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There must be something in the air, a little nip here and there of cold. This feels early for Jeju, as in previous years I’ve worn tanks and short sleeve shirts all the way through the end of October, but walking home the past few nights, there’s been a chill, requiring a light sweater or hoodie. The fan that has been my constant companion since the beginning of April stands motionless in the corner. Only one window is open. This feels strange, too early. Do typhoons sweep away warmth and leave cold in their wake? (Two have passed through this last week: Typhoon Boleven–which tore our 4 of my windows–and Typhoon Tembin) It feels that way, though it could change back again to blistering, sweaty heat in an instant.

Whatever it is, soup is occupying my mind lately. I enjoy making it. It’s easy to do, not requiring a ton of prep work, just a bit of chopping; there are no overly fancy techniques involved, it isn’t something that needs babysitting once it gets going, and if it’s cooked a few minutes longer than the recipe calls for, no big deal. More spices or seasonings can easily be added if the taste isn’t quite what is desired. As it cooks, it fills the apartment with the most mouth-watering smells, and then… it’s done! And even though I always want to pour it straight into my mouth, I hold myself back, slowly taking the lid off the simmering pot, letting the steam rise into the air, and breathing in the delicious smells. And then it’s time to ladle, and I love picking up the warm bowl and feeling the heat in my hands. One of the best parts is that soup is such a perfect leftover food; it heats up quickly, and the time spent in the fridge allows the flavor to deepen so that it usually tastes even better later. It doesn’t become rubbery or greasy or sticky, or soggy, or just, well, weird. It stays delicious. It can be mixed with rice or beans to change it up or left as is. I love soup.

My latest venture into the land of soup is a chili. Now, chili is not something that I can remember eating a lot of in my life. It’s possible that I have only had a bowl or two, so the tastes are not something that are overly familiar. As I was looking through my pantry, and trying to figure out how to best use up all the foods before moving (I leave for the US in a month!), here’s what jumped out at me (minus the flour and sugar, as I wasn’t in the mood for baking): red beans, a can of corn, coconut milk, peanut butter, and canned oranges. Then I looked in my freezer and found chicken and vegetable stock. Next, to the fridge, where I found extra sharp cheddar, some cherry tomatoes that needed to be eaten, onions, mushrooms, and a container of pre-minced garlic. Well, peanut butter I’ll have no trouble finishing before I leave, and this past week was filled with the coconut chicken soup, so I wanted something else. That left the red beans, canned corn and canned oranges (which I still have no idea what to do with. They seemed like a good idea when I bought them, and now…) Eliminating those items, I realized I had the perfect makings for a chicken and bean soup. Looking around the internet, I found out that, hey! The ingredients I had could make a chili of sorts, depending on who was asked, because I also learned that there are tons of different variations of chili, and people will rabidly defend their version as being the best and most true.  And so I experimented around a bit, and made a sort of Korean chili, as I don’t have chili powder, but I do have gochujang.

And so, here is my offering of Gochujang Chicken Chili:

Ingredients

1 TB canola oil
2 6-8 oz chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
2 cups kidney beans (pre-soaked overnight. Save the liquid!)
4 cloves garlic
1 can corn (mine was 14g)
½ green chili pepper, sliced thinly
1 ½ TB gochujang
2 tsp paprika
1 ½ cups liquid (I used ½ cup of homemade vegetable stock, and a cup of the liquid I used to soak the kidney beans, which I strained 2 or 3 times. You could also use water, or meat stock)
salt, pinch
lime juice, to taste
¼ cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions

  1. Heat the oil on medium heat in a saucepan. Add the chicken, onion and garlic. Cook for about 5-6 minutes, until the chicken isn’t pink. Stir to avoid burning.
  2. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes, paprika, salt and gochujang, and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the liquid and beans, reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Choice: Here you can blend some of the soup to make it thicker, or leave as is. I took out a cup and blended it, but next time, I’d add about another ¼ cup of vegetable stock so that there’s more liquid. If you don’t blend the soup, then the extra ¼ cup of liquid probably won’t be needed. Add the blended soup back to the saucepan, and stir.
  5. Add the corn, green chili, and lime juice, and continue to simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
  6. Ladle into bowls, and grate cheese on top.
  7. Dig in!

This soup was what I’d been craving all day. It tasted wonderful. There was a kick to it, but next time I’d either add more gochujang or more chili pepper, perhaps even both. This was my first time cooking with chili pepper, so I was unsure of how much to use. Cheese on soup is a wonderful thing, and I really don’t know why this is the first time that I’ve ever eaten it. This was eaten with a slice of toast, which was perfect for soaking up the last bits at the bottom of the bowl. Eating this soup made me feel cozy. I’m excited to see how it tastes tomorrow, once the flavors have had more time to set in.

Cheers!

Update: The chili tastes great as leftovers the next day and beyond. It gets thicker, so when reheating, I had to add about 1/2 cup of liquid each time. Since this diluted the spiciness a bit, I also added a bit more gochujang (maybe a tsp or so) and chili pepper to keep the flavor.  Last night I enjoyed it with cheese baguette. Yum!

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