Soondubu Jjigae (순두부 찌개)

(For a clear, actually usable recipe, please click here.) (Because the recipe included in this blog post is, much like the cook, chaotic.)

I live in a town with an extremely prominent Korean community. This is a bit of a change from where I lived previously, which had the largest Indian demographic of any town in the US along with a sizable Chinese and Jewish community. Whereas I used to have 3 Chinese supermarkets within a 10-minute radius of my house previously, I now have 3 Korean supermarkets within that 10-minute radius.

So, 7 years of living here have resulted me not being able to speak very much Korean. BUT I am a stickler for pronunciation, so the little bit I know is pretty convincing, according to some sources. (Source: Very kind friends.)

I had my very first taste of soondubu jjigae (순두부 찌개), otherwise known as Korean soft tofu stew  and a variety of other romanizations (soondooboo, sundubu, soondoobu, etc.) just a few weeks ago. The weather on the Eastern seaboard had gotten quite noticeably colder and I decided to try it. This bubbling pot of spicy tofu stew with an egg and seafood sounded really promising.

A bowl of soondubu jjigae, rice, banchan
My first soondubu jjigae ever! (Actually, it was my brother’s and I pilfered some.)
From: Manna Korean

Obviously, I never looked back since. I’ve had 3 soondubu jjigaes in the past month. That’s 3 more than I’ve ever had in my whole life previously.

My second soondubu jjigae (which was all mine!)
From: Gah Rahm Restaurant
My third soondubu jjigae, from a restaurant that specializes in soondubu jjigae!
From: Lighthouse Tofu

I was really determined to learn how to make this. This resulted in me going to a Korean supermarket on Saturday to buy the following things that I didn’t have in my house:

  • Ddukbaegi (뚝배기) aka “Dad I need to get one of those cool Korean black pots”
  • Myulchi (마른멸치) aka dried anchovies for an authentic-tasting stock
  • Dashima (다시마) aka kelp for an authentic-tasting stock
  • Gochugaru (고추가루) aka hot pepper flakes for spiciness (I later found out my dad had a secret store of this already what)

I used a few cheats and not-quite-right-but-it’ll-do substitutions to make do with what I had at home and not buy literally every ingredient from Lotte. Many thanks to Maangchi (excellent Korean recipe site that also goes in depth on the specific ingredients) and EatYourKimchi (Canadian expat who makes fun videos about living in Korea) for their recipes, which I adapted and Frankenstein-cobbled together to make something that worked for me.

Watch me struggle!

Here is a video I recorded while I was cooking to document the process. I edited out a lot of my struggle…

Without further ado…

Soondubu Jjigae (순두부 찌개)

Ingredients

(Note: Asian cuisine is about adjusting things to how you like it, so you are free to use more or less of things, as this is not a precise recipe and all quantities are simply what I used) (I will likely never use these exact quantities in this exact combination ever again)
(Because if you see “cups” or “tsps” or “oz” it’s seriously a complete guess I measured out nothing XD)

Stock (멸치육수) (it’s best to make the stock for the specific flavor, but you can also use pre-made seafood stock or beef, chicken, vegetable, etc.)

    • 12 dried anchovies (myulchi, 마른멸치)
      • Be sure to clean these by removing the intestines, or your broth will have a bitter flavor D:
    • 8-inch strip of kelp (dashima,다시마)
      • I think you’re supposed to use dried squares of these, but I used non-dried strips so… ??? I’d say maybe like 6 square inches?
    • 1/2 to 1 medium onion (sliced/diced if you’d like)
      • I sliced mine and used about 75% for the stock and reserved the other 25% for use in the stew
    • 5 cloves of garlic
    • 6 dried mushrooms
      • Officially, these should be dried shiitake, but I used something else oh well

Jjigae (stew)

  • 1 oz. pork (or protein of choice)
    • Fatty pork would be best here, e.g. samgyupsul, 삼겹살, but I only had lean pork so I may or may not have used a bit of bacon fat because it made sense in my head at the time…
  • 1-5 tbsp of hot pepper flakes (gochugaru, 고추가루)
    • This is one of the most easily adjustable parts of the recipe, as you are determining the spice level. It’s always best to start with less so you can add more later. I used one heaping Asian soup-spoonful (probably close to 2 tbsp)
  • 1 oz. kimchi + some kimchi juice
  • 1 cup of mixed seafood
    • You can buy cheap bags of frozen seafood mixes filled with things like mussels (out of shell), shrimp (peeled and deveined), calamari rings, etc. and thaw them while prepping your stock
  • Silken tofu aka soondubu
    • Since you add this towards the end, you’ll have to use your judgment for how much will even fit in your pot. Korean brands come in nice tubes, sometimes, but I used about 1/4 of a full square tub because I ran out room in my pot oops
  • Green onions aka scallions for garnishing
  • Sesame oil for serving
  • 1 egg for serving

Optional

  • Ddukbaegi (뚝배기) makes you feel cooler but is not necessary
  • Onion (sliced) for the stew
  • Zucchini (sliced) for the stew
  • Other seafood (clams, mussels, shrimp)
  • Soy sauce for flavor
  • Fish sauce for flavor
  • It’s a stew, add whatever you want, really.

Wow. Sorry about that… um… ANYWAY LET’S GET TO IT.

Instructions

These will be more straightforward since the ingredients list was such a mess.

  1. Clean your anchovies and get out the amount of kelp you want for the stock.
  2. Soak anchovies + kelp in water for about 20 minutes in ~2 cups of water
  3. While you are soaking your dry ocean ingredients, place your stock onion, whole garlic cloves, and dried mushrooms into a pot of ~4 cups of water.
  4. Boil, covered, for ~15 minutes
  5. Remove cover and reduce heat to allow the stock to reduce
  6. Add anchovy+kelp water to the pot of stock
  7. Boil, uncovered, until you’re happy with the stock (~10 minutes, do not overcook)
    1. Taste a little as you’re cooking to make sure you have maximum flavor without overcooking the anchovies into a yucky mess
  8. Skim off icky foam
  9. Strain out the liquid for the stock to use in your stew.
    1. Optional: Remove (and slice) mushrooms and/or onion to use in stew
  10. Heat your pot that you will be using for your jjigae
    1. Optional: With vegetable oil if your pork isn’t fatty enough
    2. Super optional: Bacon fat is what I used but… probably not the best XD
  11. Brown your pork
  12. Add your vegetables to soften (onion, zucchini, more garlic if you love garlic like me)
  13. Add kimchi + hot pepper flakes (gochugaru)
  14. Fry until you can smell the kimchi + gochugaru in the air
    1. Optional: Drool over the smell
  15. Pour in stock until your bowl is about 3/4 full
    1. Note: It will SIZZLE and that’s perfect! Don’t be scared 😀
  16. Add seafood mix and let the stew come up to a boil
  17. Add tofu and break it up in the pot
  18. Reduce to a stew consistency (this is not a soup so let it get nice and thick)
    1. At this point, you can adjust the flavor with more gochugaru, soy sauce, or fish sauce, or add more water/stock if the flavor is too strong
  19. Take off heat
  20. Drizzle sesame oil
  21. Garnish with chopped scallions
  22. Crack the egg into the stew
    1. Either scramble it in or cover the pot and let it poach whole

Serve while still bubbling with a bowl of steamed rice and your choice of banchan (반찬) or side dishes. I had some konjaban (콩자반) that I really wanted to dig into.

Enjoy! 😀

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