As one of the most iconic Korean dishes, army base stew, or budae jjigae, has a colorful history. In the aftermath of the war, American servicemen and troops were stationed in South Korea to prevent invasion. Resourceful Koreans had heard that these bases had a surplus of canned meats that often ended up in the garbage. These meats, like ground beef, Spam, hot dogs, and ham, were picked up and put into a spicy stew.
In this episode of K-Town, host Matthew Kang tries an exemplary version of this now-classic stew at Dallas’s Dan Sung Sa. Today, budae jjigae shows up on Korean bar menus and restaurant menus around the world, but its unique history as a “trash” dish is a reminder that Korea, despite its current prosperity and place in the world, was once ravaged by war, and remains in an uneasy political situation to this day.