This Korean Tofu Stew is the perfect recipe to try out if you want to fall in love with a dish and eat it every day for the next month. It is quick, easy, and full of mouthwatering flavors. There is nothing not to like about this, as you will soon find out.
Sundubu Jjigae is a delightfully heartwarming Korean soft tofu stew (Also check out Best Korean Soup Recipes) and is one of the most popular dishes in Korea (for good reason).
While there are several recipe variations, the one we’re looking at today uses pork belly, but it can be customized.
The freshly curdled soft tofu used in this dish adds a delightful creaminess, making this one recipe you will not want to miss out on.
What Is Korean Tofu Stew?
Korean tofu stew, dubu jjigae, is a spicy, comforting soup made primarily with soft, meat, or seafood, and a fiery blend of seasonings.
Its base consists of a rich anchovy or kelp broth, enhanced with gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes) and gochujang (Korean red pepper paste).
This dish is traditionally served bubbling hot in a stone pot garnished with scallions, mushrooms, and sometimes a raw egg.
History Of Korean Tofu Stew
Originating from Korea’s Joseon Dynasty, dubu jjigae has humble beginnings. As tofu-making techniques spread, this stew emerged to utilize freshly curdled soft tofu.
Its warmth and spiciness were ideal for Korea’s cold winters. Over time, regional variations blossomed, incorporating seafood, meat, and varying heat levels.
Today, this ancient dish retains its cultural significance, reflecting Korea’s rich history while continuing to evolve and delight palates globally.
Interesting Facts About The Korean Tofu Stew
- Stone Pot Serving: Soon dubu jjigae is traditionally served in a dolsot, a stone pot, to retain its heat and enhance flavors.
- Variations: Beyond the classic spicy version, there are non-spicy, seafood, and even intestines-infused variations of the stew.
- Tofu Freshness: The dish emphasizes silky, soft tofu, often made fresh daily, highlighting the tofu’s delicate taste and texture.
- Egg Addition: Many diners add a raw egg into the bubbling stew right before eating, creating a richer broth.
- Staple Side: This stew is accompanied by rice and becomes a complete, hearty meal.
- Medicinal Properties: Historically, Koreans believed that tofu, with its high protein and minerals, had health-boosting properties.
- Global Popularity: From its roots in Korea, dubu jjigae has found fans worldwide, leading to fusion variations in diverse culinary scenes.
What Makes The Korean Tofu Stew Special?
There are plenty of reasons to love this wonderful recipe, but we will keep things short and sweet with these four reasons why you will love this dish:
- Anyone can make it: You don’t need to be a pro in the kitchen to make this easy and delicious dish. No advanced cooking methods are involved; chopping the ingredients is the most difficult part!
- Full of delicious flavors: With ingredients like chili flakes, soy sauce, tofu, and onion, you know this dish will be full of flavor.
- You need less than 30 minutes: You only need around 25 minutes to put everything together and cook, so you can make this dish no matter how busy your days are.
- Any protein will work for the recipe: You can use pork, beef, chicken, tofu, or anything else that could work to suit your preferences. You can easily skip the meat and opt for only tofu.
|A few, sliced
|Fresh Shiitake Mushroom
|Korean Red Chili Flakes
|Dashi or Anchovy stock
|Pork Belly, beef, or protein
- Soy Sauce: Opt for low-sodium versions for control over saltiness.
- Green Onion: Use both white and green parts, but separate them for varied flavor and presentation.
- Soft/Silken Tofu: Handle carefully to maintain its delicate texture; drain excess water.
- Garlic: Freshly minced offers a more robust flavor than pre-packaged versions.
- Onion: Yellow onions provide a natural sweetness; sauté until translucent for depth.
- Shiitake Mushroom: Remove stems for better texture; they can be saved for stock.
- Korean Red Chili Flakes: Adjust according to heat preference; not all brands have the same spiciness.
Can You Vary The Recipe With Other Ingredients?
Try a few variations on top of playing around with the spice level and meat. Here are a couple of options you could try out if you are looking for other ways to change the recipe in any way:
- Use a different stock or broth: You can easily use beef or chicken stock or any other stock you prefer for whatever reason. If you wanted to make your stew as flavorful as possible, you could even use a bone broth (or make your own; it’s easier than you think) and use that! It will also add some nice thickness to the overall dish.
- Add a boiled egg on top: A boiled egg (or two) can help to pull everything together. If you are hungry, we could recommend enjoying this dish with one – bonus point if they are soy sauce boiled eggs!
- Try a seafood variation: If you love seafood, then you can use seafood in this recipe with no problems! You can add shrimp, mussels, clams, and fish. You should also use fish sauce with this variation to help tie everything together.
- Add extra vegetables: Do you love vegetables or know you need to get more in your diet? Add extra vegetables to this dish to give it more body and get those nutrients in! Popular vegetables to add to dishes like this include zucchini and yellow squash. Korean radish is also a great option if you want something extra.
- Use gochujang: This adds extra flavor and makes this dish even better. Gochujang has an excellent level of spice (depending on the brand) and is full of layers and depth so that it can work miracles for dishes like this. If you use gochujang, we recommend taking it easy on the chili flakes – you do not want to overdo the heat!
If you can think of anything else you want to try, do it! As soon as you think about what’s listed on the page as the only possibility, the magic dies.
Experiment with different ingredients and find something you love. You can put a brand-new spin on this Korean classic and make it your own.
- Prepare ingredients: chop, mince, dice.
- In a pot, sauté pork belly (or seasoned beef) in oil until cooked.
- Add garlic, onion, red chili flakes, and white parts of green onion. Sauté.
- Pour in stock and soy sauce; simmer.
- Incorporate mushrooms and tofu, simmer further.
- (If using beef) Add beef.
- Serve with green onion and egg.
Variations, Add-Ons, And Toppings
- Seafood Version: Replace meat with shrimp, clams, or mussels.
- Kimchi Tofu Stew: Add aged kimchi for a tangy kick.
- Vegetarian: Eliminate meat; augment with a variety of mushrooms and veggies.
- Dumplings: Small Korean dumplings (mandu) can be added for a heartier dish.
- Noodles: Thin glass noodles (japchae) can be transformed into a noodle stew.
- Fresh Herbs: Cilantro or perilla leaves can add a refreshing contrast.
- Seeds: A sprinkle of sesame seeds lends a nutty crunch.
- Heat: Freshly sliced chili peppers or additional Korean red chili flakes for extra heat.
- Zest: A drizzle of sesame oil before serving enhances depth and aroma.
Scaling The Recipe
- Quantities: Multiply (or divide) each ingredient’s quantity based on the desired servings.
- Pot Size: Ensure your cookware can accommodate the adjusted amount. Too large, and the ingredients may over-reduce or burn; too small, and it might overflow.
- Consistency: Liquids might not need to be multiplied linearly when scaling up. Monitor to avoid an overly watery or thick stew.
- Cooking Time: Increasing quantity may require longer simmering for flavors to meld while decreasing might take less time.
- Taste: Always taste and adjust seasoning; directly scaled recipes may need fine-tuning.
- Garnish: While main ingredients are scaled, garnishes can be adjusted to preference rather than quantity.
What Is Used For Garnishing?
- Green Onions: Sliced thinly, they add a fresh contrast and vibrant color.
- Egg: A raw egg is often cracked into the hot stew just before serving, enriching the broth as it cooks lightly.
- Sesame Seeds: Sprinkled on top, they give a subtle nutty flavor and a delicate crunch.
- Chili Peppers: Thin slices of fresh red or green chili can introduce an extra kick and a pop of color.
- Sesame Oil: A drizzle can elevate the dish with its rich and aromatic depth.
- Seaweed: Small roasted seaweed strips can add umami and a visual contrast.
Can I Make Korean Tofu Stew In A Slow Cooker Or Instant Pot?
Both the slow cooker and Instant Pot can be adapted to make Korean tofu stew, optimizing flavor infusion:
- Perfect for deepening flavors over a more extended period. Combine all ingredients except for the tofu and egg.
- Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Add the tofu about minutes before serving, and maintain its delicate texture. Serve with a fresh egg on top.
- A quicker method is excellent for busy days. Use the sauté function for initial cooking (meat, garlic, onions). Then, add other ingredients, excluding tofu and egg.
- Pressure cook on high for 10 minutes. Release pressure, add tofu, simmer using the sauté mode, and serve with an egg.
Can I Use Store Bought Broth, Or Should I Make My Own?
Both store-bought and homemade broths have their merits when making Korean tofu stew:
- It’s a convenient and time-saving option. When selecting, look for low-sodium and preservative-free variants to maintain a healthier profile and have better control over seasoning.
- Some specialty Asian stores even carry Korean dashi or anchovy stock, which can add authenticity to your stew.
- Making your own allows for the customization of flavors and ensures no unwanted additives.
- For the tofu stew, broths made from anchovies, kelp, beef, or mushrooms can be ideal. Homemade broths generally offer a deeper, richer taste.
Can I Use Different Types Of Meat/Fish/Pasta/Vegetables For The Stew?
- The versatility of Korean tofu stew allows for numerous adaptations:
- Meat: Beyond pork belly or beef, you can incorporate chicken, turkey, or lamb. Ensure they’re diced or thinly sliced for quick cooking.
- Fish: Cod, tilapia, or salmon make delicious additions. Shellfish like shrimp, mussels, or clams can also elevate the stew’s depth.
- Pasta: While unconventional, adding noodles like ramen, udon, or even spaghetti can transform it into a hearty noodle soup.
- Vegetables: Expand beyond traditional ingredients by adding bell peppers, zucchini, baby spinach, bok choy, or kale.
Success Tips – Tips And Tricks For Making The Soup
Look at some tips and tricks to ensure the recipe works for you!
Play Around With The Spice Level
- Since this dish is so easy to customize, do not be afraid to play around with the spice levels and find that sweet spot. There is no ‘minimum’ spice level that this dish needs to be to qualify, so do whatever makes you happy.
- If you are feeling adventurous or brave, you can easily up the spice level by adding more chili flakes (you could also add chili powder or fresh chili).
- If spice isn’t your thing, you can skip the chili entirely – no one will judge! It is an acquired taste, and not everyone loves spice.
Any Protein Will Work
- We mentioned that this recipe calls for pork belly, but there are no rules. You can use beef, chicken, and even seafood if you want. If meat is not your thing, you can go vegetarian and avoid meat altogether!
- If you go meat-free, you have some firm tofu to give the dish more body. You can try it up like the meat and do everything the same way. The recipe will still be mouthwatering and unmissable.
Packed with protein-rich tofu, nourishing veggies, and a blend of spices, Korean tofu stew offers a delicious, health-forward experience. Dive into a bowl that balances taste and wellness seamlessly.
What Are The Total Calories In The Stew?
Determining the calorie count of the soup will vary based on the ingredients used in the recipe. On average, a serving will contain approximately 280-390 calories per serving, but this can vary significantly based on exact ingredient amounts and variations. Always consult specific ingredient labels or use a nutrition calculator for precise calculations.
Dietary Restrictions Of The Korean Tofu Stew
- Vegetarian/Vegan: Including meat and sometimes anchovy-based stock makes it unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans. However, you can modify it with vegetable stock and eliminate meat for a plant-based version.
- Gluten: Soy sauce often contains wheat. Opt for tamari or gluten-free soy sauce if you’re gluten-sensitive or have celiac disease.
- Low-Carb/Keto: Ingredients like onion, some broths, and especially if added noodles, can contain carbs. To adapt, limit high-carb veggies and opt for meat and tofu predominantly.
- Allergies: Some might be allergic to ingredients like soy (tofu and soy sauce) or seafood (if using seafood stock).
- Pescatarian: With the use of anchovy stock and without land meats, it’s suitable. Ensure no land animal-based broths or meats are added.
Health Benefits Of The Korean Tofu Stew
- Tofu: A plant-based protein source rich in essential amino acids, calcium, and iron.
- Mushrooms: Offer crucial nutrients like vitamin D, selenium, and antioxidants.
- Garlic and Onion: Both are known to support heart health, have antimicrobial properties and are sources of essential vitamins and minerals.
- Chili Flakes: Capsaicin, present in chili, has been linked to boosting metabolism and reducing inflammation.
- Bone Broth (if used): Can support joint health and offer a dose of collagen.
- Protein Choices: Meat or fish contribute to protein intake, essential for muscle health.
- Green Onions: Provide vitamin K and antioxidants.
How Can I Make Korean Tofu Stew Lower In Sodium?
- Soy Sauce: Opt for low-sodium soy sauce or use less of the regular one.
- Broth: Choose low-sodium versions of store-bought broths or make your own at home without added salt.
- Korean Red Chili Flakes: Some brands may have added salt. Ensure you pick one without or use it sparingly.
- Natural Flavors: Boost flavors using fresh herbs, ginger, garlic, and other aromatic ingredients that don’t contribute sodium.
- Salt Alternatives: Consider salt substitutes or products like liquid aminos, which offer umami without as much sodium.
- Taste and Adjust: Always taste before serving; often, you’ll find dishes flavorful even with reduced salt.
How Can I Make Korean Tofu Stew Lower In Sugar?
- Broth/Stock: Opt for unsweetened, low-sodium versions or make your own, ensuring no added sugars.
- Soy Sauce: Some versions contain added sugars. Check labels and select those with minimal or no sugar.
- Natural Sweetness: Instead of adding sugar, rely on the natural sweetness from ingredients like onions and carrots.
- Limit or Omit: If the recipe calls for ingredients like mirin or sweet rice wine, limit the quantity or search for sugar-free alternatives.
- Sugar Alternatives: Consider using natural sugar substitutes or low-glycemic sweeteners if sweetness is needed.
- Awareness: Always check labels when buying pre-packaged sauces or pastes, as they sometimes contain hidden sugars.
How To Serve The Korean Tofu Stew At Its Best?
- Hot and Fresh: Serve immediately off the stove, ensuring it’s steaming hot, to enjoy its comforting warmth fully.
- Stone Bowls: Traditional Korean dolsot (stone bowls) retain heat, providing the stew remains hot throughout the meal.
- Accompaniments: Pair with a steamed white or brown rice bowl, allowing the grains to absorb the flavorful broth.
- Banchan: Offer a selection of Korean side dishes, like kimchi, pickled radishes, and seasoned spinach.
- Garnish: Top with fresh chopped green onions, sesame seeds, or a sprinkle of red chili flakes for color and added flavor.
- Traditional Setting: Using wooden chopsticks and metal spoons enhances the authentic Korean dining experience.
Perfect Side Dishes To Complement Korean Tofu Stew
You could enjoy many delightful dishes with this Korean soft tofu stew. Let’s go through a few fantastic options that you should consider when you make this dish:
- Noodles: You could choose to have your favorite noodles with this dish if you like it! While this is not the popular way of enjoying the dish, some menus offer the option, so what stops you from trying it out? You can use instant ramen noodles or go the udon route for something different.
- Steamed short-grain rice: Short-grain rice comprises plumper and shooter grains compared to long-grain rice (shocker, we know!). There’s more starch in this kind of rice, making the grains stick together. This type of rice is used to make sushi and desserts like rice puddings.
- Kimchi: Kimchi is another popular side dish used alongside various foods. It is a Korean classic and combines fermented cabbage and carrots. The vegetables are in a delightfully tangy and sweet sauce, with an overall umami flavor with a potent salty and sour taste.
- Kongnamul: This soybean sprout side dish has a delicious nutty flavor with a nice crunch. It is effortless to make, and all you need to make it are as follows: soybean sprouts, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. You could also add garlic and green onion if you want something extra to the dish.
How Long Can We Store The Stew?
- If you find yourself with leftovers, you can store them later! To do this, ensure the food has been given time to reach room temperature, then put it in an airtight container to be stored in the refrigerator.
- It should be kept there for up to five days (but try to eat it within 2–3 days). Freezing is not the greatest idea with dishes like this, as the mushrooms can go slightly slimy than you want.
- However, if that is not something you mind too much, you can keep it in a freezer-safe airtight container and freeze it for up to three months. Frozen food is technically safe indefinitely, but the quality will diminish the longer it is frozen.
- As such, the texture and appearance of the dish might be a little different from what you are expecting if you freeze it for too long.
- Leftovers can easily be reheated by adding the food to a pot and simmering for a few minutes. You can do this immediately from the fridge to enjoy your dish in record time.
- If you freeze the tofu stew, leave it to thaw in the fridge overnight, reheat it, and enjoy.
Can I Make The Stew In Advance?
Making Korean tofu stew in advance can even enhance the flavors as they meld together. Follow these steps:
- Prepare: Cook the stew per the recipe, but avoid overcooking the tofu or meat.
- Cool: After cooking, allow the stew to cool to room temperature.
- Store: Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.
- Reheat: When ready to serve, gently reheat on the stovetop, ensuring it reaches a boil. Add any fresh toppings like green onions or an egg before serving.
- This approach offers convenience, especially for gatherings or meal planning.
What Can We Do With Leftovers?
- Reheat and Eat: Simply enjoy it reheated as a comforting meal, potentially even more flavorful the next day.
- Rice Bowls: Spoon the stew over freshly steamed rice for an easy one-bowl dish.
- Stir-fry: Combine with vegetables or leftover meats in a pan for a quick stir-fry.
- Fried Rice: Use the stew as a base flavor for Korean-inspired fried rice.
- Omelet: Add some stew to your morning eggs, creating a savory filling.
- Noodles: Mix with glass or ramen noodles for a hearty soup.
- Wrap: Use as a filling for Korean-style lettuce wraps.
- Tofu Bites: Pan-fry leftover tofu pieces for crispy appetizers.
- Smooth Soup: Blend for a smoother consistency, perfect with crusty bread.
Special Tools/Equipment Needed
- Dolsot (Stone Pot): Retains heat, ensuring the stew remains piping hot throughout the meal. It also provides an authentic presentation.
- Jeolguem (Clay Pot): Another traditional pot often used for cooking and serving Korean dishes, it adds a rustic touch.
- Korean Soup Ladle: Specifically designed for Korean soups and stews, it’s deeper and more circular than regular ladles.
- Chopsticks & Metal Spoon: Essential for an authentic Korean dining experience.
- Mortar and Pestle: Useful for grinding ingredients, such as red chili flakes, to a finer texture.
- Mesh Strainer: For making clear and clean broth by filtering out residue.
- Sharp Knife: Essential for thinly slicing meats and dicing tofu and vegetables.
This Korean soft tofu stew is beyond delicious and so easy to make. While you might need to stop by your local grocery store to get all the mushrooms, you probably have everything else you need.
In less than half an hour, this dish could be sitting on the table, ready to be eaten. Try out different variations if you think it could be improved. Experimenting is half the fun!
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s The Main Difference Between Soondubu Jjigae And Other Korean Stews?
The primary distinction lies in the type of tofu used. Soondubu jjigae employs silken or soft tofu, which has a creamier consistency than regular tofu, adding to the stew’s unique texture. Additionally, this stew often has a spicier and richer broth.
Can I Use Other Mushrooms If I Don’t Have Shiitake Or Enoki?
Absolutely! You can use any available mushrooms, such as oyster, portobello, or button mushrooms. Each will lend its unique flavor and texture to the stew.
Is It Necessary To Serve Korean Tofu Stew With Rice?
While traditionally paired with rice to complement its spicy flavors and create a more filling meal, the stew can stand alone or be paired with noodles or other grains based on personal preference.
How Do I Make The Stew Less Spicy For Those With Milder Palates?
You can reduce the amount of Korean red chili flakes or replace them with a milder chili powder. Additionally, consider using less garlic and onions, as they can contribute to the stew’s heat.
Can I Add Seafood To The Korean Tofu Stew?
Definitely! Many variations of soondubu jjigae incorporate seafood like clams, shrimp, or squid. These add a rich depth of flavor and can be used alone or combined with other proteins for a more elaborate dish.
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