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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Korean Tofu Kimchi Stew

One week ago, I took a plane from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Harmless enough (if you don't count having to get up at 4am to take the first flight out and then go straight into work toting luggage). Exactly 24 hours after the flight, I was attacked by a heinous sore throat and a pounding headache that made my whole face melt. If I get sick 24-48 hours after a flight, I think it's a safe best that someone was sharing their germs with the innocent people on the aircraft. I barely made it through the Foodbuzz Festival over the weekend and hoped no one noticed that I had morphed into a quiet, seemingly timid wallflower.

When under the weather, there was only one thing I could do. Eat soup. Since things were getting pretty desperate in the breathing department, I immediately resorted to the secret weapon. Vegetarian Matzoh ball soup with rye croutons. Nothing tells a cold to take a hike than a hot brothy soup with fluffy balls of matzoh. Then I filled the fridge with asparagus soup and red lentil soup with lemon. Equally good soldiers.

With the grace of a few days time and many hours of sleep, I am starting to feel a little better. However, Boyfriend got sick too. Since he likes spicy food and we've already been through a pretty heavy soup rotation, I decided to make something a little different for his sore throat.
You can find this tofu kimchi stew called Jigae at any authentic Korean restaurant. It is a deeply satisfying brothy soup made with tofu, onions, ginger and scallions that is kicked up a notch with some spicy fermented cabbage.

This recipe is the sort that only grandmothers would pass down. But this one didn't come from my grandmother. But it did come from my trusty collection of Hawaii cookbooks that are filled with family secrets, so it was likely passed down by someone's grandmother. I'm sure of it. Jigae recipes vary from family to family--some are made with pork, some swear by using silken tofu instead of firm tofu, and some . I used extra firm tofu because I really wanted the tofu to hold up in the mass of broth, but many people prefer to use silken tofu. Also, I like this recipe because it includes a defiant scoop of miso to add some body to the soup and smooth over the fire. If you like spicy food and kimchi, then I am sure you are going to love it.Note: Vegetarian/vegan kimchi can be difficult to find, since most kimchi is made with shrimp paste. So read labels carefully and you can always make your own if you want this dish to be vegan.


* 2 Tbsp. oil
* 1 medium onion, sliced thinly
* 1 Tbsp. grated ginger
* 1 Tbsp. grated garlic
* 1 tsp sea salt
* 1/2 tsp white pepper
* 2 cups kimchi (with liquid, loosely packed)
* 6 cups water
* 4 three-inch strips of kombu
* 1/4 cup miso
* 1 package of extra firm tofu (or silken, if perferred), cubed
* 2 green onions, thinly sliced


* In a large pot or enameled cast iron dutch oven, heat the oil and cook the onions on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes.
* Add the kimchi, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper and sautee for another 5 minutes.
* Then add the water and kombu strips (you can cut the kombu into smaller strips or leave it large). Bring to a boil and turn down the heat just a little bit so it holds a steady simmer for about 25-30 minutes (uncovered).
* Then stir in the miso and gently add the tofu and let simmer for another 10 minutes.
* Then add the green onion.
* Serve as a soup or ladle over some steamed rice.

Also, if you want to decrease the spice level, you can use a mild kimchi or you can decrease the amount to one cup and add in a bunch of chopped napa cabbage. You can also add in other vegetables like shredded carrot if it isn't already in your kimchi. You can also add a splash of sesame oil right at the end.


The Cooking Photographer said...

So sorry you got sick. I hope you're back to normal now. I imagine this stew helped a ton! I love kimchi and should eat more of it.


Morgan Lee said...

I am soing much better now and even got the flu shot. Just in case. Have you ever made kimchi fried rice? That is my favorite kimchi preparation.

Elina (Healthy and Sane) said...

That soup sounds so unique. Hopefully the boyfriend gets better too.
PS - it was nice meeting you at dinner at the Ferry building. You were quiet but at least you didn't look like death (I look horrible when I'm sick, especially if I'm also tired after traveling).