“I got the fever for the flavor of a crowd pleaser”
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Now, this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down and I’d like to take a minute, so just sit right there, while I tell you how I met the guy who would become The Prince of a town called Bel-Air.
Back in the ’80s, I worked for a record wholesaler in downtown Detroit. This meant the chance to meet & greet a wide variety of late ’80s R&B/Hip Hop recording artists. Given my look at the time was definitely “Long-haired Motorhead Roadie and/or Tour Manager” it made for some interesting photos & introductions. It also netted me an impressive collection, depending on your tastes, of late ’80s vinyl memorabilia. One of my prized possessions is a signed copy of He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper with a young Will Smith signing as “Fresh Prince.” To be honest, he and Jazz were brilliantly cool, humble, and genuinely excellent people. Nevertheless, when I discovered this pop-rap duo was being given a network television show, my first thought was “Well this is going to suck & definitely won’t end well.”
I was, of course, epically wrong. Jazzy Jeff has gone on to be one of the best, if not highly underappreciated, producers and DJs in hip hop. Will Smith overcame the potential stigma of a cloy television concept to be one of the biggest box office stars in Hollywood. I respect his decision to not “work blue” and keep his albums clean thereby drawing a direct line from the “Fresh Prince” to “Big Willie Style.” The theme song here is definitely one of my Top Five Will Smith tracks, not that I’ve actually spent the time working on that actual list.
This recipe pun has been on my list since running into a few videos on YouTube and a pre-pandemic trip to Flushing, Queens. I’m only mildly angry at myself that one of my fave IG food feeds beat me to using the pun, but I had a mission to make a vegan version of this meaty dish. I’m not going to go into the history of budae jjigae and the U.S. Army’s influence on Korean stew during the Korean War. I’ll let Wikipedia do that heavy lifting. At its core, it’s a kitchen sink stew using whatever meats and vegetables are on hand with a few classic Korean ingredients like tteok rice cakes, kimchi, gochujang, and ramyun noodles.
I do not deny, this is a long game recipe. You’re going to have to spend 3-4 days making the seitan spam and sausage before making this exact recipe. You could also just use whatever meat alternatives you might have in the fridge. Or, yeah, when it comes down to it, you could grab a can of SPAM, some hot dogs or sausage, and bang this up in a full carnivore frenzy. This is one of those brilliant “template” recipes. Stick with the core items – vegetables, sauce, kimchi, rice cakes, tofu, ramyun noodles – and then riff on the extra protein element.
GETTIN’ BUDAE JJIGAE WIT IT
Seitan jjajang sausage, seitan spam, seitan spam bacon, tofu, rice cakes, ramen noodles, kimchi, mushrooms, and onions in a spicy gochujang broth
Makes 2-4 servings
For the stew
4 cups of vegetable stock
1/2 of a medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 scallions, chopped into 1” pieces
5-ounces of seitan jjajang sausage
5-ounces of seitan spam, sliced ¼” thick and cut into 1” squares
4-ounces of seitan spam bacon, cut into cubes
8-ounces of super-firm tofu, cut into cubes
9-ounces of mixed mushrooms (king oyster, shiitake, enoki, crimini, etc.)
1/2 cup of kimchi, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 package of instant ramen noodles (get the cheap stuff)
10-ounces Korean rice cakes (the small stick kind)
1/4 cup mozzarella, shredded
For the sauce
2 teaspoon gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean chili paste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
In a shallow pot or pan, begin by placing the kimchi, red onion, scallions, and mushroom in the pan. Add the sauce on top of these vegetables. Arrange the spam, sausage, rice cakes, and tofu around the edges of the pot. Pout the stock into the pot and bring it to a medium boil. Boil until the rice cakes are tender, about 8-10 minutes. Then add the block of ramen noodles and cook for another 2 minutes until the noodles are tender.
To serve, start by taking the noodles out and divide between your serving bowls. Use a serving spoon to stir the stew then top your noodles with a bit of every item in the stew. Finish with an extra bit of broth and a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese.