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Sunday, 3 March 2013

Winter Warmer: Soondubu Jigae

Soondubu Jigae, or Korean spicy tofu stew, is a definite comfort food staple of mine. I've tried out and made tweaks to half a dozen recipes over this particularly miserable winter (still ongoing, by the way, despite it being March already -- come on, sun) and am ready to declare this version my personal favourite. Since working out the kinks, we now eat this so often I could actually justify buying the traditional black clay pots, but you really don't need to; it tastes just as good in a regular soup bowl :)



Soondubu Jigae recipe (serves 2). Adapted from JinJoo's at Kimchimari.

Ingredients
Okay, please don't close the tab in horror at this point :P I promise most of these aren't particularly esoteric -- I only bring 3 things with me (starred) when I plan to make this at friends' homes, as they usually have the other stuff or easy substitutes to hand (admittedly my friends all seem to be pigs foodies).

  1. Sunflower oil
  2. Mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine -- you can use a sweet sherry or sake + sugar)
  3. Soy Sauce
  4. Oyster Sauce
  5. Fish Sauce (I just use the Thai stuff)
  6. *Korean Soy Sauce for Soup (guk kanjang -- you can use regular soy sauce)
  7. *Salted Preserved Shrimp (saeujeot -- try other Asian shrimp pastes)
  8. Sesame oil
  9. *Korean red chili flakes (gochugaru -- not the same as the 'normal' chili flakes found in supermarkets + in pizza restaurants etc. I really recommend you track this stuff or the powdered or paste versions down -- many Asian shops sell it, not just Korean ones.)
  10. Demerara Sugar (I like the extra mellowness this gives vs. white; any mild brown sugar will do.)
Unlabelled because how patronising: salt & pepper, 1 pack extra soft tofu, spring onion, garlic.
Unpictured because my countertop is small: kombu seaweed, random veg (I usually use courgettes, okra, shiitake/oyster mushrooms -- chestnut in a pinch, maybe a tomato if it's looking dodgy), eggs. Fresh clams are also nice to include if you have any.
Serve with: cooked stickyish short grain rice, kimchi and other banchan if you can be arsed.


Process
For the soup base, mix together:
1 Tbsp  Korean red chili powder (gochugaru) or powder/paste
1/2 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp mirin
1 crushed garlic clove
1/4 tsp brown sugar
good pinches of salt pepper to taste


Heat a mix of sunflower oil and sesame oil (about 1 Tbsp total; I usually do half and half) in a small saucepan and add the sauce mix. Cook over gentle heat (just enough that it sizzles gently), stirring regularly, for about 3 minutes until amalgamated into a thickish sauce.

Set sauce aside to cool a bit, then add:
1/4 tsp preserved shrimp (saeujeot)
1/2 tsp Korean soy sauce for soup (guk kanjang)
1/2 tsp fish sauce
And mix again.


Make the stock:
Pour about 500 ml cold water into your soup pot (earthenware or otherwise), add a piece of dried kombu seaweed (about the size of your palm) and 1/2 tsp salt. Throw in whatever veg you're using (chopped fairly small: mushrooms and okra finely sliced, courgettes diced into smaller than 1cm cubes etc.), bring everything to a gentle simmer for about 10-15 minutes until veg are pretty much cooked through.
Fish out the kombu piece and discard.

Stewing [sorry, no pics for this stage; my lens kept fogging over XD]
Add your sauce to the pot and stir to mix evenly into the stock and give it a quick taste, adjust seasoning if necessary -- it should be quite salty because you have yet to add:
The tofu: break it into a few large pieces by hand (I usually just halve it, quite honestly :P) and lower gently into pot (earthenware or otherwise). If there isn't enough liquid to cover the tofu, add a little more water.
Bring everything to the boil again, then turn the heat to low and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. [If you're using clams, they should probably go in during this period -- you want them to be just cooked by the end.]
Bring the stew back up to the boil and crack in two eggs -- let poach for a few minutes, to taste (I like my yolks very creamy). Chop up a spring onion into fine slivers and throw in at the last minute.


Dish up, trying not to break up your eggs/tofu too much if scooping from a separate pot. Serve while still bubbling in vaguely primordial fashion.


Up to you whether you prefer to dip spoonfuls of rice into the bubbling stew, likely sacrificing a few morsels to the ooze, or if like me, you prefer to use your spoon to fish out meltingly soft pieces of okra and cut into the wobbly tofu, transferring everything, along with boiling spicy gravy, back to the safety of your rice bowl, thence to pick up some grains :)

27 comments:

  1. I just ATE dinner and now I'm hungry reading this!

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  2. OOOO I'm drooling all over the place! Looks so good! Must give it a try at some point!

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  3. I LOVE soondubu! Thanks so much for sharing your recipe!

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    1. yay! I can't believe so many people know of it and love it

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  4. I haven't had my breakfast and this is making me mighty hungry! Love soondubu!

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    1. :D I sometimes crave it FOR breakfast >.> Better than porridge

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  5. YUM! Kate, now you're talking. I'm pinning this recipe. I tried the soondubu mix since I cannot read Korean characters (it, conveniently, has the picture of soondubu on the front of the box so I assume that it is soondubu mix) and it never tastes quite the same. I think I'll try this recipe if I can find the Korean ingredients -- I think those are the key. I have a soft spot for Korean food, I think may be a Korean in my previous live...

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    1. Btw, how do you heat the claypot?

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    2. lol! I just bought some Korean pancake mix based on the picture on the front of the bag, so no judgement here :P

      The pot goes straight on the hob (I have a gas stove so open flame), and then I just carry it over to the table to eat from -- truly a one-pot dish. Not sure how they play with electric/induction heat, sorry!

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  6. Ooooh, now this makes me happy! I looove stew with todu! ^^ Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! :D

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  7. this is my absolute favourite winter dish! thanks for sharing, now I won't have to walk 20 blocks in the bitter cold to find it!

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    1. heh, you'll still have to schlep there if you want Korean bbq :) I wish we could make that properly at home...

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  8. New dish to try out! Thanks. I'm moving to a town with mainly expat Japanese and Koreans, and was super excited to see all the new (to me), exotic goods stocked @ the supermarket... I hope oyster sauce was one of them.

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    1. I'm lucky to live pretty close to a miniature Japan/Korea town here in London :) Remember to buy lots of violently-coloured snacks as well as ingredients.

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  9. This looks so delicious and props to you for making it from scratch since there are so many ready made Korean soup packets out there. Well, I don't know how available they are in London... good job...and I'm craving for some of that right now!

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    1. hehe, they're not readily found in London at all... or I would probably be lazy too :P

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  10. My god, that looks amazing. I have a lot of those ingredients - I will definitely try this soon!!!!

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    1. It sounds a lot more complicated than it is, I promise :D Hope you enjoy!

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  11. I cook this at home for my mom and I'm overdue in making it again. Last time I almost cried from my peppers that I put In LOL! But I'll try your recipe ;)))

    -heechypoo

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    1. You are such a good daughter, lol *kidnaps*

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  12. This looks so wonderfully tasty and comforting! Thank you for sharing your recipe! Do you know of a good substitute for the preserved shrimp (I'm allergic to crustaceans, but I can eat mollusks)?

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    1. I've tried a few recipes that use a fermented anchovy paste -- I think a few anchovies mashed up would be nice. You want something salty, with a little fishiness, and lots umami, basically :)

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  13. Just made this for lunch and I can vouch for its deliciousness. It's also a very forgiving and flexible recipe. I added potatoes and leeks along with the okra and mushrooms. Didn't have kombu so just used chicken stock and a dashi bag for the stock, caramel sauce as sweetener. Next time, I'll try it with the clams. Snowing here today and between the gentle heat of the spices and the clay pot coziness, it's warming me to my toes.

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    1. \o/ caramel sauce sounds like a great idea! I love the idea of a molasses-y note

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