Sundubu Jjigae (Soft Tofu Stew) Recipe

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I know that stews are generally eaten in the winter, but today I am sharing a recipe for a Korean dish called sundubu jjigae (순두부찌개 in Korean, or スンドゥブチゲ in Japanese) because I love it so much that I can eat it any time of year. Sundubu jjigae is a stew made with meat, seafood, vegetables, and uncurdled (extra soft/silken) tofu.

(I know in my picture it looks more like a soup… and that is because I embarrassingly added MUCH more liquid broth to last night’s dinner than I intended to, resulting in a soup rather than a stew. The recipe below has the actual measurements required to make this Korean soft tofu stew.)

I first ate sundubu jjigae with my sister-in-law at a Korean restaurant here in the Bay Area, just before I left for Japan. Then when I moved to Japan, there was a Korean restaurant in our AEON mall food court called 韓菜(ハンチェ)”HAN CHE” which served bibimbap and sundubu jjigae, and I fell in love, and ate there regularly. They served their sundubu jjigae with a bowl of rice and salty, toasted seaweed, which is now the only way I can enjoy this dish.

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Today, I will show you how to make sundubu jjigae! This recipe is pretty flexible, in that I’ve seen a variety of recipes online, and each calls for different measurements of different ingredients. When I made this dish for dinner last night, I was simply putting together a meal using only ingredients we had on hand, and so you won’t see any green onion in my pictures, even though the recipe calls for it (and you should use it). I also like to add enoki mushrooms, beech mushrooms (white and/or brown), and clams. In today’s post, you will see that I used thinly-sliced pork loin hot pot meat (frozen leftovers from another night, when I made nabe) and some frozen mussels. You can also add beef, shrimp, or a seafood mix.

Also, the recipe I adapted mine from calls for gochugaru (고추가루, Korean red chili pepper flakes). I actually couldn’t find this in our large Asian supermarket the last time I went (either they were out of stock, or it was labeled in a way that I couldn’t read it… ^^;;;;). I did find gochugaru at a small Japanese market, but it was quite expensive… Around $6 for a small bag, and I’m sure it was marked up, as were all the other items the shop was selling. So, instead I opted to use Red Chile Pepper from Trader Joe’s which is probably not the same thing. If you can get your hands on the real thing, go for it.

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Also, while you’re out shopping for ingredients, if you can find barley tea (麦茶 “mugi-cha” in Japanese, 보리차 “boricha” in Korean), grab this too! Mugi-cha is one of my favorite teas and I drank it everyday, all summer long, while I was living in Japan. I bought this big bag of ITO EN (伊藤園) brand mugi-cha at a Japanese market in San Jose, but since I’m really the only one who drinks it, it is lasting forever…! Any brand of mugi-cha is fine, but I like the ITO EN one because 1) it’s the one I always drank in Japan, and 2) I love the mugi-cha man on the packaging and from the commercials!!

Barley tea is grain-based and caffeine-free. It is brown in color, and a little earthy in taste; some people think it has a similar taste to weak coffee, or to ほうじ茶 “houji-cha” (roasted green tea). Some studies say there are some health benefits to drinking barley tea. I’m no expert on the health benefits, but in Japan, it’s a very popular drink in the summer because  it tastes very refreshing and has a cooling effect on the body.

The tea can be enjoyed hot or cold, but in the summer time, I recommend cold-brewing. These bags I bought are “1-liter tea bags”, so you just toss one bag into a 1-liter pitcher, add cold water, and stick it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Now that your tea is prepared, you can start to prepare the anchovy broth required for the stew. You will need dried anchovies and konbu (dried seaweed). Although the Asian supermarket I shop at has a “dried seafood” aisle, I actually found the dried anchovies in the fresh food section near the produce. It was in the same aisle as tofu, packaged sprouts, fish cake, etc.  Konbu is not the same as wakame, which is available in markets both fresh and dried. (Click the links to see pictures on the Wikipedia pages!) Konbu is thick, and usually sold in flat strips or sheets.

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Anchovy Broth
Recipe adapted from Korean Bapsang
Makes six cups of broth.

Ingredients

  • 10-12 medium to large dried anchovies
  • 2 pieces of konbu (about 3-inch squares)
  • 6 cups of water

Directions

  1. Pour the water into a pot. Soak anchovies and konbu in the water for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Place the pot on the stove and bring to a gentle boil. When the water reaches boiling temperature, reduce heat to medium and boil for about 10 minutes. Leave the pot uncovered to let the fishy aroma escape. Do not over-boil, otherwise the broth may become cloudy, and the flavor may change or even become unpleasant.
  3. Drain the liquid to remove anchovies and konbu. Discard anchovies and konbu.
  4. Leftover stock can be refrigerated for up to 4 days, or frozen for future use.

The embarrassing part that I will share with you is that while cooking and taking pictures for this blog, I wasn’t paying attention and I accidentally poured all six cups of broth into my stew, even though the original recipe only calls for one cup of broth… and so, there you have it. That is why I ended up making a soup instead of a stew. Oops! Be careful not to do what I did, because the flavor will become diluted and you will need to increase the seasonings in order to make the soup taste flavorful. (ノω<;)

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Meanwhile, during the 20 minutes that the anchovies and konbu are soaking, you can begin preparations for the stew. Wash, chop, or dice your ingredients. Then put a pot on the stove so you can begin making sundubu jjigae!

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The original recipe on Korean Bapsang only uses sesame oil and gochugaru to make a flavor. This is what I used to cook the meat, garlic, and onions. However, to flavor the broth, I also added a big, heaping tablespoon of gochujang (고추장, red chili paste), which you can see in the photo second picture above. I did this because, as I mentioned earlier, I accidentally used way too much broth… you can probably omit the gochujang, or maybe you can substitute it for the gochugaru and sesame oil… or go ahead and add both, if you want it to be spicier. Feel free to experiment! I will experiment the next time I make this dish, too.

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Sundubu Jjigae
Makes about 2 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 package sundubu (extra soft or silken tofu)
  • a few slices of beef or pork (rib eye, sirloin, pork loin, or pork belly)
  • a few pieces of seafood (shrimp, mussels, clams, or oysters)
  • 1/2 small zucchini, sliced
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • green onion, diced, for garnish
  • 1 tbsp. gochugaru
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. garlic
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • a pinch of pepper
  • 1 tbsp. gochujang
  • 1 cup anchovy broth
  • 1 egg (optional) — not necessary, but tasty! Also, if your dish is too spicy, the egg helps cut back on the spice.

Directions

  1. Prepare your meat and vegetables: Cut the meat into small thin strips. Clean the seafood. Slice zucchini into round pieces, and then slice in half. Dice the onion. Chop the green onion and set aside a little for garnish.
  2. Add the gochugaru and sesame oil to a pot, then place over medium heat. The gochugaru will burn easily, so do not preheat the pot and oil. Stir well until you make a paste, then add meat, onion, garlic, and soy sauce. Stir fry until the meat and onions are almost cooked.
  3. Pour in the broth. (Be careful to add only the amount you need! ^_~) Boil for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add zucchini. Cook for 2 minutes.
  5. Scoop out the soft tofu into the pot. Cook for two minutes.
  6. Add seafood, green onions, salt, and pepper.
  7. Optional, but recommended for tastiness: Break an egg into the stew while it’s still boiling hot.
  8. Serve with white rice and toasted seaweed.

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Yum! Still enjoyable, even though I ended up making a soup. I promise to update with more accurate photos next time I cook this dish!

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