I want to start off by saying that black beans cooked in soy sauce and dressed in sugar and sesame oil are not a traditional breakfast dish in Korea. They're more often eaten as an accompaniment to dinner. And also: I've eaten them for breakfast four times this week.
First, I ate the beans cold over hot steamed rice and scrambled eggs with plenty of the brothy, deeply flavored cooking liquid spooned over the whole bowl. Then I ate them scattered over sourdough toast, on top of a smear of smashed avocados. Next it was on a breakfast sweet potato with cottage cheese. And last, it was with rice and eggs again because, honestly, it was the best.
Yes, you should own more than one bottle.
The beans are ideally cooked in dashi, a stock made with seaweed, dried fish, and sometimes mushrooms; but you can boil them in plain water, too, since a hefty pour of soy sauce gives the beans tons of flavor while they cook. Full disclosure: I didn't have the ingredients to make dashi the first time I tried these beans, but I did have mushroom powder, MSG, and anchovy salt, so I faked it.
I've probably already revealed too much about ways I've altered this recipe lately, but it's coronavirus days and that means you've got to do what you've got to do. The second time I made this recipe, I was out of black beans entirely, so I went ahead with red beans and thought they were just as good. The point is, feel free to riff with what you've got.
I've eaten kong jaban (also spelled kongjaban or kongjang) for dinner a few times, too—most notably in a rice bowl with harissa-roasted fish and shaved radishes—but for me, breakfast is where the beans really shine.
When I told Hooni Kim, author of My Korea, how much I liked his recipe, and how it had led me to this recent beans-for-breakfast fetish, he was a little reluctant to get on board. He noted that the dish is a common banchan in Korean households; one of any number of small side dishes and condiments that go onto the table at meal times. "A traditional Korean meal always has five, six, seven, sometimes up to 12 of these little side dishes," says Kim. "A family may have 15 different banchan in the fridge, but the mother will only bring the ones to the table that she feels complement the main dish."
For that reason, it seemed strange to him to base a whole meal around these beans, which he usually serves as a cooling counterpoint to spicy kimchi-based stews. Still, he admits that they were among his favorite banchan as a child, and that today, his son, who "hates anything that isn't burgers and pizza, loves to eat them, because kids find the beans fun to chew."
Because they're usually eaten cold, it's easy to make a big pot to spoon on literally whatever throughout the week. It's also a good reason to cook the beans a little more than you would if you were eating them warm. Chilling causes them to firm up a bit, and adding sugar after they've come off the heat gives the beans that chew Kim mentioned above. A small amount of sesame oil and a sprinkling of seeds gives them that signature toasted sesame flavor that keeps me coming back.
I may not be cooking for children; but I am cooking for two adults who have very different breakfast philosophies. I am a sweet-breakfast eater; I tend to want pastries, breakfast loaves, and waffles with strawberry syrup. My partner, on the other hand, will always go savory. If I make pancakes, he will pop a runny egg on top and then roll it up with sardines. These sweet and savory beans satisfy us both: promising me the sugar kick I need to get out of bed, and him the umami punch he craves. Honestly, I might even join him in spooning the beans over waffles next time I make a batch. I'll skip the sardines, though.Hooni Kim
Originally Appeared on Epicurious