is undergoing massive construction so the stalls had been reorganized. I felt slightly anxious by the fear that England Preserves would no longer be at the market.

But soon I found it and wasted no time. I bought 4 jars of Raspberry Deluxe, 1 jar of red onion marmalade so that I can make ploughman’s (cheddar + red onion marmalade) sandwiches, and 1 jar of plum jam.

Yes, I lugged the 6 jars all the way back to Bloomington along with other goodies. Are you proud?

Operation England Preserve complete!

An empty fridge

My school doesn’t believe in fall breaks so I scheduled my own this weekend.

This was the only weekend that I had free to visit my sister and 7 month-old niece in LA until next spring so I leaped at the chance.

I arrived pretty late on Friday night and was starving despite the garbage salad and slider I had for dinner. I eagerly went to the fridge and opened it, expecting to find something tasty.

To my horror, the fridge was empty except for a few condiments, a little bit of milk, and a small amount of miso soup: exactly half a ladle’s worth. I ate the soup but soon after guilt settled in. Should I have saved the soup for my sister and brother-in-law?

An empty fridge makes me sad. It shows how we can all get so busy that we put aside grocery shopping, cooking, and enjoying leisurely meals.

I woke up bright and early the next morning and dashed to the market. I bought 9 packs of chicken thighs, 1.5 pound of brisket, 4 packs of frozen cod, a jarred thai curry sauce, and vegetables. I decided to make one or two dishes per day that would freeze well.

I first made chicken curry with eggplant, zucchini, squash, carrots, celery, and onions. I couldn’t find the indian simmer sauces that I have used before made by Seeds of Change so I tried a new brand called Curry Love. I chose the Thai yellow curry because the other curries were labeled spicy. It wasn’t very good because it didn’t taste much like Thai yellow curry. However, if you pretended it wasn’t Thai curry, it was good.

I only had a taste off my sister’s plate because I wanted to take advantage of being in LA. I made a quick trip to Tinga, a casual Mexican restaurant and ordered a burrito filled with adobo braised pork, black beans, and  arroz con crema.

Next, I’ll be making fish jeon, Korean pan fried fish, chicken stew, and braised brisket!

Becoming an American Shopper

When I first got to Bloomington, I HAD to attend international student orientation or else they wouldn’t let me register for classes.

What I gained from it was very little but one thing from the handbook did stick:

“Most Americans buy food for a week or more at a time in supermarkets.”

I first scoffed at this because I have always bought groceries on a daily basis. This is largely because I constantly change my mind on what I want to eat. I also really enjoy the process and want the freshest ingredients possible.

The fact that Saturdays are when the farmers’ market opens has made me a once a week shopper.
This requires a tight control over what is in my fridge, freezer, and pantry so that I don’t waste or run out of food before my next run.

This is what I got from the farmers’ market last week!

How would you maximize Saturday shopping day?