One of the best things my partner's mother ever handed down to us was her large ddukbaegi, or Korean earthenware pot. (She was downgrading to a smaller one for herself.) When I think of the pot, I imagine sounds: bubbling stews, sizzing rice, and the satisfying clunk of the heavy lid. Much of Korean cuisine is down to earth, and the traditional cooking pots – ddukbaegi and dolsot – share this unpretentious, robust aesthetic.
The Korean ddukbaegi, shown in the picture above, may not be as glamorous as a colorful Le Creuset, but we'd argue it can be just as all-around useful as a Dutch oven. Made of earthenware, it's traditionally used to cook and serve guk (soup) and jjigae (stew). We also use it to steam rice and make dolsot bibimbap (more on that below), rice pilaf, miso soup, ramen, and shabu shabu. The ceramic pot retains heat, so it keeps food warm for a long time.
Somewhat less versatile but just as fun to cook with is a stone (usually granite) dolsot, which is shown at the top of this post. This is the cookware used to make dolsot bibimbap. Bibimbap, or "mixed rice," is a dish consisting of steamed rice, vegetables, and (optionally) meat. In the dolsot version, the pre-cooked ingredients are placed in the pot and heated over the stove. The rice sizzles and turns crispy while a cracked egg cooks against the hot stone. A stone pot is best for this dish, but since we don't own one (yet!), we use the earthenware ddukbaegi pot with good results.
Both of these pots are very hot, so it's important to protect one's hands and table! Korean markets sell matching coasters or trays, but you can also use a trivet.
• Doenjang Jjigae (Soybean Paste Stew), from Maangchi (with video)
• Kimchi Jjigae (Kimchi Stew), from ZenKimchi
• Soondubu Jjigae (Soft Tofu Stew), from The Kitchn
• Dolsot Bibimbap (Mixed Rice in Stone Pot), from Food Safari (with video)
• Buy online at koaMart
Related: Flickr Find: Korean Soup Pots
(Images: Flickr members twohelmetscooking and egg licensed under Creative Commons)