Stew is comfort food in Korea, and this spicy Korean soft tofu stew (soondubuchigae) doesn't disappoint. It's filling, warm, and quite popular on the menus of Korean restaurants.
Many Korean people like their soondubu with pork and kimchi, and I do admit that it's a delicious combination. But most of the time I crave it with clams, kimchi, and an anchovy base. You actually can use any meat you want for this stew.
In fact, I used shrimp, clams, and pork in the version in the photograph, and added enoki mushrooms at the end. In restaurants, soondubuchigae is served in traditional earthenware bowls while bubbling hot. Raw egg is added to the stew and folded into the contents to cook from the heat within the bowl.
Like many Korean stews, soondubuchigae can be adjusted for very different spice levels and flavor preferences. Vary your kochukaru (red pepper powder) according to your taste and your spice level preference.
Spicy Korean soft tofu stew traditionally calls for soft uncoagulated tofu, which has a higher water content than firmer varieties of coagulated tofu (which are made more firm by pressing more water out of them). Soft uncoagulated tofu normally is sold in tubes in Korea and in Asian markets in the United States. However, if you're unable to find soft uncoagulated tofu, you can substitute soft or extra soft silken tofu.
- 3 tbsp. sesame oil
- 1/2 lb/1 cup beef or pork (thinly sliced)
- ½ tbsp. garlic (finely chopped)
- 2 tbsp. red pepper powder (kochukaru)*
- 2 cups anchovy stock (or beef stock or water)
- 3 cups soft tofu**
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 lb unshucked clams (or 1 cup shucked clams, rinsed)
- 2 scallions (sliced)
- In a soup pot, stir-fry the beef, garlic, and kochukaru in the sesame oil for about five minutes.
- Add anchovy or beef stock or water and soy sauce to the pot.
- Bring to a simmer.
- Add soft tofu and return to simmer.
- Add clams and simmer until the clams are cooked, about 10 minutes, until they shrink, or until the shells open (if using unshucked).
- Add scallions and take off heat.
* This tofu stew can be made completely mild to very spicy. I've listed a medium amount in this recipe, about what I would consider to be the standard spiciness. Soft tofu stew with no spice is referred to as 'white' in Korean restaurants (for the color of the stew, not the people who eat it).
**Uncoagulated tofu is usually sold in tubes, but you can use silken tofu if you can't find the really soft stuff. Just slice it into small cubes and cook as directed.