순두부찌개 (Sundubu Jjigae)

순두부지개
We often say that the simple rustic food of a country is the very best, and this is another piece of evidence to support that argument. The ingredients and preparation for this stew are very simple, but the resulting soup is complex and delicious, spicy and rich.

I think people in western cultures often view tofu as something that you would only eat if you’re trying to avoid meat (that is, it’s a compromise if you need protein but don’t want meat – not something you would just eat because you enjoy it), but having it in a setting like this might completely change your mind, as the texture is perfect, and it soaks up all the flavor from the broth and becomes an integral part of the soup along with the ground pork.

As always, adjust amounts of things according to your taste and how you want the soup to be. The amounts we’re posting here are mostly approximate anyway, as we never measure anything.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 2 cups kimchi
  • 4-6 cups dashi or anchovy (like dashi but made with dried anchovies instead of katsuobushi) broth
  • 6-10 shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and halved (optional)
  • 1-2 tubes/blocks of the softest tofu you can find.
  • 1-2 eggs (optional)
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
  • 고추가루 (Dried red chili flakes)
  • 고추장 (Spicy red chili paste)
  • 된장 (Fermented bean paste) or miso paste.
  • Rice vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Sesame oil
  • Brown sugar

Directions

  1. In a medium to large pot, cook the ground pork in a little bit of sesame oil until nearly done, breaking it into crumbles as it cooks. Add some salt, pepper, and red chili flakes as it is cooking.
  2. Add in the garlic and ginger, and cook for about a minute until everything starts smelling really good.
  3. Add the kimchi, and cook just long enough to warm it up.
  4. Add the broth, some rice vinegar, brown sugar, and mushrooms and bring up to a simmer.
  5. Add some chili paste, chili flakes, bean paste, salt and black pepper to taste.
  6. Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly to a high simmer and let cook, covered, for about 15-20 minutes
  7. Finally, add the tofu in on top of the pot and break it apart into large pieces. If your tofu is really soft it should just naturally break apart in the broth. Let the tofu simmer in the broth for another 10 minutes or so.
  8. Optionally, bring the soup back up to a rolling boil and crack an egg or two right into the stew.
  9. Dish up in bowls, and garnish with a little drizzle of sesame oil and a light sprinkle of chili flakes.

Enjoyment of Food

One of the biggest reasons that we cook is for enjoyment. Not only enjoyment of eating the end result, but enjoyment of the process, the smells, the interaction with each other, and the anticipation. One of the best ways to enjoy food is as a social event, and we had a chance to remind ourselves of that last night, making Kimuchi Nabe with our friend Rosalind. We just got this beautiful clay donabe this week, for making Japanese Hot Pot (or nabe), Shabu Shabu and Sukiyaki.

Donabe

In honor of the event, we also got a little gas burner, and decided to have Rosalind over, as we knew she was a big fan of hot pot. We’ve made this basic recipe a number of times in our large Le Creuset cast iron pot, but this was our first time trying it in the donabe. We prepared all the food in the kitchen, grouped it all on plates, and then headed out to the table with it.

Kimuchi Nabe Kimuchi Nabe

We used fried tofu, oyster, enoki and shiitake mushrooms, green onion, our homemade kimchi, and thin sliced pork. The broth was 4 cups of dashi stock, 1 cup sake, 2 tablespoons shiro miso paste, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil.

The hot pot turned out deliciously cooked in the donabe, probably the best one we’ve made yet. But the real best part about doing it this way was the process. Prepare to just relax and enjoy.

First, just put the broth in the pot, and let it get nice and hot, so it is just barely simmering, not really bubbling. Sit and chat, drink some beer, and notice the broth becoming fragrant.

Kimuchi Nabe

Toss in the green onion and the kimchi, let it sit for a few minutes, and then taste it to make sure there is the right amount of spice.

Kimuchi Nabe

We ended up adding probably 1/2 lb or so of our own kimchi. Results will vary depending on how spicy the kimchi you have is, and how spicy you like things.

Kimuchi Nabe

Let that simmer for a little bit, drink some more beer, and note how the smell changes. By the time you are done with this dish, your whole house will smell like delicious food. Next, stick some of the thinly sliced pork into the hot broth – if it is thin enough, it will cook almost immediately. Pile tofu and mushrooms on top, and then put the lid on and let it steam for a while.

Kimuchi Nabe Kimuchi Nabe

Once the mushrooms are soft, everyone dishes up into their bowl – mostly the solid items, leaving most of the broth in the pot.

Kimuchi Nabe

Add the rest of the pork, mushrooms and tofu on top of the pot, put the lid on, and again let it simmer while you’re eating what you just removed from the pot.

Kimuchi Nabe 

You will notice the smells continue to change, and we noticed that the second batch of things we pulled out of the pot tasted notably different than the first – the flavors continue to develop, to deepen, and to even get better than they were the first time.

Finally, finish the broth with some delicious noodles, or dried, baked mochi squares, which puff up and get crunchy in the oven. All that delicious, rich broth gives so much flavor to the noodles or mochi, and it’s the perfect way to finish off the meal.

Japanese Hot Pot

So, give it a try. Make your meals a chance to spend time with people you enjoy. Cook with them, chat with them, and enjoy the entire process. Share the whole experience of preparing, cooking, and eating something really delicious. I can hardly imagine that you will regret it.

Japanese Hot Pot

We just checked out the book Japanese Hot Pots by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat from the library, and today we decided on a whim to stop by the Japanese market after I left work and get some food to try one. We didn’t follow a single specific recipe from the book, but combined elements of a few based on ingredients we had on hand and what sounded good, but we primarily based it on the Kimichi & Pork Hot Pot recipe. It turned out absolutely delicious, was a very filling meal, and we have leftovers, and plenty of ingredients to make it once or twice more. Here is the approximate recipe we used, which should make enough for 3-4 people.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups Dashi Stock
  • 2 tablespoons shiro miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/2 lb (225 grams) very thinly sliced pork
  • 1 lb napa cabbage kimchi
  • About 1/2 lb (225 grams) age tofu, cut into 6 pieces
  • Shiitake, oyster, and enoki mushrooms
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 bunch of mizuna, chopped into large pieces
  • 1 large or 2 smaller cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 package fresh ramen noodles per person

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the dashi stock, soy sauce, mirin and miso paste. Whisk together so the miso paste dissolves in the liquid.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, heat up the sesame oil, and cook the thinly sliced pork until nearly done.
  3. Add the kimchi and it’s liquid and the garlic, and cook until garlic softens.
  4. Add the stock mixture.
  5. Increase heat and bring the pot to a boil.
  6. Decrease the heat to medium, cover the pot and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. Randomly pile the tofu, mushrooms, green onions, and mizuna on top of the other ingredients, cover pot, and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  8. Ladle out the ingredients into small bowls, and cover with broth. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top as a garnish.
  9. Once you finish eating the ingredients in the broth, pour broth back into a pot, heat up to a simmer, and cook the ramen noodles in the broth. Divide the noodles between bowls, and then ladle the broth over them.

Japanese Hot Pot

Japanese Hot Pot

Japanese Hot Pot

More Japanese Hot Pot

More Japanese Hot Pot

More Japanese Hot Pot

Japanese Hot Pot

Japanese Hot Pot

Japanese Hot Pot