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Korean Army Stew

Also known as army base stew or budae jjigae, this recipe takes simple, basic ingredients and transforms them into a mouth-wateringly spicy dish. During harder times in Korea, many people would use processed meat supplies from US military bases to whip up this hearty stew, hence its name. I like to add tofu and mushrooms to my version to pump up the freshness.

10 minutes
15 minutes

200g (7 oz) Spam, cut into thick slices

150g (5 oz) cocktail frankfurt sausages, thickly sliced

200g (7 oz) firm tofu, cut into roughly 3cm (just over 1”) cubes

½ cup kimchi, roughly chopped

100g (3.5 oz) shiitake mushrooms, cut into chunks

100g (3.5 oz) king oyster mushrooms, torn into chunks

100g (3.5 oz) enoki mushrooms, roughly torn

400g (14 oz) canned baked beans

1 packet instant ramen noodles

2 eggs

4 cups chicken stock

2 slices cheddar or Swiss cheese

4 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced


Spicy sauce:

2 tbsp gochugaru*

2 tbsp mirin

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely grated

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp gochujang*

  • Step 1

    To make the spicy sauce, place all ingredients into a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.

  • Step 2

    For the soup, arrange the Spam, sausages, tofu, kimchi, mushrooms and baked beans in a large shallow pot or frying pan (you’ll want one that has a lid). Open up the instant noodles and keep the seasoning sachet for another time. Nestle the uncooked instant noodles into the ingredients in the pan. Spoon the spicy sauce on top of the noodles. Use the back of the spoon to make 2 shallow spaces in the ingredients and crack the eggs into those holes.

  • Step 3

    Carefully pour the stock into the corner of the pot (so you don’t disturb your beautifully placed ingredients).Turn the heat to high and bring the stock to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 5 minutes to allow all the flavours to infuse. Now place the lid on top of the soup and cook for a further 4 minutes until the eggs are set.

  • Step 4

    Remove the lid and top the sizzling soup with slices of cheese. Sprinkle over the spring onions.

    Serve the soup at the table so everyone can ladle the soup and ingredients into individual bowls as they eat.

  • Notes

    – Gochugaru are Korean red pepper chilli flakes. Find them online or from an Asian grocery store.

    – Gochujang is a Korean fermented chili paste. It can be found in the Asian aisle at most supermarkets or order it online. If unavailable, simply leave it out of the recipe and add a teaspoon of sweet paprika for added colour and chilli flakes for additional spice.

What is the origin of Budae Jjigae AKA Korean Army Stew?

Budae Jjigae, which loosely translates to ‘Military Base Soup’, was born in the years following the Korean War, and is a soup/stew hybrid that’s the ultimate comfort food. Food was scarce in a post-war Korea, and many Koreans relied heavily on processed foods from the US military bases. New staple ingredients became Spam, sausages, baked beans, ramen noodles and sliced cheese, which are the main features of Budae Jjigae, along with Korean spices and condiments such as gochugaru and gochujang.

Army Stew is super easy and relatively cheap to make – and ultra delicious. You can also change or omit any ingredients based on your own personal preferences.

What is Gochugaru?

Gochugaru is one of the pillars of Korean food. And it is a super important ingredient when it comes to making authentic budae jjigae AKA army base soup!

It’s a type of Korean chilli powder that really brings the heat to your fave Korean dishes. If you’re wanting to level up your budae jjigae at home but can’t seem to hunt down gochugaru, you can generally find the wonder ingredient at your local Asian grocer. Alternatively, if you can’t find gochugaru nearby, it is a shelf stable ingredient and is able to be purchased online and shipped right to your door!

Authentic budae jjigae whenever hangry hits and with ALL the right ingredients! Woohoo!

What is Gochujang?

Gochujang is another staple when it comes to Korean cooking, and is another vital ingredient for your budae jjigae.

This fermented chilli paste brings the classic spicy, funky, delicious flavour that is unique to Korean cuisine, right to your homemade army base stew. Gochujang is quite easy to find, you can find gochujang in the Asian section of your local supermarket, or of course from your nearest Asian grocer.

If you can’t get your hands on Gochujang, a good substitute is adding paprika for colour and some chilli flakes for the heat – you will miss all the funky, fermented goodness though so getting your hands on the real stuff is always best!

Marion's Kitchen is for everyone who finds joy in flavour and happiness in every bite. Marion's Kitchen is for everyone who finds joy in flavour and happiness in every bite.

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