There are many dishes that I enjoy cooking time and time again, not only because they are easy but also because I can cook them pretty well. But for this particular Korean dish (which is one of my favorites), I always find myself hesitating and then falling into deep nostalgia. During my time in Seoul, I remember ordering this spicy stew at least once a week regardless of weather temperature, and it always hit the spot. There’s something special about the oh-so-soft, somewhat creamy, absolutely silken tofu texture that is unparalleled with the spicy broth. For that reason alone (which is thoroughly enjoying food I cook), I left this off my recipe list until the last minute. And, ironically, I will again get to order this stew at moment’s notice as I head off to Seoul tomorrow morning (yah!). As with most Korean soups and stews, there are endless variations of soondubu jjigae but I enjoy the basics: seafood medley, zucchini, onion, mushrooms, and plenty of tofu. You’re more than welcome to adjust and substitute ingredients to your preference (just make sure you have the sauce ingredients in tact). Interesting side note, most restaurants in Korea usually serve soondubu jigae in traditional earthenware bowls while bubbling, scorching hot. A raw egg is then added to the stew just before serving so don’t be surprised at its initial appearance!
Soon Dubu Jjigae (Spicy Soft Tofu Stew)
2 tubes soondubu (soft, uncurdled tofu)
3, 4 cups seafood medley (or fresh seafood)
2 green onions, diced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 zucchini, diced
4, 5 tbsp gochugaru (red pepper flakes)
1 tbsp gochujang (red pepper paste)
4, 5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp saewoojeot (salted shrimp; optional)
6~8 cups water
salt to taste
1. In a large pot (or earthenware/clay pot), bring the water and sauce ingredients to a rapid boil, 5 minutes.
2. Next, add the seafood, diced zucchini, and sliced onion, boiling for another 5 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to medium, then add remaining ingredients including chunks of tofu pieces, 10 minutes.
4. At its completion, top with egg and garnish with green onion.
5. Serve hot with rice and banchan (side dishes). Enjoy!
6. If you are not using seafood of any sorts, then I recommend going the normal, traditional route for the broth: dried anchovies (myulchi), kelp, and a few garlic cloves. It brings added depth to the broth, especially when substituting seafood for other meats like pork or beef.
7. You can vary the spiciness level of this stew by limiting the amount of gochugaru (red chili flakes). For a serving of 4, no more than 5 tablespoons would be needed. You can also add some sugar, helping to counteract the spiciness of the stew.