Sundubu Jjigae ~ Soft Tofu Stew
Recipes for the popular Korean tofu stew, Sundubu (soft tofu) Jjigae (stew), are flexible. The recipes always include red chili powder and soft tofu, then perhaps add fresh vegetables and/or kimchi; the broth can be anchovy stock, chicken stock, or vegetable broth or water; it can be vegetarian or made with beef, pork belly, or seafood; the salty component can come from soy sauce, fish sauce or salt; sometimes an egg is added… sometimes not.
It’s spicy, silky, salty, and ultimately satisfying. It is a fast and easy dish, changing ingredients with whatever is at hand. Steamed white rice is served on the side to complement and balance the bubbling hot stew.
Sundubu Jjigae Recipe
1/2 lb. ground beef, cooked and drained
1 T. avocado oil (or neutral oil)
1 medium zucchini, sliced into half-moons
3 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 c. rough-chopped cabbage kimchi with juices
1 T. gochugaru (Korean red chili powder, coarse-ground, medium heat)
1 T. toasted sesame oil, plus more to drizzle
2 c. filtered water (or stock)
1 T. gochujang (Korean red chili paste)
1 T. fish sauce, plus more to taste
14 oz. soft or silken tofu (drained)
fresh ground black pepper
- Heat avocado oil in a ddukbaegi (Korean earthenware pot) or a heavy bottomed medium-sized soup pot over medium-high heat.
- Add zucchini and cook until starting to turn golden. Add garlic and kimchi then cook for one more minute.
- Add gochugaru and sesame oil, cook 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the cooked beef, water, fish sauce, and gochujang. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add large scoops of tofu and continue to cook until the tofu is very hot, about 8 minutes or more. Taste for salt then add more fish sauce to taste.
Add a cracked egg – either cook for 3 minutes on the flame for “poached” style with runny yolk, or swirl the raw egg into the hot stew to cook through adding richness.
Drizzle sesame oil over the entire stew. Finish with grinds of black pepper and garnish with a generous amount of sliced scallion. Serve bubbling hot with rice on the side.
I always like to cook the ground meat ahead of time and drain off the excess saturated fat.
Several sundubu jjigae recipes use only red chili powder (gochugaru), here I also use red chili paste (gochujang) to add chili flavor complexity. Gochujang is a Korean red chili paste with sweet heat and a fermented umami richness. It has a balanced fruitiness, slight smokiness and depth of flavor from the sun-dried Korean red peppers. Gochugaru, also made from sun-dried red peppers, is a coarse-ground chili powder. Together, they give this stew its distinctive Korean spiciness.
Some of My Favorite Korean/Fusion Recipes:
Buchu Jeon (garlic chive blossom pancake)
Samgyetang (a rejuvenating chicken soup with ginseng)
Jajangmyeon (black bean noodles)
Korean BBQ Chicken (with lettuce cups, white seaweed salad)
Bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes)
Hwa Jeon (rice tea cakes with honey)
Yakgwa (fried honey cookies with cinnamon ginger syrup)