Korean Soybean Paste Soup with Spinach and Clams

This month’s Recipe Redux theme is a dream come true for this Korean girl.  Why you may ask?  Because it’s all about “fermented foods!”  Of course, I immediately thought about KIMCHI!  If you want to learn more about this food that defines Korean cuisine as well as a recipe to a very popular dish, click here.

Although kimchi is getting all the spotlight these days, I thought I’d share with you another common and essential fermented ingredient that you may not be so familiar with – “doenjang” or soybean paste.  If you’re not a fan of spicy foods, you just might fall in love with this one.

Doenjang is made from dried soybeans that are boiled and ground coarsely.  Bacillus subtilis (Microbiology was one of the most entertaining courses I took..am I alone on this?) is the bacteria responsible for the fermentation process.  Over time, other beneficial bacteria work their magic and enrich the mixture with vitamins and other nutrients.

The mixture is then separated into liquid and solid components.  The liquid is what we use most commonly in Asian cooking, soy sauce.  The solid component is doenjang.

This flavorful condiment is used in many vegetable side dishes, soups, and stews.  I want to share with you one of the most popular and common ways to enjoy it…”Doenjang Jjigae” or Soybean Paste Soup.

There are many variations to this soup, and it’s most commonly made with either beef or clams.  I decided to go with clams.  In addition, I added spinach (although normally made with zucchini) because I happen to think that spinach and doenjang were made for each other.  Finally, it can be made spicy by adding chili flakes, which turns the broth into a brilliant red color.  However, I wanted to keep it on the mild side.

Korean Soybean Paste Soup with Spinach and Clams


  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • Approx. one dozen clams
  • 1 cup leeks, cut into big chunks
  • A bunch of spinach, approx 190g.  (Regular not baby spinach!)
  • 2 Tbs soybean paste
  • 1 Tsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tsp chili flakes (optional)
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced (seeds removed or not..it’s up to you)
  • 1/2 block of firm tofu


  1. Scrub clams clean under cold water.  Wash leeks thoroughly to remove all dirt.  In a pot, boil water, clams, and leeks.  Once clams open, strain out clams and leeks and save broth.
  2. Rinse spinach thoroughly.  Blanch for 30 seconds in boiling water.  Squeeze out all the water.  Roughly run knife through it.  Mix it with 1 Tbs soybean paste and 1 Tsp garlic.
  3. To the liquid from step 1, add 1 Tbs soybean paste using a mesh strainer.  Mash it down to incorporate with broth.  *
  4. When broth boils, add spinach mixture, jalapeno, and tofu.  At the end, add clams.

* This step is to ensure that no big chunks of the paste get into the broth.

My handy dandy potato scrubber to the rescue!

Squeeze out as much water as you possibly can!

Incorporate well!

See those big chunks?  That’s why you need to strain the paste.  Try to mash them down and incorporate into the broth as well.  No wasting around here, folks! 😉

I actually wish I  had removed the seeds…This one was quite fiery!

Add tofu and jalapeno into the broth.  Then add the clams.  Voila!

Serve with rice and, of course, kimchi!

Mommy!  I made doenjang jjigae!  Too bad she doesn’t know about this blog..she’d be proud of me ;).

Now, to see many more amazing recipes for fermented foods,  go check out all my fellow recipe reduxers!

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12 Responses to Korean Soybean Paste Soup with Spinach and Clams

  1. This looks delicious and soybean paste is something I’ve never heard of-thanks for the introduction! I’m curious to know if it is gluten-free, since traditional soy sauce has wheat in it. Do you know? Really great Recipe ReDux post!

    • Min says:

      Thank you! Some of them are gluten-free and it will say things like 콩 which literally means bean. Def look at the ingredient list..although unfortunately I’ve been told that not every ingredients are listed..

  2. eatpraytri says:

    Min!!! I have missed you, but I am BACK! Back to reading and blogging. YAY! I have to tell you, at one of the places we had lunch on our trip down to our new city…it was a Korean BBQ at a mall. They had little sides of kimchi…I instantly thought of you. I just had to tell you b/c had it not been for you and your post about it I probably would have had NO idea what it even was. 😉

    • Min says:

      I’ve missed you too! I hope everything is going smoothly during this time of transition! So did you actually try it? People either love it or hate it.

  3. Wow, this looks fabulous!
    I am sad I missed this month’s redux, but i have been just too busy. I will shoot for next month. 🙂

  4. This sounds interesting!! I never do any fermented foods… maybe I need to try it!

    • Min says:

      Fermented foods have many healthful benefits, Brittany! Great for our guts, aid in digestion, helps absorb the nutrients consumed…Hope you give it a try soon!

  5. Min – WOW, this looks amazing! I had no clue about soybean paste (and guess never really thought about the byproduct of soy sauce.) I love clams but rarely make them at home – need to try this (and get some soybean paste into my pantry.) So flun learning more about Korean foods through your posts 🙂

  6. Min says:

    Ooh! I hope you give soybean paste a chance! It may become a staple in your pantry ;). Just a lil’ goes a long way! A great way to add a punch of flavor to your dishes!

  7. Natalie @ freshlifefindings says:

    I love all of your Korean recipes min! I wish you would come over and cook for me so I can try them all! 🙂 hope you had a great weekend!

  8. Pingback: Soybean Paste Marinated Pork Lettuce Wrap |

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