Meatless Mondays: Kimchi Stew

Good flavor, good bacteria.

(Photo: Ian Knauer)

Ian Knauer is a regular contributor to TakePart. He worked for ‘Gourmet’ and is the author of the IACP Award–nominated cookbook ‘The Farm.’

Why meatless on Mondays? Not only is eating less animal protein a healthy diet choice, but curbing your meat consumption can have a significant environmental impact too. In 2006 the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that animal agriculture accounted for a full 19 percent of greenhouse gases—more than the transportation sector. Best of all, with recipes like these, going meatless can be a delicious weekly habit.

I moved apartments last week and spent hours packing my every possession into boxes. I organized and labeled, and after it all I was left with a pile of stuff that I haven’t touched or thought about since the last time I moved, several years ago. After a few uneasy sighs and a couple hems and haws, I decided to get rid of the junk. Once I made that decision I felt free and uncluttered. It was a forced spring cleaning of sorts that really hit the spot.

It got me thinking about how it’s always so difficult to begin a good solid cleanse. Whether it’s a housecleaning or a body cleaning, getting started is the hard part. My move precipitated a good house purge. But I was missing a meal that would work to automatically start a diet cleanse. Something to set the wheels in motion, as it were.

Of course, our bodies are pretty adept at flushing themselves, but once in a while it helps to replenish the bacteria that we use to help digest our food. You can buy probiotics at some supermarkets and health food stores, but they naturally exist in many foods, specifically fermented ones.

To jump-start my spring intestinal cleanse I made a classic Korean dish: Kimchi stew, or jjigae. The bacteria in the kimchi works with your body to help it clean itself more efficiently, and the warmth and comfort are just what you need to push through the last of winter and into the spring.

A note to you cooking-technique junkies—the kimchi is stirred in after the pot is removed from the heat .to preserve the naturally occurring bacteria and not cook it away.

Kimchi Stew

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, sliced

1 tablespoon finely grated ginger

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon Korean chile flakes

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup kimchi juice

2 tablespoons doengjang or miso

2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chile paste)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 pound silken tofu, cut into cubes

2 cups kimchi

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat until hot, then stir in the onion, ginger, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Stir in the chile flakes and cook, 1 minute.

Stir in the water, kimchi juice, miso, gochujang, soy sauce, and tofu and bring to a simmer. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the kimchi, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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