Gettin’ jjigae with spam: a US/South Korean fusion

Even Terry Jones, as the waitress in Monty Python’s greasy cafe, didn’t offer spam, noodles and hotdogs. But this unlikely dish has been on the menu in South Korea since the US army helped create it

Spam doesn’t exactly conjure up images of culinary delights in most people’s mind, but in South Korea it’s an essential ingredient in budae jjigae, a fusion stew made up of Korean instant noodles, Spam, hotdogs and kimchi. This US-influenced combination might not sound much like a traditional Korean dish, but it’s one that dates back to the Korean war, when people had little to eat and meat was a luxury.

The US army was stationed in Uijeongbu, an hour north of Seoul, and after the war surplus food stocks from the military base began to make their way into the surrounding areas. Creative Koreans concocted budae jjigae by taking unfamiliar American processed meats and boiling them up with Korean instant noodles, garlic, kimchi, gochujang (Korean chilli paste) and anything else they could get hold of (including baked beans and processed cheese) to create a spicy, hearty stew.

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