Sunday, November 1, 2009
I love Asian food. Love. I love the variety of eating family style, the spiciness, the prolific use of vegetables. The NOODLES. Yet strangely, though all of these things are featured heavily in Korean food, I'm not really familiar with Korean food. I think I had my first bi bim bap when I was 24. My first soon dubu? I was maybe 29. To this day, I've probably only eaten Korean food about a dozen times.
Meanwhile, my two sisters who are living in L.A. have become Korean food nuts. So whenever I go visit them, they take me to all their favorite spots in K-Town. A few visits ago, they introduced me to Beverly Soon Tofu and it was love at first bite. I considered turning the 350-mile drive down into a weekly event, but then I decided it might be more practical to learn how to make the dish myself. Spicy tofu stew, could anything be more soul-satisfying when the weather turns chilly? Plus the name is just fun to say: soooon dooboo!
My search for the ultimate soon dubu recipe led me to Maangchi. And I have to tell you, not only are this woman's recipes spot on, but her videos are better than anything I've seen on Food Network. She cracks me up. Just watch the video where she explains that if her house caught on fire, she'd grab her dumplings and run (because they were so labor intensive to make) all in a pink wig over a soundtrack of Ghost Town by The Specials. I'd like to see Rachael Ray think of something even one tenth as awesome.
Hobakjuk from Maangchi on Vimeo.
Soon dubu is surprisingly easy to make and very rewarding. I tweaked the ingredients to my taste, so if you prefer the real deal, here's the original recipe for Maangchi's soondubu jiggae.
Pork and Mushroom Korean Tofu Stew (Recipe adapted from Maangchi.com)
12 dried anchovies, gutted
Piece of kelp (kombu)
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
½ onion, peel removed, cut horizontally
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon cooking oil (olive or canola)
½ onion, sliced into thin rings
½ pound thinly sliced pork butt or belly (available at Korean or Japanese markets, or you can freeze a piece of pork butt for about 45 minutes and slice it yourself)
1 package of beech mushrooms (or enoki) washed*
1 bunch of spinach, washed well
6 tablespoons of Korean red pepper flakes (use only 1 tablespoon for mild, 3 for medium)
1 tablespoon of cayenne (for advanced spice eaters only!!)
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
3 tubes of Korean soft tofu (see picture). If you cannot find the tubes, you can substitute a package of silken tofu.
2 serranos, thinly sliced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 eggs (optional)
1. Make a broth by adding all the broth ingredients to 10 cups of water in a medium-sized pot. You may want to put the anchovies into a small mesh infuser.
2. Cover and bring to a boil.
3. Once broth boils, lower to a simmer and cook for another 20 minutes.
4. Turn off heat. Remove and discard onions, garlic, anchovies, and kelp.
5. Dice shiitakes and set aside.
6. Add cooking oil to a stovetop-safe casserole or dutch oven, ideally about 2 quarts in size. I used a cast iron nabe pot that was fairly reasonable (under $30) and is very easy to clean. Turn heat to high.
7. Add sliced onions and pork and cook for about 3 minutes, until pork is no longer pink.
8. Add red pepper flakes and cayenne (if using). Stir.
9. Add about 2 cups of the anchovy broth. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium, so that broth is still bubbling but doesn't overflow onto the stove.
10. Add beech (or enoki) mushrooms and washed spinach to the broth. Cook for a few minutes.
11. Add soft tofu to the pot. Break it up slightly with a wooden spoon, but leave it mostly in big chunks. Add fish sauce.
12. Cook for another 5 or 6 minutes, until tofu is completely heated through. You may want to turn the heat back to high, but keep an eye on the stew to make sure it doesn't boil over.
13. To finish, sprinkle fresh chilis and green onions on top, cook for another minute. You can crack two eggs on top and stir them into the stew for a richer consistency. We prefer it without. Serve with steamed Calrose rice.
* Yep, I wash my mushrooms. The cootie-phobe in me would like to thank Alton Brown for debunking that little myth. Mushroom bit starts at the 8:24 mark.