No surprise, Koreans love their kimchi. A soup made with kimchi called kimchi jjigae (or kimchi chigae) is probably one of the most beloved soul foods in Korea. Every Korean household has a container full of basic cabbage kimchi in their fridge which can be stir-fried then boiled to become a delicious pot of kimchi chigae. It is easy to make and so versatile that I might not be exaggerating to say that every Korean family may have their own version of unique kimchi chigae recipe.
After I came back to Korea in December 2014, I noticed on the streets the signs with the word that I have never seen before: Omori. As soon as I encountered this supposedly new “trend”, my head was filled with curiosity and anticipation to find out what an omori soup is all about. A debate on the internet gives number of ideas on the source of the word “omori”. Some say that omori is a regional dialect meaning hangari (clay pot) and omori chigae simply means soups served in traditional Korean clay pots. Others say that the word omori came from omogari, the very old, fermented kimchi.
Omori Chigae, a restaurant chain serving this delicacy as their signature, explains on their website that they named their kimchi chigae as such because they serve the soup in the pot. The restaurant became popular and branched out all over the country and people started to understand that omori chigae equals to a kimchi chigae made with old kimchi and premium pork meats. It seems that it once became a buzz and created a line of trend that even an omori-flavored noodle cup has launched. But above all, I just wanted to try and see how omori chigae is different from your regular old kimchi chigae.
Using the mukeunji (묵은지: aged kimchi) in a kimchi chigae is sort of a guarantee – you can never go wrong with good old kimchi. The soup was definitely flavorful with the right ingredients including what seem to be fresh pork shoulder and belly meat. The kimchi was so soft that it almost melt in your mouth. The old kimchi is already losing its firmness and the longer you boil the softer the cabbage becomes.
I enjoyed the omori chigae although kimchi chigae is not my number one Korean soup. (My favorite chigae is cheong-guk-jang and chon-daeji chigae) However, I still believe the best kimchi chigae I have ever tasted was the one made with pork ribs. Pork side ribs are boiled down for hours to the point where the meat is just falling off the bones. The broth is so flavorful from the kimchi and the meat and the bones and I just can never get enough of it. I shall try to make it at home one day as it has been long since I had a good bowl of pork rib kimchi chigae.