Thursday, November 21, 2013

Korean Soft Tofu Stew

Soondubu Jjigae is Korean soft tofu stew. Sounding intimidating, it's easy and fast to cook and will definitely satisfy your craving for a hearty Korean food.

Blog's Category: International, Vegetarian


You must be know already about my addiction to Korean food? This is another recipe from Maangchi (take a look at Youtube) which I simplified a little bit (if it's possible at all to simplify already simple dish). The main obstacle here may be lack of right ingredients but if you have oriental grocery around - it shouldn't be a problem.

At a first glimpse it may seem gross to make stock of dry anchovies and weird looking sheets of seaweed called kelp but try to overcome this and go on and you'll be rewarded with a great stew (though I would call it soup). This stew will give you fire and strength much needed during these dreadful rain-snow time of the year. 

What I like about this jjigae that is making really flavorful stock, which is, naturally, base of any good soup, is very easy and fun here. You just throw funny dry ingredients in a pot of water and watch their transformation into wonderfully colored, appetizing stock.  At this point you are half way there. Couple more steps and amazing Soondubu Jjigae is standing right in front of you, bright red, steaming and inviting.

What is it?

It is a stew, based on a stock made of dry anchovies, dry shiitake, kelp (seaweed) and garlic. There not that many Ingredients for stew itself - shiitake from a stock, Korean red pepper flakes, soft or silken tofu and seafood mix. Right after stew is taken from a heat, egg added on a top of everything. This egg gets cooked right in front your eyes while you mix it in piping hot, bright red liquid of soondubu jjigae.

Taste Description

Yes there is some bite to it, as with practically all Korean food. Just learn to handle it (hey, it's healthy!) The more spicy food you eat the more tolerant you become to it. Through spiciness (it's actually not that spicy - somewhat medium level) you definitely will notice complex and bold flavors coming through - anchovie's umami undertones, some seaweed-y Japanese flavors and earthy taste of shiitake. Egg will round up all these flavors. Tofu, infused with surrounding goodness, will create blobs of wonderful and tender bites you will be hunting after in your bowl. Shrimp and other seafood will award you with chewy texture and nice flavor they adopt from a liquid.

How to Serve

Serve piping hot (ideally - in an individual chafing dishes those with a fire underneath). Break an egg into individual bowls - the point is that eggs has to continue to cook while you mix it in and eat at the same time.

Korean Soft Tofu Stew or
Soodubu Jjigae

For about 4 servings:

  • 0.5 cup dried small anchovies
  • 8" x 8" piece of dried kelp
  • 7 garlic cloves, unpeeled, smashed with a chefs knife
  • 1/2 onion, unpeeled, washed, roots cut off
  • 7 dried shiitake
  • 3-6 tbs Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru, they are much milder than regular)
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 blocks of soft tofu (or silken tofu)
  • 12 raw, peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1 bag (2 cups) mixed seafood
  • 1 small green chili pepper (optional), chopped (with seeds for hotter stew)
  • 3 green onions, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • 4 eggs
- To make stock, Put all stock ingredients into pot with 1.5 quart of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove shiitake onto cutting board and set pot with a stock aside to brew until needed.

- Cut off shitake stems and discard. Slice shitake cups thinly (3 mm).

- In a separate, 3-quart pot, cook sliced shitake with olive oil, stirring, for about 3 minutes.

- Add hot pepper flakes and cook stirring for 1 minute. Drain stock into a pot to separate liquid. Discard solids. Add liquid to the pot with shiitake.

- Let stew simmer for about 5 minutes. Add whole clocks of tofu, fish sauce and sesame oil. Stir, breaking tofu into smaller pieces and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Add shrimp and seafood mix, bring to a boil and let it simmer for a 2 more minutes. Add green onion. Taste and add salt if needed. Your stew is ready!

- To serve, pour piping hot stew into individual earthenware bowls (they keep heat nicely) or, even better, into individual chafing dishes. Break an egg into each bowl and serve. I like this stew eastern-european way - with a nice piece of country bread with a tough "noisy" crust.

- Enjoy!


- It's crucial to serve it very in order egg to be cooked properly. It's up to eater: to break egg in a bowl into thin strings or to keep it whole, let whites to cook and have yolk runny.

It's a small anchovies. If you use larger anchovies - tear off heads and remove intestines (that's why I don't like to use bigger ones - too much work :))
This is kelp. Visually it's not very appealing. Those white dust is not mold, it's salt. Though they are nice to touch - leathery and flexible. 

Garlic (and onion, not shown here) goes in a pot unpeeled - we just need to grab a flavor out of it.

fish out shiitake, cut off stems (they are not usable - too woody and tough) and slice them. They might be a ted undercooked but we are not done with them just yet

stock looks like yellow pearl
I use frozen peeled and deveined shrimp

I "chickened-out" and put just a half of chili pepper in my stew. It's better to "underspice" than to go over the top with it

gochugaru is my favorite type of red pepper flakes - relatively mild, beautifully red. They sold at my local asian market in a huge bags.

right before adding shrimp and seafood



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