Everyone loves hot Korean Soft Tofu Soup, aka Soonubu Jigae, but do you love making it at home? What exactly is in that bubbling black cauldron its served in at restaurants?
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2 Key Ingredients for Korean Soft Tofu soup
Whether you add vegetables, beef, or seafood, you must have these two ingredients. The remaining ingredients are interchangeable to suit your omnivore taste.
1. Soft Tofu
This is different than silken tofu that comes in a plastic carton. This tofu is specific to this soup and comes in a squeezable plastic tube.
The texture is much softer and creamier than silken tofu in a carton. It breaks up into small curds without disintegrating and gives Korean soft tofu soup its characteristic creamy texture.
This comes in coarse and powder form. Either will work, though some will say that coarse chili flakes have better flavor.
This also must be frozen if you do not use it within a month or two, or else the color will oxidize and turn brown.
Should you use Gochujang Red Pepper paste?
Some online recipes use gochujang, or a korean red pepper paste, to obtain the red color and flavor. In addition to Korean red chili flakes, it has rice flour, fermented soybean powder, and salt.
However, I did not see this ingredient in any of the traditional Korean cookbooks I studied. Instead, they used the chili flakes, so this recipe does too.
3 ways get flavor into Vegan Korean Soft Tofu Soup
Since there is no meat or seafood to pump this bad boy up, take these 3 vegan precautions:
- Combination of enoki mushrooms and oyster mushrooms for their silky texture that match the silky soft tofu
- Mushroom seasoning – a non-MSG substitute for umami boost
- Vegetable stock for extra flavor and kombu for sea flavor
The mini black pot problem
You don’t have the mini black cauldron Korean soft tofu soup usually served in because…
1) You’re not Korean and don’t keep such ceramics in your household
2) You’re not a witch.
The mini black cauldron keeps it the bubbly boil going, so it’s hot enough to cook a raw egg and remain warm enough until you finish the soup.
Since there is no egg in this vegan version, a simple pot will work that can be spooned into a soup bowl to serve.
How to Make Vegan Korean Soft Tofu Soup
Step 1: Bloom the kombu
Pour boiling vegetable stock over the kombu seaweed. Set aside for a few minutes for the kombu to rehydrate.
This gives the tofu soup a little sea flavor, since no seafood is being added.
Step 2: Saute Korean Chili Flakes
This step is like paying your bills online. Some do and some don’t.
I prefer doing this to bloom the chili flakes and get them all toasty and warm. They need a bit of coaxing and cajoling (ie stirring) to release all their red dye potential.
Other recipes will just sprinkle it in with everything else and that does work too. It just takes a few minutes to get all the red color of those chili flakes, so I stir it with the oil and green onion (white part only) in the beginning instead.
Step 3: Saute mushrooms
Add oyster mushrooms to party. Stir them in a little bit to get a teeny bit of caramelization to deepen their flavor before the addition of liquid.
Oyster mushrooms are much softer and silkier than button mushrooms. Use those if you can’t find oyster mushrooms.
It feels like mushrooms are often the default vegan meat alternative, doesn’t it? This recipe is no different, apologetically or not, but oysters mushrooms do match the texture of silky tofu quite well.
Step 3: Add liquid and tofu
Add the vegetable/kombu stock, squeeze the tofu out of the tube, and bring to a boil.
This is single serving, so it shouldn’t take long. It should just be enough time to pull the cork off that weeknight bottle of wine, pour, and sip.
Step 4: Add enoki mushrooms & green onion
Add enoki mushrooms at the end because they don’t take too long to cook. It takes just 30 seconds or so to go from raw to cooked. (Why can’t more vegetables be like that?)
How will you know? They go from stiff and standing straight up to limp and parabolic, which in this situation is desirable.
Default alternative cooking method:
If you can’t be bothered with all the above steps, you can just dump everything in a pot, bring to a boil, and eat. It will taste similar put perhaps feel medieval.
Serve this vegan creaminess boiling hot
We could all use something hot and creamy in our lives, and this one happens to be vegan too. Please, please like or share if you enjoyed this post.
Vegan Korean Tofu Soup Recipe
- 1 c vegetable stock
- 1 square kombu 2x2" square
- 1 tsp neutral cooking oil
- 1 package Korean soft tofu
- 1 tsp Korean red chili flakes
- 1 ea chopped green onion green and white parts separated
- 1/2 tsp mushroom seasoning
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 4 ea oyster mushrooms
- 1/4 package enoki mushrooms
- Heat vegetable stock to a boil. Pour over kombu and set aside to allow the kombu to rehydrate for about 5 minutes. Slice the kombu for garnish if desired.
- Heat saucepan over medium heat. Add oil, Korean chili flakes, and white part of the green onion. Stir for about 30 seconds to allow the onion to cook and chili flakes to bloom. Add the oyster mushrooms and stir for 30 seconds longer.
- Add the vegetable/kombu stock, tofu, mushroom seasoning to the pot. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 3-4 minutes until tofu is heated through. Stir to break up the tofu.
- Add enoki mushrooms and sliced kombu on top, and simmer for another 30 seconds to a minute until enoki mushrooms are heated through. Garnish with remaining chopped green onion.
Normally, I don’t advocate drinking wine with soup. It’s too much liquid to swallow.
However, since I did say that you should open a bottle while waiting for the darn thing to boil, which bottle should you open?
Going to recommend white wine. It is cold and will contrast with this hot and spicy stew. You could go with the default pairing with Asian food,
But a palate whetting albarino or sauvignon blanc would be nice. Or even a chablis or unoaked chardonnay.
A cool, white wine could just be the prelude you need to that hot, spicy kiss (aka tofu soup) you’ve been waiting for all night.
Published on 2/1/19.