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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
- 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!