Korean army stew, also known as budae jjigae, is a quick, fuss-free meal that’s great for sharing, perfect for a post-happy hour meal if you’re out with a bunch of friends in Singapore.
Here, you’ll find anything from tofu, kimchi, and mushroom to spam and ramen noodles bubbling in a fiery red broth, and the entire pot is served to guests piping hot, sometimes with a slice of cheese on top. While certain elements of the dish seem quite Korean in nature, it’s the addition of spam, baked beans and cheese that throws many first-time diners off.
This is where a little history lesson comes in: army stew was invented shortly after the Korean War in the 1950s. Food was scarce, and citizens had to make do with whatever they had. This included a surplus of canned ingredients from the US military bases like spam and baked beans, and with it, an easy, filling, fusion stew was born. The painful history of the dish has been greatly ameliorated since then, and is now a popular dish not just in South Korea, but internationally as well.
Hungry yet? In no particular order, we’ve rounded up some of the best army stews in Singapore to savour.
Where to find the best Korean army stews in Singapore:
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Pink Candy is a hidden gem, known only by those who love to eat Korean cuisine. The affordable hawker joint, located at the open-air food court of Beauty World Centre, offers a pot of Korean Army Stew for two, complete with a generous portion of enoki mushroom, sausage, cheese, ramen and kimchi. Love the ban chan (side dishes) here? You can get order them and get them packed in tubs to take home.
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We really enjoy having the army stew at Woorinara. The large army stew comes packed with instant noodles — two, in fact — spam, sausage, kimchi, and fish cake, and made for a great sharing centrepiece at the table. It’s a lot thicker in consistency compared to other places, so be sure to wash it down with some soju too. With a couple of extra sides, it can easily feed four to five diners.
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For an elevated army stew experience, be sure to get the Cheese Ring Army Stew the next time you’re at Seoul Shiok with your friends. Diners are invited to pick up the ingredients from the bubbling, hearty stew in the middle, before cocooning it in some stretchy cheese on the side for some extra flavour and chew to your bite.
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Army stew is generally a shared dish, but Ajumma’s Korean Restaurant is catering to all those dining alone, or those whose friends are not up for army stew that day. These individual portions of Korean stew see a medley of ingredients in the kimchi-anchovy broth: think rice cakes, baked beans, sausage, tofu, mushroom, and spam.
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Whenever we’re missing the warm embrace of Korean homestyle food, we head straight to Bigmama Korean Restaurant. The army stew here is packed with all the usual suspects that’s sure to warm your belly on a cold day. Not up for soup? The dakgalbi (spicy stir-fried chicken)is also a popular sharing dish amongst guests here.
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Mukshidonna’s army stew is what many travel here for. It’s pretty customisable: diners can add servings of scallops, sliced beef, chicken sausage, crispy fried calamari, mandu (dumplings) and cheese to make their dining experience even more decadent. Once you’re only left with just a bit of broth and ingredients, you can opt to have some fried rice with cheese stir-fried with all the goodness.
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We’re salivating just looking at this army stew from Daejon House. The budae jjigae is served to diners with just about everything you’d want in a pot: rice cake, garlic, tofu, vegetables, meat, spam and sausages. The soup base is poured directly at the tableside, and it’s free-flow too so you can slurp on as many bowls as you’d like.
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