Chondaeji Jjjigae (촌돼지찌개) is one of my favorite Korean comfort foods. The spicy and hearty soup is so easy to make at home. I tried to look up where the name “chondaeji” came from as the name sure sounds funny (chondaeji literally means “country pig”) but I could not find any information on the name’s origion. However, I did notice that people in Daejeon often call gochujang jjigae (a soup with Korean chilli paste broth) as chondaeji jjigae as well so maybe it is a regional variety of a common gochujang soup.
When I make this soup at home I add cubed tofu, pork belly slices, potato, and Korean zucchini. This has always been the standard recipe for me so few days ago when I tried a new kind of chondaeji soup I was definitely blown away. The soup looked pretty much same as mine but the flavor of it was amazingly better — all because of hobak goji (호박고지: dried Korean zucchini slices).
The soup was filled with enriched flavor and scent of Korean zucchini — which is impossible when you make the soup with regular fresh zucchini. Just by simply drying the zucchini slices under the autumn sun with cool breeze, the super zucchini is born with concentrated flavor and nutrition.
The restaurant near Daejeon City Hall named Kangjang Sikdang (깡장식당) proudly promotes their signature dish by hanging a big poster of information explaining the benefits of dried zucchini. Mom and I first ordered spicy mackerel but after witnessing that everyone else in the restaurant is having the chondaeji jjigae we changed our mind. I was glad that we tried the famous soup as otherwise I would have never known how wonderful hobak goji can be.
Back in Canada, I once purchased a bag of dried zucchini at a Korean market and made noodle soup with it. However, I was not amazed back then. The machine-dried zucchini were not as flavorful nor they had great texture like the ones dried by nature. I do believe that everything good takes time and care to be created and I sure appreciated the chefs who hand-made the hobak goji for us. This was indeed the best chodaeji soup that I ever tasted.