Sunday, April 27, 2008

Soon Tofu Seafood Stew (Soon Doo Boo Jjigae)

Soon tofu stew is becoming extremely popular in the U.S. it probably now is the stew of Korea in most people’s mind.  I never had it when I was in Korea ironically.  I think it was more of a specialty in some regions in Korea and not an everyday comfort food for most Koreans.  What I used to eat was miso stew and kimchi stew instead.  Where I lived in Seattle, WA, there was a restaurant called Ho Soon Yi that makes Soon tofu stew (Soon doo boo jigae) exclusively.  I always saw just as many non-Koreans there enjoying this stew as Koreans.  This dish is so popular, there are franchise restaurants in Southern California specializing just soon tofu stews such as BCD Tofu House which is open for 24 hours.  Although I like restaurant foods, there is nothing that beats some wholesome home cooked meals.  Some restaurants use MSG to enhance flavors of their food.  My body is super sensitive to MSGs whenever I eat food with MSGs, I feel disgusted and cranky.  It’s almost like I’m hungover.  So I tried making this at home and seriously this turned out to be the best tasting stew I have ever cooked in my life.  This is easily my #1 dish.
Ingredients: Bacon, chili pepper oil, sesame oil, clam base, salt, pepper, sugar, fish sauce, finely ground red pepper powder, minced garlic, kimchi (and juice), tofu (soft/silk), eggs, onions, zucchini or mushrooms, red/green peppers (jalapeño is ok), seafood (shrimp, squid, and if you have clams, use clams as well).
1. First, cook bacon in chili pepper oil.

2. Once bacon is cooked, add onions and minced garlic. At this time, after allowing garlic to cook for maybe 20 seconds, you need to throw in other ingredients below.

Thinly sliced green and red peppers
Add kimchi and its juice, and sliced zucchinis.

3. Add water and clam base. For the below portion, I used 1 1/2 table spoon of clam base. Do not put too much in the beginning because you can always add some more later if bland.

4. Prepare your seafood. I am using shrimp and squid for mine. If you have clams, use them. Real clams will make this dish look and taste great.

Add the sliced seafood into your soup.

5. So now it’s time to add tofu to your soup. See the sign that says “silken”. Do not use firm tofu for this stew because it will create an entirely different stew. When adding the tofu, you do not need to cut it. Just put the whole thing in. Of course, do not just turn it upside down and drop it from 3 feet above the pot and create a disaster. Use a big spoon or a spatula to carefully transfer it into the stew.

6. Keep on heating (high heat) and add little bit of sugar. Continue heating for additional 5-7 minutes and add fish sauce towards the end. I used about 2-3 table spoons of fish sauce for below amount of stew. Fish sauce will seal the deal for this stew flavor-wise.  Traditionally though, what you use instead of the fish sauce is salt pickled shrimps called “Se woo jut.” However, fish sauce will do the justice since that ingredient is harder to find and to utilize in your daily cooking.

7. Turn off the heat and add a raw egg. Let the egg cook but not fully cook so when serving in a bowl, each person will have the half cooked egg on top of their soup. I usually save my egg yolk without popping the yolk into the soup and put it on my rice along with some stew broth and mix them around. The egg part is optional but you will see that you can add a raw egg into your boiling stew in an earthen bowl.

You won’t be disappointed with this recipe.

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