Elwood 5566

Usually Cabbage (but whatever) Bean Paste Soup (배추 된장국)

Posted in Kimchi Gone Fusion, My Recipes by 노강호 on June 10, 2011

Chinese leaf bean paste soup – surprisingly delicious and healthy

Key Features: a healthy side dish, breakfast or lunch, adaptable, which is chilli and kimchi free. It also contains no oil.

Ten years ago there was a big fad in the UK for a miracle diet known as ‘The Cabbage Soup Diet.’ I actually lost over 17 pounds in 10 days but as far as diets go it was doomed to failure. The first week, as your body lost water, your weight correspondingly plummeted. However, after a week or so, the rapid reduction leveled out and with it the realization that while the grim regime was bearable if the pounds fell off, it was torture if they didn’t.

The diet revolved around the most disgusting concoction you could possibly make with decent ingredients: cabbage, onion, tinned tomato, green pepper, celery and a stock cube. For the first three days the soup was consumed for every meal and you could enjoy as much of it as you liked. It was so gross I would liquidize it and drink a pint of it in a few gulps. The smell and taste were nauseous and so it was taken like a medicine. By the third evening, you could eat a jacket potato and a knob of butter the size of which wasn’t stipulated – hence it tended to be large. The cabbage soup destroyed any pleasure in eating and guaranteed failure was not only terminal, but when real food could be accessed it would be consumed with a vengeance.

Bean paste soup with Chinese leaf cabbage (Napa) is a Korean classic and probably contains only slightly more calories than the infamous and ghastly diet soup. It is however, infinitely tastier. As you will see in the ‘alternatives’ section, cabbage can be substituted by with other items.

I know many people are put-off Korean food because they think everything is spicy or contains kimchi. This is one of the myths surrounding Korean cuisine, the greatest of which is the myth that Korean regularly eat dog. Here is an example of a Korean soup which uses neither kimchi nor any form of chilli. While it might not qualify for Westerners as dinner, served with rice, side dishes or even alone, it is an excellent breakfast or lunch. It often accompanies other meals as a side dish where it is shared.

There are countless variations on this soup. Using this basic recipe, I often use chopped pork or cubes of tofu. Similarly, you can also add chilli. The shepherd’s purse can also be omitted.


1 cup = 180ml. T=tablespoon (15ml), d=dessert spoon (10ml) t=teaspoon (5ml) 

This recipe is ideal for one, or as a side dish – double ingredients for each additional person


1 cube (4 cloves) of crushed garlic.

Half a medium onion or leek

0.5t of dashida (다시다) or a stock cube

1,5 T of bean paste (됀장)

1 cup of Chinese cabbage leaves, previously blanched outer leaves are good.

Shepherd’s purse (냉이) about a third of a cup.

3-4 cups of water

1T flour or rice flour (optional)

See also suggested accompaniments at the bottom of the page.


Ideally as an earthenware pot or ‘ttukbeki’ (뚝배기) or a heavy bottomed sauce pan.


In a heavy bottomed pot or Korean earthenware ‘ttukbeki,’ place:

1. 3 cups of water and all other ingredients. (7 ingredients)

2. Bring to a hard boil for 5 minutes and then reduce to a simmer for a further twenty minutes.

3. Optional – mix the flour in a little cold water and add to the soup. Stir for two minutes and serve.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Serve with an accompanying bowl of rice and side dishes. It can also be served as a side dish with other dishes.

ONGOING NOTES:Try using a small amount of pork, or diced tofu. You can also substitute cabbage spinach, crown daisy, chrysanthemum  (쑥갓 ), burdock leaf (우엉) or mugwort (쑥).

Creative Commons License
© 努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.


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