Trashy soup


I cannot eat most Japanese miso soups, even though I do like miso, aka soybean paste. There’s nothing WRONG with Japanese miso soup–it’s just that I love Korean “miso soup” even more, having grown up on its more pungent flavor.

In my mind, miso soup is supposed to be wild and rustic; Japanese miso soup is well mannered and mild, perhaps more refined. And I prefer the imprint of “wild and rustic” in my mind; perhaps for me, it’s just like how ketchup has become synonymous to Heinz. I just think that “wild and rustic” is how miso soup is SUPPOSED to taste like.

Korean “miso soup” (“doen-jang gook”) is based on Korean soybean paste and is a lot more pronounced in miso flavor, even mildly spicy, and the best pastes even have chunks of fermented soybean in them.

Korean soybean paste

When I can get my hands on homemade soybean paste, that’s what I use–otherwise I use the Pulmuone brand or experiment around, like with the above brand. I’m still on a search for a decent (nay, excellent) manufactured brand of soybean paste. I’ll let you know if I run across a lifelong Korean soybean paste mate.

My mother used to make me a soup called “doen-jang shi-rae-gi gook,” which uses soybean paste as a base. The literal translation for the name of “shi-rae-gi gook” is “soybean paste trash soup” or “soybean paste garbage soup” but I’m going to use the moniker, “discards soup” because it sounds just a tad more savoury.

“Discards soup” is very much just that: made up of odds and ends. Because of the soup’s rustic nature, you can just about put any edible green into the recipe, whether it be spinach or dandelion greens…or in this case, Korean chrysanthemum leaves (“sook ggat”) and Korean radish leaves, freshly picked from my garden.

greens from the garden

Likewise, you can add other ingredients as you please, and as they are available (there aren’t that many rules to a “trashy soup”). You can add sliced daikon radish, or sliced tofu cubes. If you have garlic, slice some up and add it. Feel free to improvise–after all, one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.


I love this dish for its utterly simple nature–which begins with its recipe. You boil some water (you can do that, right?)…add several spoonfuls of Korean soybean paste to taste…add sliced garlic and tofu and greens (or any other odds and ends)…and boil.


In a few minutes you have a proper Discards Soup.

Serve with rice (or not), and enjoy. You can make this soup as hearty (adding more ingredients) or lean (fewer ingredients) as you like. Me? I like to make it as hearty as possible, often loading the soup up with greens and tofu and even red hot pepper flakes for an extra kick.

18 responses to “Trashy soup

  1. i’m with you on the miso v. doen-jang issue — for me, doen-jang dominates. i’ve tried making hearty soups with miso and it doesn’t work. it tastes bad, and i’ve decided it’s the miso, not what i’m doing with it. doen-jang, on the other hand, is perfect for variety.

  2. yep–I can’t believe they’re even in the same family, really. It’s like comparing ketchup with barbecue sauce.

  3. Ah,
    were in the hell is my bowl? I’m on way over.. and I’m mad and HUNGRY..
    its a pirates life for me..

  4. aw. i love anything with doen-jang in it. i’m living overseas at the moment and it’s hard to get my hands on korean ingredients. but my mom sends me doen-jang and go-choo-jang so i got my basics. alot of times i just make blend of doen-jang and go-choo-jang and eat it as a deep with cucumbers and lettuce. but whenever i can find tofu, i make a version of your trashy soup. i use a ground dried anchovy powder as a base.

  5. ah you reminded me, Sam–I often do include dried anchovies into my soup for a heartier taste. I’ve never tried the powder itself, but I think it would produce a similar result, and would help the more anchovy-squeamish populace out. 🙂

  6. Perfect for lunch or brunch
    4 English muffins, halved
    1/2 cup (120ml) Summersweet Crab and Three Cheese Dip
    fine bread crumbs
    parmesan cheese, freshly grated
    Green onions, finely diced for garnish
    Preheat the oven to 325F (170C). Arrange the English muffin halves on a baking sheet. Sprea…

  7. i love my miso soup as trashy as it comes…i add egg and spam. yes, i said SPAM! i’m a part okinawan air force brat…can’t help but like the stuff. i’ve always thought my japanese miso held up well to my ghetto treatment but youve got me curious about the korean kind, especially since you don’t have to worry about it boiling. and i loooove sook ggat ( japanese shinguku, i believe). I shouldve thought about growing it myself…darn!

    • Good to find an expert who knows what he’s tanklig about!

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    • …jos oma seurakuntani alkaa rikkomaan suomen lakia, aion kyllä mennä keskustelemaan asiasta.Olisi hauska tietää onko joku tuolla Turussa tehnyt niin ?

  8. My all time favorite green is minari (korean watercress) and I have made doenjang chigae with it.

    Kind of funny story — my parents received doenjang base (the dried fermented soy bean paste in hard blocks) from overseas via mail. Um, not sure if anyone has ever experienced the uh aroma of it, but suffice to say if you DON’T know what the smell is it will drive you nuts. Frankly, it’s a horrible odor. Wellthe container housing it happened to be open the day the German wallpaper hanger was in their house as well as the Chilean cleaning lady…

  9. annie: sook ggat is so terribly easy to grow–you’ll find yourself trying to keep up with it (I’m looking for sook ggat recipes right now because the plant keeps growing and growing). 🙂 Good luck!

    HCG: minari is awesome–and I think you are speaking of “meiju!” My mom would buy some at a store in Koreatown in LA and make her own doenjang paste. Thank goodness we had a big enough backyard that the neighbors didn’t smell it. 🙂

  10. Miso is Japanese Doenjang, not vice-versa!

  11. Did your mom make her own doenjang? Do you know how to do it or at least what ingredients to buy for it?

  12. catherine: My mom did–and I don’t remember how she did it (and she hasn’t made it herself in a number of years). Homemade doenjang is the BEST!

    I know only one fact, that the main ingredient is a block of “meju” (a brick like block of dried fermented soybeans)…sorry I can’t help you further at this point.

  13. I just tried this soup, I added some extra ingredients and it was delicious!!!

  14. so….my mother whose family is from North Korean and I have always been told that shi rae gi is a specific type of green. We also had our pronunciation corrected (apparently it is a distinctly different word from seu rae gi or trash) from my Seoul born father’s side of the family.

    Also, regarding doenjang, I just discovered that for years, my mother simply ground up soybeans, added them to store-bought daenjang, and fermented them together (outside of course) in jars. It works pretty well as far as I can tell.

  15. Pingback: Toddler Loves | Muffin Top

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