This Korean-style Kimchi and Pork Meatball Stew is filled with hearty rice, juicy pork meatballs, earthy mushrooms, and tangy kimchi. It's nourishing, has tons of flavor, and is deliciously cozy!
What is Kimchi?
Kimchi originated in Korea and refers to any vegetable that has been salted and fermented with a variety of seasonings. While cabbage kimchi is the most common, there's also daikon, cucumber, burdock root, mustard leaf, and pumpkin kimchi! Kimchi is becoming increasingly popular due to its many health benefits. Not only is it vegetable dense, but the fermentation process also makes it rich in probiotics. These healthy, live bacteria help aid in digestion and boost your immune system.
This recipe for Kimchi and Pork Meatball Stew is modeled after kimchi jjigae. Kimchi jjigae, or Korean kimchi stew, is one of the most popular dishes in Korean cuisine. It's commonly made with pork belly and tofu, with rice served on the side. Kimchi stews are also great for using up aged kimchi, which usually has a more sour taste.
Delicious Kimchi and Pork Stew
This Kimchi Stew with Pork Meatballs pays homage to the traditional Kimchi-jjigae. But I also add a Vietnamese-American spin on it! Ground pork and Korean spices are used to make decadent, flavorful meatballs. Add earthy mushrooms for lots of earthiness and umami. And my favorite shortcut: use fish sauce instead of making anchovy broth from scratch. It saves a lot of time and ingredients without sacrificing any of the flavor!
This easy Kimchi with Pork Meatball Soup is a total crowd pleaser. The meatballs are tender and succulent, and finishing it in the stew allows it to absorb even more flavor. The soup itself is spicy, sweet, hearty, and a little sour from the kimchi. It's perfect for a cold night in and when you're craving comfort food. Plus, it's a one-pot dish! We cook the rice in the stew which means less clean-up = win!
Ingredients for Kimchi and Pork Stew
- Avocado oil: Avocado oil is my favorite oil to cook, fry, and sauté with because of its high smoke point (500°F).
- Onion, garlic, and ginger: The basic aromatics to flavor the dish.
- Mushrooms: Mushrooms are a common ingredient in Korean cuisine. They add earthiness and meatiness to this dish.
- Kimchi: This dish is perfect for using up aged, slightly soured kimchi. I love serving fresh kimchi on the side as well!
- Gochujang: Gochujang is Korean red chili paste. It has a delicious umami, spicy, and slightly sweet flavor.
- Gochugaru: Gochugaru is Korean ground red chili flakes. It has a slightly smoky flavor and is very commonly used in conjunction with gochujang.
- Water and fish sauce: Many Korean soups and stews start with an anchovy broth base. Instead of making it from scratch with dried anchovies and seaweed, we're keeping it simple with water and fish sauce (which is made from anchovies!).
- Coconut sugar: To help balance the acidity from the kimchi.
- Uncooked rice: I like to use brown rice, but any type of rice will work. Cooking time will vary so make sure to taste it while it's cooking. Drop in the meatballs when the rice is al dente, like pasta.
- Sesame oil: It's very common in Korean cooking to finish with a light drizzle of sesame oil. It adds a little nuttiness and richness.
- Green onion: for garnish
For the Pork Meatballs
- Ground pork: I used 80% lean/20% fat.
- Egg: Beat it before incorporating it into the rest of the ingredients.
- Gochujang, gochugaru, soy sauce: The flavor base of the meatballs.
- Onion and garlic powder: I prefer to use the spices in my meatballs instead of adding in raw vegetables.
- Panko breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs are essential in meatballs to prevent them from drying out.
How To Make Kimchi and Pork Meatball Stew
- Preheat the oven. Line the baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. The gochujang in the meatballs can make it a little messy.
- Form the meatballs. Combine the ingredients together and roll them into meatballs. But don't bake them yet.
- Start on the stew. Cook the veggies, then add the spices, rice, and water. While the rice is cooking, bake the meatballs. Timing is important here!
- Add the meatballs to the stew. Finishing the meatballs in the stew amplifies its flavor and creates extra juicy, soft meatballs.
- Finish with sesame oil and green onion. Enjoy!
Tips For Making The Best Kimchi and Pork Soup
- Use aged kimchi. Fully fermented, aged kimchi takes on a more sour taste. It imparts a lot of flavor into soups and stews!
- Mix the meatball mixture your hands. This is the best way to prevent overhandling the meat or overmixing, which can cause a tough meatballs. Just make sure to first...
- Wet your hands! Otherwise, the meat will stick and create a mess. Wet them again when you're about to roll the meatballs.
- Don't salt the mushrooms in the beginning. Best practice is to sauté them for a few minutes until they're browned, and then salt them. This allows all the water to evaporate in the beginning so you can have that great caramelization.
- Adjust the spices to your liking. If you prefer a less spicy stew, start with a quarter of the gochujang and gochugaru in the stew. Increase it if preferred. If not, add more flavor by adding a touch more soy sauce and/or fish sauce.
If you have any leftover Kimchi and Pork Stew, first let it cool to room temperature. Then store it in an air-tight container and in the fridge for up to 5 days. The rice with bloat and absorb more of the liquid, so feel free to replenish with more water or broth if preferred. You can reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.
Make It In Advance
To make this Kimchi and Pork Meatball Stew in advance, do it in stages. First, prepare the meatballs as instructed. Place them evenly spaced on a baking sheet and freeze for 20 minutes. Then, place into a freezer-safe zipper-top bag and into the freezer for up to 3 months.
As for the stew, cook the vegetables and then add the seasonings and water. Do not add the rice! Let the stew simmer for 10 minutes, then let it cool completely. Store in an air-tight container and place in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for 3 months.
When you're ready to serve, let the meatballs thaw in the fridge overnight. Boil the soup and continue with the rest of the recipe. Another option is to cook the rice separately or use leftover rice and simply add it at the end.
Looking For More?
There isn't anything quite as enjoyable as a cozy and delicious home-cooked meal. We have plenty more ideas for you here!
- Instant Pot Dakdoritang (Spicy Korean Chicken Stew)
- Jumeokbap (Korean Rice Balls)
- Bibimmyeon (Korean Cold Spicy Noodles)
- Browned Butter Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- One-Pot Sausage and Couscous
Kimchi and Pork Meatball Stew
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- ¼ onion chopped
- 4 oz mushrooms wiped clean and sliced
- 2-3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 teaspoon minced ginger
- 1½ cups kimchi with 2 tablespoon kimchi brine
- 1 tablespoon gochujang
- 1 teaspoon gochugaru
- ½ teaspoon fish sauce
- ½ tablespoon coconut sugar
- ½ cup uncooked rice
- 5 cups water
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Green onion for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
- Start on the meatballs first. In a large bowl, add ground pork, egg, gochujang, gochugaru, Panko breadcrumbs, soy sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Wet your hands and mix until just combined. Use a 1½ tablespoon cookie scooper or heaping tablespoon to form ~15 rounded balls and space them evenly apart on the baking sheet. Set aside for now.
- In a large pot, heat avocado oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and mushroom and cook until softened, about 3-4min. Lightly season with salt and pepper and then add garlic and ginger, toasting until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then add kimchi and kimchi brine, scraping up browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
- Add gochujang, gochugaru, fish sauce, coconut sugar, uncooked rice, water, and 1 teaspoon salt to the pot. Turn the heat up and cover with a lid, simmering until rice is al dente, about 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot and make sure it's at a high simmer throughout.While the rice is cooking, bake the meatballs for 10-15 minutes or until internal temperature is 135-140°F.
- Once the meatballs are done baking, nestle them into the stew. Cook, uncovered, over high heat for 5 minutes or until internal temperature of the meatballs is 145-150°F.
- Stir in sesame oil and season to taste. Garnish with green onion and serve while warm.
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