, , , , , , , , , ,

Korean Tofu Stew

This is a soup that will restore your superpowers. It is my attempt to pound the chest of springtime and blow into its mouth to see if the heart starts beating again. The boiling temperature at which it is served, plus the red and green chili peppers will make you sweat– a great superhero reminder that you are alive. It warms you up from the inside out with spices, veggies, meat, seafood and soft tofu along with a little seaweed for good measure. It’s spring’s encouragement. Whenever I need a pick me up during the long workday, I go to Koreatown and order this soup hoping that it will be my encouragement too. And now I’ve carefully curated its restorative powers in my own kitchen.

This post is special for me in a way because I’ve never collaborated with other bloggers on a common theme. I’m throwing a rope ladder across the internet void and cultural gaps and trying to make the world a little smaller. So when Sofia, whose versatile and interesting blog Papaya Pieces and Shanna, the talent behind Curls & Carrots, reached out to Liz (of the incredible Food for Fun) and me to join their ingredient of the month post, it was difficult to say no. This month’s star is tofu. I had been wanting to make this soup for so long and what better excuse than to do it for these intrepid ladies who all have a feature on tofu today as well.

Despite my social nature, I’m normally a lone ranger, especially when it comes to writing. But one of the greatest joys of writing here is the spectacular inspiration that comes through this huge community of people who are interested in food, culture and art. It’s helped me to recognize that living itself is an art form and that we all lead by example and follow the examples before us. It’s also a huge comfort to know that we do not cook or live in a void.

So about the soup:

  1.  It will not be too fishy if you follow this recipe, but you can certainly make it without some of the fish (see below).
  2.  It may be one of the best things I’ve made all year.
  3. Make it and enjoy!



Korean Tofu Soup–Soondubu-jjigae 순두부찌개

Adapted from Maangchi with guidance from my dear friend, Kevin. 


  • 12 dried anchovies (These are usually sold in huge bags so you can also use fish stock)
  • 1/3 cup of kelp
  •  half onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 3 shiitake mushrooms (dried). I used fresh and just doubled the amount for flavor. 
  • 100 grams of beef (I’ve found that the Korean market sells very high quality beef, often better than the grocery store)
  • 1 cup of mixed seafood
  • 3 large shrimp (optional, but good)
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 green chili pepper (Korean if possible, as they’re a little less spicy)
  • 2-5 tbs of hot pepper flakes (Korean hot pepper flakes/powder are different than regular red pepper flakes. They’re less spicy)
  • olive oil
  • sesame oil
  • 2 tubes of soon du bu (soft tofu)
  • 2 tbs of fish sauce
  • 2 eggs


Korean hot pepper


Prepare stock by pouring 5 cups of water into a pot and add 12 dried anchovies after removing intestine part. Or you could use fish stock. Add half onion, some dried kelp (about 1/3 cup), 3 dried shiitake mushrooms, 5 cloves of garlic and boil over high heat. Approximately 10 minutes later, lower the heat to low medium heat and boil it for another 20 minutes.

Set aside the stock and take out the mushrooms and chop them into small pieces.

Heat your earthen ware (or ceramic pot) on the stove over medium heat and put 2 ts of olive oil. Chop 100 grams or 1/3 pound of beef and put it into the pot and stir it. Add the chopped shiitake mushroom and stir it. Add 2 tbs – 5 tbs (see below for a guide) of hot pepper flakes and keep stirring for 1 minute.

A Tip on the heat:

  • 2 tbs—mild
  • 3 tbs—medium
  • 4 tbs—hot (I went for this and it was really perfect)
  • 5 tbs (1/4 cup)—crying and sweating hot

Pour 2 cups of the stock you made. It should be sizzling. Add 1 cup of mixed seafood and 3 shrimp. Add 2 tbs of fish sauce. Cut the 2 tubes of Soon du bu (soft tofu) in half and squeeze it out into the pot. Break the tofu with a spoon several times in the pot. When it boils, add 2 chopped green onions and 1 green chili pepper.

Serve with a raw egg and have your guests crack the egg into the bowl and mix. Drizzle some sesame oil before serving. Serve with rice, garlic shoots, lotus root or any number of Korean delicacies.


Korean soup