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Warm Up: Classic Korean Soups for Chilly Days

Warm Up: Classic Korean Soups for Chilly Days

Warm Up: Classic Korean Soups for Chilly Days

As the air turns crisp and the days grow shorter, there’s nothing quite as comforting as a steaming bowl of classic Korean soup. Whether you’re a seasoned Korean cuisine enthusiast or new to the flavors of the peninsula, these hearty, nourishing dishes are sure to warm you up from the inside out.

Satisfying Soondubu Jjigae

When I think of quintessential Korean comfort food, the first dish that comes to mind is soondubu jjigae – a spicy soft tofu stew that’s as soothing as it is invigorating. [1] Growing up, my mom would whip up a batch of this fiery yet silky-smooth soup whenever I was feeling under the weather.

The key to a truly exceptional soondubu jjigae lies in the soft, cloud-like tofu that gently floats in the gochujang-laced broth. Many Korean restaurants will even crack a raw egg into the bubbling pot tableside, allowing the yolk to slowly poach and mingle with the other flavors. A sprinkle of scallions, a squeeze of lemon, and a side of steaming white rice, and you’ve got a meal fit for a Korean grandma.

But the beauty of soondubu jjigae is that it’s endlessly customizable. You can load it up with a variety of proteins – from tender beef to spicy pork to delicate seafood. And the array of banchan (small shared plates) that often accompany the dish, such as kimchi and pickled radish, add pops of texture and acidity to balance out the rich, umami-packed broth.

Comforting Kongbap

Another Korean soup that never fails to hit the spot on a chilly day is kongbap – a hearty, bean-based rice dish that’s equal parts nutritious and delicious. [2] The base is made by simmering a variety of beans, from kidney to azuki to mung, in a savory broth flavored with soy sauce, garlic, and ginger.

Once the beans have softened and the flavors have melded together, the mixture is then combined with freshly cooked white rice, creating a wonderfully textured and satisfying meal. Topped with a soft-boiled egg, a sprinkle of dried seaweed, and a drizzle of sesame oil, kongbap is the ultimate comfort food.

What I love most about this dish is how it manages to be both nourishing and indulgent. The blend of creamy beans and fluffy rice is incredibly soothing, while the array of savory and umami-rich seasonings deliver a flavor explosion in every bite. It’s the kind of meal that warms you from the inside out, leaving you feeling satisfied and energized.

Hearty Tteokguk

No discussion of classic Korean soups would be complete without mentioning tteokguk – a New Year’s Day tradition that’s become a year-round favorite. [3] This dish features thin, disc-shaped rice cakes floating in a clear, seasoned broth, often with additions like thinly sliced beef, egg ribbons, and scallions.

What really sets tteokguk apart is the comforting, almost medicinal quality of the broth. It’s typically made by simmering beef bones or dried anchovies for hours, extracting a deep, umami-rich flavor that’s incredibly nourishing. The rice cakes, meanwhile, contribute a satisfying chew and starchiness that balances out the lightness of the broth.

Eating tteokguk on New Year’s Day is believed to bring good luck and prosperity for the coming year. But I find myself craving this soul-warming soup throughout the winter, whenever I need a hug in a bowl. The combination of the tender rice cakes, the savory broth, and the colorful garnishes is truly irresistible.

So, the next time the temperature drops and you’re in need of a comforting, crave-worthy meal, I highly recommend exploring the world of classic Korean soups. From the spicy, silky soondubu jjigae to the hearty, bean-based kongbap to the traditional, nourishing tteokguk, these dishes are sure to warm you up and fill you with joy.


[1] Knowledge from
[2] Knowledge from
[3] Knowledge from