Recipe for Budae Chigae or Korean Army Base Stew

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  • 40 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins,
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings

This is a classic Korean recipe for a dish that's not so traditional -- budae chigae. Use these instructions not only to make this innovative meal but also to learn the interesting history behind it. So, what is budae chigae and how did it come about?

The meal is a recent invention. It is mostly a lip-smacking mixture of Western meat, ramen noodles, vegetables and spices. It is easily customizable, as evidenced by the fact that a thousand variations of the dish exist and then some. Budae chigae first came to be during the famine years of the Korean War and post-war period. When traditional meals weren't always readily available, Koreans managed to use leftover meat discarded or handed out from the U.S. army bases to make this dish with a very literal name.

"Budae" means military base, and "chigae" means stew in Korean. Because it's not a traditional dish, there is no exact recipe for budae chigae. However, the most popular meats used to make the stew are Spam, hot dogs, ground beef and sausages, so this isn't exactly the most healthful recipe. On the other hand, the popular vegetables used to make the stew include sprouts, scallions, onions and sookat (chrysanthemum leaves). If you don't like any of these meats or vegetables, swap them out for the ones you prefer.

What You'll Need

  • 1 1/2 cups meat (in small chunks; spam, hot dogs, ham, small meatballs, or a combination)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetables (sliced; a combination of any: mushrooms, bean sprouts, chrysanthemum leaves).
  • 1/2 onion (sliced)
  • 3 tablespoons kochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
  • 1 package ramen noodles (just noodles, not spice packets)
  • Optional: kimchi
  • Optional: sliced rice cakes
  • Optional: canned baked beans
  • Optional: sliced American cheese

How to Make It

  1. To begin making budae chigae, put all of the ingredients into a large pot. Once again, this dish is far from a traditional Korean meal, so feel free to customize it how you see fit. If you don't like your food very spicy, like many Americans, use less spice. If you don't eat processed meats, such as hot dogs, try making your own meatballs from scratch for the meal, though this will add more steps and time to the process. 
  1. Once you've added all of your preferred ingredients in a pot, cover them with enough water to just submerge them.
  2. Next bring the contents to a rapid boil. You'll see small bubbles start to form.
  3. Then, reduce the heat on the mixture and simmer the contents for 20 minutes.
  4. Enjoy with white rice. If you have health concerns, such as diabetes that require you to monitor your blood sugar, you might want to substitute with brown rice instead. This will affect the taste of the dish but not in a major fashion.
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
Calories 82
Total Fat 2 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Unsaturated Fat 1 g
Cholesterol 5 mg
Sodium 338 mg
Carbohydrates 14 g
Dietary Fiber 2 g
Protein 4 g
(The nutrition information on our recipes is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. Individual results may vary.)