16 January 2014

Kong Jang (콩장): Korean Sweet Soybean² Side Dish

Kong Jang

There are different ways of making Kongjorim, but I like to go the health-nut tree-hugger route, meaning no overly processed ingredients.  And, true to form, I also follow the incapable-of-planning-ahead route of not soaking the beans overnight.  If you don't have honey, you can use 1/3 cup sugar instead.

1 cup dried soybeans (black or tan is fine)
2 cups water
2 tbsp chopped garlic (I usually leave the smaller cloves whole)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup honey (more or less as you like)
1 tsp cooking oil
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
a sprinkle of sesame oil

cooking kong jang

  1. So, now that you're jonesing for this deliciousness, go ahead and add your soybeans to your water and soak them for 1 hour.  Yeah, I know--there's a bit of time involved, but it could be worse.
  2. Dump the beans and water into a saucepan, then bring to a boil.  Cover it, then reduce the heat enough that the foam won't boil over. (On my stove, this is just one setting above simmer.)  Now ignore it for 15 minutes. 
  3. Add the garlic, honey, and cooking oil to the pot.  Why add cooking oil at this point?  It keeps the bean foam from boiling over and giving Mr. Clean nightmares.  Give things a good stir, and vigorously simmer uncovered  for 20 minutes, stirring as frequently as you can bother.  For me, this is about every 3 minutes.  The trick is to keep the beans moving and if your heat is set correctly this will happen automatically, at least until the water level decreases too much.
  4. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.  At this point, you'll have to start paying attention or the beans will burn.  Stir them lovingly as long as it takes.  The softness of the bean depends on how much liquid you let evaporate.  Leave more liquid for a softer bean.
  5. Your beans are now glossy, wrinkled, and delicious smelling.  Add the sesame oil, stir, and plate.  You may want to add extra honey, or you may not.  Garnish with sesame seeds.  Eat!


A word about pan choice:  I use a small nonstick saucepan with a diameter wider than the height of the vessel for this recipe.  You need to balance between high sides and large surface so area the beans won't boil over, and so it won't take forever for the liquid to evaporate.  Choose your weapon wisely, because cooking time will be affected more than you might think.

As for bean choice, get the best quality available or you'll find yourself spending too much time picking out the bad beans.  When eating in restaurants I've always had this with black soybeans but, since I can't easily find them at a good price, I use tan soybeans.  If finding dried soybeans of any color is an issue, try making the dish with black beans (your typical frijoles negros).

In closing, I like my kong jang with most of the water evaporated, until the beans are quite chewy and the sauce is more like a glaze.  If you want them softer, try soaking the beans overnight and add the soy sauce after you've evaporated some of the cooking water.  Either way, these keep well in the fridge for a while.  How long?  I've heard two weeks, but I really don't know, since we always eat them all before they've gone off.

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