Spicy Soft Tofu Stew or Sundubu/Soondubu Jjigae is a popular Korean dish. The word “sundubu” means extra soft tofu, and “jjigae” means stew in Korean. Other than soft tofu, the spicy stew normally has vegetables, protein or seafood and egg.
And I cannot help but say it is a firm family favourite. If you have not tried it, I would love you to imagine a comforting and satisfying hot bowl of stew teeming with savoury and spicy flavours. Because that is what awaits you when you dig in!
There might be some of you who likes spicy food and some who do not. If you fall on the second category and there is a brewing curiosity inside you about this widely sought stew, then hear me out. Read on and see how you might suit it to your taste without missing its core flavours.
A Family Favourite
Did I say this spicy stew is a family favourite? But did I mention not everyone in my family loves spicy? Now that I have mentioned both, then those claims need to be true, so how?
The key for me is finding that sweet spot, fine-tuning the spice level, and capitalising the strength of an ingredient that is essentially a flavour bomb! So, what we get is a wonderfully spiced (not boring) stew with bold and well-developed flavours. How’s that?
Kimchi Juice: An impressive afterthought ingredient!
I suppose you would say, wait! And ask, aren’t gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes) and anchovy stock the other two crucial ingredients here? Agreed. But that should not hold us back from improvising and tweaking the recipe a bit to tone down some of that heat, and make it enjoyable for our loved ones, too.
And so, for this quick and equally delicious recipe, we will take advantage of the mildly spicy yet strong and complex taste of the kimchi juice and use it to infuse the soup with sour and big savoury flavours. You can extract the juice by gently pressing the kimchi through a sieve, or by scooping the juice pooled inside the kimchi jar.
And to that, you will add a splash of soy sauce and fish sauce for saltiness and extra umami goodness.
How spicy is it going to be?
Again, it depends on how much you can take. If you have someone in your family who can’t handle a spicy stew, then this recipe comes in handy.
You can still get a wonderfully spiced and flavourful stew by adding kimchi juice to it, even if you start with only 1 tablespoon of gochugaru.
But if you do not shy away from the heat, I strongly suggest you use at least 2 tablespoons of gochugaru. With this level of spice, you are sure to get the sizzling flavours of this intense and enjoyable stew.
Easy to follow recipe and ready in 15 minutes!
You can go ahead and gather all the ingredients; now that you have an idea of how spicy you would like it to be. Cooking the tofu stew is pretty fast, so having all the ingredients ready will work to your advantage.
Cook the spicy tofu stew in minutes – here’s how:
- Sauté gochugaru, aromatics, and kimchi
- Add ingredients for the broth
- Add the frozen dumplings and soft tofu
- Top with green onions and cracked egg
I have made this for my family many times and we always end up fully satisfied with it. We like to add a few dumplings to add variety and make it more filling.
Do hope it sparks your adventurous side and get to try it, too. This recipe is adapted from Seonkyoung Longest’s version of Korean silken tofu soup, which I really love for its simplicity and satisfying taste. Seonkyoung is a Korean-born celebrity chef and founder of the online cooking show “Asian at Home”.
Do you need to make stock for the stew?
Normally, you make the stock by boiling dried anchovies, dried kelp, and some vegetables to have a flavourful soup. If you’re keen, I suggest you click Here, and let Emily Kim, otherwise known as Maangchi, popular Korean-American youtuber and author, show you how she makes one.
But as I’ve mentioned, you can own it and be creative with your spicy soft tofu stew by tweaking some of the ingredients without missing out on essential flavours.
Watch How To Make Spicy Tofu Stew with Dumplings
Spicy Soft Tofu Stew with Dumplings
- 1 tbsp sesame oil*
- 1 tbsp Korean red pepper flakes/powder (gochugaru)
- 2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 -2 green onions, thinly sliced (light colored and green parts separated)
- 1/2 cup kimchi, chopped
- 1 cup water
- 3-4 tbsp kimchi juice
- 1 tbsp korean soy sauce or regular soy sauce
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 6 pieces frozen dumplings (any kind)
- 350 g soft tofu
- 1 egg
- salt, freshly ground black pepper
- In an earthenware pot or sauce pan, add sesame oil, gochugaru, garlic, and light colored parts of the green onions. Open the fire and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Stir as necessary and see to it the gochugaru is not burned.
- Add the kimchi to the mixture and sauté for 1 minute.
- Pour in the water, kimchi juice, followed by soy sauce and fish sauce. Let it boil.
- Add the frozen dumplings and return to boil. Then, add the soft tofu and break it down in chunks but not too small, though. Allow to boil
- Taste the soup and adjust seasoning. Add salt or more fish sauce if it's bland.
- Top the soup with green onions. Crack the egg onto the soup. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or to your preferred doneness. Add some freshly ground black pepper.
- Serve with steamed rice.