I’m not sure all of you have heard of 생청국장 saeng cheonggukjang, or in Japanese, natto before. The soybean is an important source of food in many Asian countries, used to make soy sauce, tofu, bean paste, all very essential ingredients in Asian cooking.
Dwaenjang, which has a deeper more pungent flavor than the Japanese miso and I’m not familiar with the technique of making miso, but for dwaenjang the beans are first boiled until very soft and mushy, smashed into a paste (sometimes the beans are lightly mashed, sometimes they are completely mashed until smooth) and made into little blocks that are hung to dry. While it is hung the beans will develop a mold, giving it its distinct flavor. After a period of time, the blocks are then mashed into an earthen pot to further ferment, and at this point soy sauce is also made… which I don’t really know anything about. Behold, blocks of mushed beans.
Props for the photo goes to www.hdsarang.kr
Cheonggukjang has a much more (much much more) pungent flavor than dwaenjang and is made in a different way. The boiled beans are placed in a pot or container with bits of straw that help develop a very sticky culture, different from the mold that is developed on the dwaenjang blocks. In Korea, when making cheonggukjang the beans are left to develop the sticky culture and sit for a period of time, making the color of the beans turn a dark brown. Usually, it is put into soup with other ingredients such as kimchi, tofu, and even meat. Saeng cheonggukjang is different in that the beans aren’t left to sit for a long period of time. When the beans develop a sticky culture, it is eaten right away. “Saeng” means “fresh” in English. In Korea, saeng cheonggukjang isn’t eaten that often as it is in Japan. Looking at traditional Japanese breakfasts, natto is easily a staple, but in Korea it has just began to be produced and stocked in supermarkets. Due to their health benefits, I have decided to make them a staple to my diet.
These beans can be very pungent and sticky, but with a few experiments I think I have found a way to eat them and make them taste pleasant. I’ve recently seen them sold in big supermarkets, so they are getting easier to get a hold of. I got mine at Costco for about 8000won (12 packs in a box) which is cheaper than the beans I saw at the supermarket which were about 4000won for just three packs.
I shall show you how I take my beans. Usually I eat them for breakfast.
One box has four three-packs.
(2)A three pack.
(3)The beans come in a little box.
Open the little box and you will first see two packets.
(5)One consists of spicy mustard, and one often a soy sauce (but in my case, beef flavored sauce). I’m not really a fan of the beef flavored sauce so I add my own soy sauce instead.
(6)After you take the condiments out, you will see the beans covered in a translucent plastic film.
(7)After taking the film out (don’t just pick up the film and whoosh it off, because the sticky strings will just get out of control. Use the “sliding method” to slowly slide the plastic film to the side and keep the strings under control.) rip the lid off. You will be able to do so easily because it is perforated.
(8)Put your preferred condiments onto the beans.
(9)I also enjoy putting a little chopped spring onion into the beans. They give a little freshness/acidity to the otherwise pungent flavor of the beans.
(10)Give a little mix to the mixture. They say that to really digest the nutritional benefits of the beans, you should mix/swish them around until the strands become sticker (and is reminiscent of snot). I’d say it’s up to you. I personally try to mix them as little as possible so that it isn’t too slimy. I mix it just enough so that all the condiments are mixed in.
(11)Close-up on the beans.
Nom. You can eat the beans just like that with rice and other side dishes, but in the morning I like to have just one bowl without fiddling with other containers and plates for side-dishes.
(14)I get a bowl, fill it with as much rice (In this case, red rice) as I want, put a little soy sauce on the rice as well as a nice sprinkle of tamanori furikake, a fried egg, and then top everything with the beans. A lovely, hearty breakfast that will keep you satisfied until lunchtime.
For those of you who are slightly afraid of trying the beans out, YOLO! Try them! At first I was thrown off by the slimy texture of the beans, but as I mix them with different foods they actually taste good and I enjoy eating them now.
Until next time! 🙂