Silken Tofu Stew - Soondubu Jjigae (순두부찌개)
My heritage is pretty much everything European, but when people ask, I generally just say Scotch, Irish, and French - not really countries known for their spicy and flavorful food. If I'm being honest, eating spicy food used to be painful. I would sweat and turn red when eating Buffalo wings. Indian food was downright painful. Even pepperoni was risky.
I couldn't show weakness when my wife took me to Korean joints. Sure, there is non-spicy Korean food, but the spicy stuff is the best, and hard to avoid. Not being too familiar with Korean food at the time, I would accidentally order things that I thought were tame, only to have boiling pots or red fire show up in front of me. I dreaded those meals. If you've ever seen Along Came Polly, you have a good picture of what I'm talking about.
Once we had dated for about a six months, and I could tell that this lady was probably going to be around for awhile, I realized that I would have to get used to the mouth melting Korean food. So, I started to push my tolerance.
Knowing fully that you are all mostly interested in my insightful and slightly personal blog posts, and because I can remember the first meal that I had when I fearlessly craved spicy Korean food.
We were out to dinner on 32nd street in Manhattan and had waited outside for a table in the crisp, cool fall air. By the time we got inside, we were good and cold. At our tiny table, trying to pick something safe to eat from the menu, I watched the wait staff bring out bowl after bowl of bubbling soondubu jjigae to neighboring tables.
My mouth watered.
I ordered the stew.
I went home happy.
So many of my memories are tied to Korean food.
Moral: For people like me, who didn't grow up eating spicy food, Korean food can be scary. But I highly encourage my people to venture out and suffer the sweating, stomachaches, and tongue swelling to try some of the spicy dishes. It's totally worth it - just keep a pitcher of water close by.
(Tip - use less or more red pepper flakes to adjust spiciness)
1/2 cup of diced kimchi
1 cup of diced onion
2 tablespoons of red pepper flakes
4 cups of anchovy broth (water is an okay substitute)
1 tablespoons of garlic
2 tablespoons of diced shiitake mushrooms (optional)
1/4 cup of chopped green onion
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
a dash of sesame oil (add at the end)
1 package of silken tofu (can come in a tube or cube)
1 tablespoons of oil for the pot
1 egg (per person)
(One can skip the egg and kimchi if they want a vegan version (kimchi is not always vegetarian).)
1) in a bowl, combine onions, garlic, kimchi, and red pepper flakes.
2) Heat 1 TBSP of oil in a deep pot, and add onion mixture. Saute until the onions are translucent and the kimchi softens (about 5 minutes).
3) Add anchovy stock and bring to a boil - add mushrooms.
4) Once boiling, add in tofu. Break up the tofu into bite-sized pieces using a spoon and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.
5) Add in soy sauce, black pepper, and a dash of sesame oil. Stir to mix and adjust flavor to taste
6) Crack and add in egg(s) and turn off heat - This will leave you with a nice soft boiled egg.
7) Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with green onions
8) Eat with a bowl of rice and marvel at the delicious meal you have created.