The dish gets its name, army stew, from harder times, and true to its namesake, it’s loaded up with all things plain but wonderful — instant ramen, salty Spam, chewy rice cakes and silky soft tofu.






Skill level

Average: 4 (21 votes)

The broth is thick and rich, laced with earthy umami tones from kombu and anchovies, dyed fiery-red with kimchi and gochujang, and spicy enough to make you sweat even when your fingers are still thawing from the cold outside. I love how its balanced complexity was cobbled together from the plain and simple in times of scarcity — it’s a lemons-from-lemonade kind of magic.  

If you happen to have a hot pot or fondue pot, this would be amazing right at the table. Otherwise, be sure to enjoy immediately, and keep the soup simmering while you eat for refills. You can add more water (or dashi stock, if you have extra on hand) as the broth boils down, and more ramen as you eat it.


  • 1 cup Korean rice cakes (dduk) (optional; see Note)
  • 1 cup chopped green or other cabbage
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped kimchi
  • 2 spring onions (scallions), chopped, plus extra to serve
  • 2 hot dogs, sliced
  • 120 g Spam, sliced
  • 250 g minced (ground) beef
  • 150 g firm tofu, sliced (optional)
  • ¼ cup baked beans (optional)
  • ¼ cup mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 1-2 packets instant ramen
  • white American cheese slices or mozzarella, for topping (optional)

Dashi stock

  • 1.5 litres water
  • 1-2 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 6 dried anchovies, head and innards removed (see Note)
  • 1 sheet dried kelp (kombu) (see Note)



  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp Korean red chilli paste (gochujang) (see Note)
  • 1-2 tbsp Korean red chilli powder (gochugaru) (see Note)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing) (optional)
  • a generous pinch of black pepper (optional)

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


If using the dduk, place in a bowl with plenty of cold water and let soak while you prepare everything else.

To prepare the dashi stock, combine the water, dried shiitake mushrooms, anchovies and dried kelp in a large saucepan, or a hot pot if you have one. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat and let simmer for 5 minutes, then remove the kelp. If using the anchovies, let simmer for another 5 minutes, then remove the anchovies.

Meanwhile, mix all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.

Place the cabbage, onion, kimchi, spring onions, hot dogs and Spam in the simmering stock, then place the minced beef in the centre. If using, also add the dduk, tofu, baked beans and mushrooms. Pour the sauce over top. Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for 10 minutes or until the beef is cooked.

Stir the beef to break it up into smaller pieces. You can leave the other ingredients in a ring around the beef for presentation, or just mix it all up. Add the ramen to the centre of the broth and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the noodles are soft.

Top with the American cheese or mozzarella if desired, and enjoy immediately!



• Dduk, dried anchovies, kombu, gochujang and gochugaru are available from Korean or selected Asian food shops. If you can’t find dried anchovies, substitute 3 tbsp fish sauce.


Recipe from Two Red Bowls by Cynthia C., with photographs by Cynthia C.