My second attempt at soondubu jjigae was excellent (see lackluster first attempt, here), thanks to my mom's rescue. This doesn't taste like BCD Tofu. It tastes homemade, which I prefer.
Also, this recipe is not the soondubu jjigae recipe, and I don't know if such a recipe exists. One Google search demonsrates how widely recipes differ. For example, many soondubu jjigae recipes call for a paste composed primarily of ground red chili pepper, soy sauce, and garlic. I skipped the paste and added the chili pepper straight into the pot, and I didn't detect a big difference.
I want you to try this so badly that I would make it for you myself, if I happened to have space for a party in my apartment. Maybe I'm inflating the merits of this recipe—after all, I'm a novice home cook who only learned how poach chicken last year. But I believe you will devour this one. Don't be intimidated by the ingredients. This is a true one-pot meal that requires minimal prep and time. You can find most of the ingredients at any Korean grocery store or online.
Use about half a pound or less pork or other protein (chicken, beef, seafood). Or leave out meat entirely and keep it vegetarian (in which case, I would recommend lots of kimchi on top of your other vegetables).
If you're using pork, beef, or chicken, cook the meat first. But don't stress. This is a one-pot meal.
After the meat is cooked, add a few tablespoons of gochugaru (Korean ground red pepper). Adjust to match your spice preference. Gochugaru is essential, so I wouldn't try to use a substitute.
Add water. Crucial: Do not overfill the pot. Don't let the water pass the midway mark. You'll end up with a watery soup and an overflowing pot instead of a concentrated stew. Such was the drowning doom of my first soondubu jjiage attempt.
Add hondashi powder if you want this to be quick. If you're a purist, then go ahead and make your own stock with kelp and dried anchovies before beginning to make this stew.
Add kimchi and vegetables. Keep everything boiling.
Add big spoonfuls of tofu. Silken tofu is fine, though soondubu has an even softer texture (so soft, it comes in a tube).
Finally, add some minced saewootjut (fermented shrimp). Don't worry. It doesn't taste as scary as it looks. If you can't find fermented shrimp, then use salt, or maybe fish sauce.
The end result: Korean comfort food in your own home.
Mom's Soondubu Jjigae with Pork
"Dubu" is Korean for "tofu," and "jjigae" (JJEE-geh) is the ubiquitous Korean term for what you might know as a stew. This is not THE way to make soondubu jjigae, just one version of my mom's method. My mom likes food that tastes good but doesn't take all day to make (unless we're talking kimchi). I used zucchini, but onions and mushrooms are also common. There's no need to stick to pork. Soondubu jjigae can be made with a variety of proteins-chicken, beef, pork, and seafood (ex. clams, shrimp, mussels) are common. You might add seafood later in the process, since it requires less time to cook. You can also leave out the meat entirely and keep the stew vegetarian (ex. kimchi soondubu jjigae!). Feel free to experiment!
1/2 lb. or less of pork (or chicken, or beef), thinly sliced
A few tsp. sesame oil
3-5 tbsp. gochugaru (GOH-choo-GAH-roo) (Korean ground red chili pepper)
2-2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp. hondashi (instant fish soup stock)
Approx. 1 cup napa cabbage kimchi, no juice
Approx. 1 cup zucchini (or other vegetables), chopped
Approx. 1 tsp. saewootjot (SEH-woot-jut) (fermented shrimp), minced
1 14-oz container silken tofu, or 1 tube soondubu (extra soft tofu made for soondubu jjigae)
Optional: Chopped green onion, sesame seeds, and eggs (one per person)
- Heat some sesame oil in a medium sized pot over medium high heat. Add the pork and cook until the meat is no longer raw.
- Add the gochugaru to the pot and mix well with the pork. Then add the water and bring to a boil (be sure you fill the pot less than halfway). Add the hondashi, and stir until it dissolves.
- Add the zucchini and kimchi, and stir. Boil for about five minutes.
- Add very large spoonfuls of the tofu, whichever kind you're using. Be sure to keep the pieces large, and try not to break them up while stirring. Boil for a few more minutes.
- Stir in the saewootjot, then crack egg(s) into the pot while it's boiling. If desired, garnish with green onion and/or sesame seeds before serving. Serve as-is or portion into separate bowls (separate from your rice bowl). Eat by spooning the jjigae over rice. (I prefer doing this bite by bite instead of dumping my rice into the jjigae).
- If your local grocery store doesn't stock gochugaru, I found some on Amazon, like this coarse gochugaru and this finely ground version. I used a coarsely ground powder for my jjigae.
- Silken tofu is really a fine substitute for soondubu. If you're a soondubu jjigae diehard, though, you will appreciate the even softer texture of the soondubu, which you can look for in the refrigerated section of a Korean grocery store.
- If you're a purist, you could substitute dried kelp and dried anchovies for hondashi, but who's looking? My hondashi has MSG in it, but I don't mind using it if I'm the only one eating.