The names of Korean dishes are pretty straightforward: one-half of it would usually refer to the star ingredient and the other half on the type of dish (guk, jjigae, tang and bap, among many others) but budae-jjigae is different. Budae (부대) means ‘army base’ in Korean – one of the rare, if not only, Korean dish named after a place.Combined, you get Budae Jjigae.
Quite a feast, budae-jjigae is a mishmash of every conceivable ingredient which could be added in a relatively huge pot. It seems like a hodgepodge of everything but again, here, think history. The origin of budae-jjigae is rooted in the Korean War (which might be obvious with the army base part) and the inevitable food scarcity during the period. The American bases at the time were loaded with food supplies, mainly those we know now line up the grocery shelves: canned meat, instant noodles and hotdogs. Apparently their food supplies were somehow bottomless that some ended up getting thrown out and hungry Koreans picked up these scraps and recycled them – hence, the budae-jjigae.
Perhaps today this is regarded as a fine meal loaded with all-American processed food, including cheese, but some sixty years ago this was survival food. The current budae-jjigae has also mushrooms, tofu and kimchi in its ingredient roster but perhaps what makes this the bomb in the generation of now is the addition of ramyeon noodles – those tongue-scalding Korean instant noodles with its red color as deep as gochujang.
More info about the Korean War:
Another popular Korean dish: