If you watched hit K-drama Itaewon Class, you will instantly recognize sundubu jigae, a Korean stew with tofu and kimchi, served at hero Park Seroyi’s restaurant-bar. A one-pot dish where you literally chuck everything in, it may not be the most photogenic dish. But it’s really delicious – and has become a firm favourite of mine and hubby’s.
Now the thing is, the first few times I made this kimchi tofu stew, it was tasty, but not life-changing or anything. Then one day, I stumbled upon a tip in a Korean recipe blog.
The recipe writer used a technique similar to what we in Malaysia call “tumis”. Meaning you saute the pounded rempah (spices) and aromatics to bring out their flavour. If you make curries and rendangs, you’ll be familiar with this technique. I was curious, how would this affect a Korean dish?
Oh. Em. Gee.
I couldn’t believe the difference that One Little Hack made. The savouriness, the saltiness, the sweet smoky spiciness … everything just got amped up 100x. This is what you call umami bomb, folks. Hubby and I drank every drop of the soup (and he doesn’t really like soup).
Now now before you read the recipe, I do need to point out that this is not authentic Korean: I replace gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes) with the more easily available smoked paprika; I use the Western version of anchovy fillets instead of the dried ones; etc etc. The flavour profile probably caters more to the Malaysian palate, but I’m pretty sure even Park Saeroyi would approve this kimchi tofu stew, haha!
Kimchi Tofu Stew
- Covered pot
- 2 Italian-style soft anchovy fillets (See Recipe Notes 1)
- 3 tbsp chopped kimchi (reserve juice)
- 1/4 cup chopped cabbage
- 1/4 yellow onion, chopped
- 1/3 can flaky tuna
- 1/2 block white soft tofu
- Fish sauce and kimchi juice to taste
- 1 tbsp gochujang
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp chopped garlic
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp oyster sauce
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp pepper powder
- 1-2 tbsp oil
- In a small bowl, mix together saute-ing ingredients except oil into a paste. Heat up oil in a pot and saute paste until fragrant. Use half the mixture, reserve the other for future use.
- Into the same pot, add anchovies, followed by chopped kimchi. Saute the kimchi briefly; this causes the kimchi to caramelize slightly and intensifies the umami flavour.
- Add in the rest of the ingredients and enough water to cover. Boil over low heat for about 20-30 minutes to enable flavours to fully develop.
- Adjust seasoning with fish sauce and kimchi juice according to your personal preference. Serve with hot white rice or noodles.
- The traditional ingredient is of course dried anchovies, which you boil in water to create stock. But but I happened to have a small container of these Italian-style soft anchovy fillets. I saw another two bloggers using it so thought, why not? Purists may frown but this is a great short cut as you don't have to boil dried anchovies for a long time to extract the flavour.
- This is meant to be a versatile dish, so feel free to add other kinds of vegetables and proteins. I sometimes crack an egg, add cabbage for bulk, or throw in enoki mushrooms, which absorbs the flavours like a sponge.
For more Korean-cooking inspired dishes, check out my kimchi fried rice!