Spicy Soft Tofu Stew(순두부찌게 Soondubu Jjigae)

Soodubu Jjigae
Soodubu Jjigae

Ten years ago, I would have never imagined that Soondubu Jjigae would become so popular with non-Koreans. I always thought that it was unfortunate how Tofu got such a bad wrap for being a healthy but bad tasting food. I wanted to tell those people that it’s because you just don’t know how to make good tofu and cook it in a tasty way. Anyway, I was so surprised to see Soondubu (Soft Tofu) Jjigae as the most requested dish from my readers in my recent survey of “What should I cook next?” And this wasn’t even in my list of choices! Well, I should have known…

Soondubu Jjigae is certainly one of my husband’s most favorite dishes. For several years after the first Tofu restaurant opened in our neighborhood, my husband could not go a week without having this Jjigae. Many times, when we were discussing where to go out to dinner, my daughter and I ended up arguing with my husband.. “NO!!! Not the tofu house again!!!”  Sometimes my husband would buy my daughter a Happy Meal to eat at the restaurant just so he could go to have his fix. The owner was always so understanding..  Over the years, as you can imagine, she has learned to enjoy it too – probably not as much as her dad..

If you have been to a Korean tofu restaurant, you probably have seen all the different variations of Soondubu Jjigae – plain or original (which is usually just tofu alone), beef, pork, seafood, combination of meat and Kimchi.. the list goes on and on.  But in order to really experience the authentic taste, you first need to find a recipe where just the tofu alone will taste good enough. Once you have the basic recipe figured out, then you can easily add any ingredients and they will naturally enhance the flavor even further. So here’s the plain Soodubu Jjigae recipe from my sister #3 . Thank you eoni!

Print Recipe

 

Time: 7 min                                      Yields: 3 Tbs of sauce

Ingredients for Yangnyum(양념)  

  • 2 T + 1 tsp of Korean red chili powder (고추가루 gochugaru)
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp oyster sauce (굴쏘스)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 T mirin or sake
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • pinch of black pepper

Yangnyum usually means “seasoning or spices” in Korean but it can also mean condiment or sauce. Sauce is probably the most accurate translation in this case. This yields about 3 T of hot sauce, enough to make 3-4 batches of Soondubu jjigae. You can keep any leftover sauce in the fridge for several weeks.

Directions

1. Mix all the dry and wet ingredients in a bowl except for the oil. The picture below shows the chili sauce after it’s all mixed together.

Gochu Yangnyum (Chili Sauce)
Gochu Yangnyum (Chili Sauce)

2. Heat the oil in a sauce pot on medium high heat. Add the gochu yangnyum (chili sauce) into the pot and stir regularly to prevent the mixture from burning. Stirring will also make sure the oil gets mixed in completely with the chili powder mix. Stir for 3 to 4 minutes until the sauce looks like below. Set aside.

Gochu Yangyum (Chili Sauce)
Gochu Yangyum (Chili Sauce) frying in oil

Ingredients for Jjigae

  • 1 pack (11 oz) of extra soft tofu (순두부 Soondubu)
  • 1 T gochu yangnyum (prepared chili sauce above)
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp guk kanjang (국간장 korean soy sauce for soup) – see K Ingredients
  • 1/2 tsp minced saewoojeot (새우젓) – fermented shrimp
  • 1 tsp fish sauce (멸치젓 myulchijeot) – fermented anchovy sauce
  • 1 T chopped green onions
  • 1 egg  (optional)

Directions

1. Open the soft tofu pack and add it to the clay pot (if you have one. if you don’t, you can use a small pot instead). Add enough water (about 1/2 C) to fully cover the tofu. Get a spoon and break up the tofu into smaller pieces.

Soondubu (Soft Tofu) package
Soondubu (Extra Soft Tofu) package

Oops.. the expiration date says April 1st…But since the package has not been opened, I decided to open it and taste it.  It was still good! So I just went ahead and used it. Nobody got sick so no worries… :) By the way, how can you tell if a tofu is still fresh enough to eat? First smell it, fresh tofu will almost smell like nothing but spoiled tofu will smell a little sour. Opened tofu packages spoil pretty quickly (within a few days) so use it up quickly and always smell and closely examine package tofu before you use it. Firm tofu that is packaged with water will turn yellow around the edges and also start to feel slimy if it has gone bad.

Tofu in clay pot
Tofu and water in clay pot

2. Stir 1 T of the gochu yangnyum (chili sauce) to the pot.  Add the additional salt, guk kanjang, saewoojeot and fish sauce to really complete the flavor. Start cooking the jjigae on medium high heat and once it starts to boil, turn heat to low.  Let it simmer for 7-10 minutes. Take it off the heat and bring it to the table. Add the green onions and crack one egg and drop it into the pot while it’s still bubbling. Depending on your personal taste, you can break up the egg to have it cooked completely or let the egg stay whole in the jjigae if you enjoy eating half boiled eggs. This is how my husband likes to eat his egg and it is certainly a treat to have when you are almost done eating the jjigae.

Tofu and chili sauce
Tofu with chili sauce added

 

Soondubu Jjigae
Soondubu Jjigae is now ready to eat!!

Variations

  • kimchi flavor – add about 3-4 T of chopped kimchi with the tofu. Adjust the salt and soy sauce and other fish sauces since kimchi is quite salty. Here is a link to my Kimchi Soondubu Jjigae post.
  • meat flavor – add about 3 T of sliced beef (stew meat) or sliced pork (shoulder) with the tofu. Cook a little bit longer to make sure all the meat is fully cooked.
  • seafood flavor – add any combination of fresh shrimp, clams, fish egg or oysters with the tofu.
  • mushroom flavor – add a handful of sliced shitake, white or oyster mushrooms
  • combination – add any combination of the above ingredients and it will all taste good! Just remember to add the seasonings in incremental amounts to make sure it does not become too salty.

Also a great recipe for college students or singles to have because once you have the yangnyum made, the rest is so easy and quick that it would take no time and very few ingredients to make it.  So I hope you enjoy this wonderful gluten free, meatless, low fat, high protein dish that’s both delicious and filling. Also, please try the different variations and find your own favorite combination. Would love to hear what your favorites are!!!

For college students

Recently, when I visited my daughter at her school, I made a batch of the gochu yangnyum (3T) +  fish sauce(3 t)  + gook kanjang (2 T) + salt (1 1/2 t) and also bought her few packets of the soondubu. She was able to make the soondubu jjigae with just the yangnyum at her dorm and she said it came out great. I think she said she increased the amount of the yangnyum a bit since there was no other ingredients to add. So kids, the next time you visit home, make a batch of the yangnyum and bring it back with you to your dorm!

45 thoughts on “Spicy Soft Tofu Stew(순두부찌게 Soondubu Jjigae)

  1. Hi there, I’ve been scouring the internet looking for a recipe for spicy tofu soup! I’m Chinese but I love jigae and I don’t want to use any of the recipes on sites like epicurious or allrecipes because I wanted a real Korean recipe by a real Korean person! I have a few questions:

    – for “red chili powder” do you know if i can use Korean spicy chili paste instead, or even Indian red chili powder?
    – for “guk kanjang” can I use regular Kikkoman soy sauce OR Chinese Dark soy sauce (thicker consistency and more concentrated) — if not can you recommend a brand or post a picture of the bottle?
    – is “saewoojeot” absolutely necessary? will just the fish sauce do (I have fish sauce)

    Thanks so much!
    Mimi

    1. Hi Mimi! I’m so glad that you found my site and I love that you are asking these wonderful questions –
      for red chili powder: using spicy chili paste but it will make the jjigae thicker and heavier in taste. it won’t taste bad but just not what it’s supposed to taste like. I’m not too familiar with Inidan red chili powder but as long as it is pure chili powder (and no other spices added), it should work ok. Korean red chilis do have a sweetness to them that’s not always present in other chilis but you can certainly give it a try. perhaps you can use a combination of Indian red chili powder and red pepper flakes if you don’t have the Korean version.
      for guk kanjang : I do have a picture posted in my “K ingredients” section. guk kanjang is recommended but not absolutely necessary. Kikkoman soy sauce should work fine, it will just not have the unique Korean flavor guk kanjang has. You can probably compensate it by adding more fish sauce.
      saewoojot is not absolutely necessary. you can certainly use just fish sauce.
      I know not everyone has access to these Korean ingredients so I would love to hear how you managed with these changes to the recipe. Please add soy sauce and fish sauce incrementally, tasting in between. Good luck!

  2. Hi,
    I am very curious to know if I can use firm tofu? My Korean grandmother uses either firm or soft but I am often seeing her use firm. Just wondering….can’t wait to try the recipe ^_^

    1. Hi,

      Sure, you can use firm tofu. It will just have a more chewy texture than the silky, soft tofu. Every brand’s firm tofu is different anyway so go ahead and use it – especially if you like what your grandmother makes. I would advise against using extra firm tofu because that’s really a bit too firm to make a tofu jjigae (in my opinion). Love to hear how it turns out for you!

  3. Thank you so much! I was going to request if you could do the recipe for 순두부, but decided to look at your archive before asking, and it was there! I love 순두부 찌게, and I have been wanting to learn how to cook it.

    What I love about this dish is all the side dishes that comes with it as well.

    1. Yes, me too…I love having having side dishes that are sweet and tangy (like cucumbers in vinegar) or non-spicy dishes like kongnamul or sookju namul (bean sprouts). I should post those sometime…thanks!

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  5. I’ve made 순두부찌게 from several recipes, but this is the best. The 양념 is fabulous. I had all the ingredients (even the right soy sauce, and the 멸치젓 which I use when making kimchi). I added about a dozen frozen shrimp at the end. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I ate the whole bowl by myself, it was so good!

    1. I know.. I have tried making 순두부찌게 several ways too, I even tried some of those instant 양념 that you buy from the store. But it just did not do it for me. So happy to hear that you like it. Shrimp sounds yummy. I will have to try that myself. Thanks so much!

  6. Thanks! I just made this and it was the best jjigae I’ve ever made. Finally something that tastes like the restaurant. Just a couple questions, is the oyster sauce the same or different from Chinese oyster sauce? And how long can the saewoojeot keep for? I have a really old unopened jar in the fridge (maybe 2+ years) – should I throw it out? I bought a new jar because I wasn’t sure if it was still good.

    Do you have a recipe for doenjang jjigae also?
    Thanks! I just found this blog and really appreciate the detailed explanations!

    1. Thank you so much! So glad you liked the recipe. The oyster sauce is basically the same as the Chinese version so you can use whatever you have. Saewoojeot was a way for Koreans to preserve the shrimps when there was refrigeration available. In the fridge, it should keep for 2-3 years but you will notice that it will become more liquid which is actually then called Saewooaekjeot. “aek” means liquid. The top layer may have turned a more yellowish color and I usually scrape this layer off before I use it. If you want to keep it fresh longer, just freeze it. Because of the high salt content, it will not really freeze which means you don’t have to defrost before you use it. Good luck!

  7. Is it okay if I substitute the chili powder with fresh chili mashed/blended into a paste? I can’t seem to find chili powder in my neighborhood. Thanks for the great recipe, I’ve had it once and have been wanting for more since then =)

    1. I don’t see why not. It may not have the same exact flavor but its worth a try. You can also try using red pepper chili flakes (the ones you sprinkle on pizzas) – i think that may be pretty close. Love to hear how it turned out!

      1. Ooh, I did that once. I would not recommend it unless you like things extra spicy. Those chili flakes you get for pizzas are primarily the seeds whereas chili powders are the whole roasted & dried pepper. You get more flavor and less heat from the powder. Vice versa for the pepper flakes.

        Also, I think the roasting/drying process of Korean red chili powder is different from western versions. It will have a different taste and color (western ones are smokier tasting, I think, and less vibrant red) if you don’t use the Korean version.

      2. You are absolutely correct! The seeds really do add extra hotness without much flavor. Korean chilis are sun-dried and then just made into powder so it really does not have any smokiness. Thanks so much for adding your experience and knowledge!

  8. I made your soondubu jigae today for dinner and it was so good.I love that it’s not burn-your-tongue spicy, but had just the right amount of heat for those who can’t eat anything too hot. That gochu yangnyum is awesome! I think I can eat just that and rice mixed together. I bought guk kanjang and it really does have a different flavor! Guk kanjang is more intense, whereas jin kanjang tastes sweeter and less salty. Thank you and your unnie for this recipe.

    1. So happy to hear that you liked it!! I know.. I am just like you – I can’t handle foods that are too spicy and I feel like after a while you can’t really taste any other flavor once your tongue becomes numb from the spiciness. Yup – and I love how the gochu yangnyum stays fresh in the fridge for weeks! Enjoy and thanks for your comments!

  9. How do you make the soup thicker? I’ve noticed restaurants like BCD in Los Angeles makes their broth thicker and I have no idea how they do that. When I make it, my soup always seems thin, nothing close to how BCD makes their soup.

    1. I know what you mean by how some restaurant broth is thicker – honestly, I’m not totally sure but my guess is that they prob. make some powder mix of dried shrimp, dried anchovies and dried sea kelp and add that in. You can also prob. add some onion and garlic powder to the mix. Good luck!

  10. big THANKZ for tis original ver of e recipe!! lookin for korean spicy soup/stew tat is ez n fast to cook n jus found tis today~ prev, i only able to find e other variations wh was to added seafood but due to i kind of allergy to them, so was never able to try..

    btw cooked for dinner jus now n i only omit e saewoojeot/fermented shrimp as it is not avail but add 1 egg n fresh mushrooms instead.
    damn yummy!! – but dunno y e oringinal ver remind mi of Singapore chilli crab paste..

    1. I’m not sure where you are located but within the US, hmart is one site I know that you can order Korean spices from. Hope this helps! thanks for stopping by.

    1. Thanks so much! I know.. isn’t it wonderful that you can keep the sauce and then just use it anytime? So happy to hear that your daughter was thrilled! Hopefully it turns out good for her!!

  11. I just made this today for lunch and it was delicious! I omitted the fermented shrimp (don’t have any at home) and used garlic powder instead of minced garlic (ultra laziness on my part), but it still turned out tasty. What a great quick-meal cooking idea! Thanks!

    1. Yes, fermented shrimp can be omitted. And I use garlic powder as a substitute all the time so glad you found an easier way. Thanks for your comment!!

  12. Hi, I need your help here… I went to a Korean restaurant and they served this tofu sidedish and it tasted excellent.

    It’s basically a big square cube of soft tofu and had some reddish sauce poured over it and a sprinkling of teppa. The sauce tasted a little salty and a little spicy. I kept asking the owner for the name of the sidedish and he only said it’s called dubu (which means tofu). Needless to say, I could not find any recipes online since dubu is just an ingredient.

    Do you think you might be able to share the recipe and name of this dish?

    1. Soft tofu is usually served with yangnyumjang (양념장) which has many variations. I actually have a post dedicated to this – http://kimchimari.com/2012/09/29/korean-sauces-ii-yangnyum-jang/. I bet the sauce you tasted is pretty close to my Basic salty and spicy yangnyumjang (recipe is in the post). You may want to adjust the sugar and red chili powder to taste and add teppa (대파?) instead of green onions. Please try it and see if it’s close to what you tasted. And I’m afraid there’s no actual name to the dubu side dish you tasted other than ‘dubu’.. :) Let me know if you still have questions..Thanks for stopping by!

  13. This recipe looks simple enough compared to other soondubu jjigae recipes I found online! I’m going to try making it this week, can you tell me how many servings does one recipe make? Thanks!

    1. Hi! Thanks so much for asking! I didn’t know I did not have the servings info in this post. One pack of 11 oz tofu will feed about 1 very hungry person(like my husband) or 2~3 regular people. The recipe should yield roughly 3 cups of tofu stew when done. Enjoy~

  14. I used this recipe and it all turned out fantastic. Thank you very much. Is there any variation of this recipe with ramen noodles? If so, when do you add the ramen noodle during the cooking process?

    1. Thank you so much for the feedback!! I have not tried it with ramen noodles but should be good with it. You should cook the ramen noodles separately in water (al dente) and drain then add it last minute before serving. Ramen noodles soak up fluid and also get too mushy if left in soup too long. Good luck!

  15. OH MY GOD!! I’m so happy I found this recipe…. Now my mission will be to find all the ingrediants…. I live in Saudi Arabia now, finding some western products is almost impossible, so getting all these ingredients together (or a version of them ;) ) may take some time, but will be worth it in the end.

    I was fortunate enough to spend 6 months living in Korea for work and i’m completely obsessed with so much of the food. This was my favourite meal after a day on the ski fields in Jisan. I will let you know how I go when I attempt this with what ingredients I can come up with :)

    1. SO HAPPY that you are happy!! ;) I hope you can find the ingredients. You can also substitute dry sherry for mirin – just add a little bit of sugar since mirin is a bit sweet. Let me know if there is something you can’t find – I can perhaps help you with it. Wish you all the best and thank you so much for your feedback!!

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