With an everlasting supply of kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage) in the fridge thanks to my girlfriend’s parents, we rarely go hungry throughout the day since kimchi can be incorporated into practically any dish imaginable (for better or for worse). So the other day, I decided to use up some of the ripened kimchi to make dubu kimchi. This is by far one of my favorite dishes to make because it’s easy, quick, healthy, and seriously addicting when made the right way. Also, this is a popular dish often eaten as anju, food paired with copious (?) amounts of maekju (beer), soju (Korea’s version of vodka), and makgeolli (fermented rice wine). I, too, love this dish as an anju but rarely order this at restaurants since it’s cheaper than cheap to make at home (the net cost of this dish is less than $2 bucks). Anyways, this is my simplified version using basic ingredients found at home. Although we went meatless for this recipe, the final result was still a perfect combination of textures from the soft, slightly crunchy kimchi and the always-so-soft tofu pieces. For meat-lovers, you can add any protein you like, but pork and kimchi are the most common teammates in Korean cooking. Last but not least, make sure to use old, pungent, fully-ripened, funky-smelling kimchi for this dish as it develops complex, deep flavors during the cooking stage. 🙂
Updated: Bad news for true vegetarians, traditional Napa cabbage kimchi does contain salted shrimp and/or fish sauce. I’ve made successful batches without those two ingredients, but this particular batch of kimchi does contain those two ingredients. As for reason why they’re important, the role of those fermented seafood products is to add taste and a good amount of glutamic acid. That’s the chemical which gives our mouths the sensation of savoriness or umami and part of what makes kimchi taste so deep and complex. So, if you’re a pescetarian—or one who consumes fish and some seafood items—eat your heart out and enjoy. 🙂
“You’re thinking I’m one of those wise-ass California vegetarians who is going to tell you that eating a few strips of bacon is bad for your health. I’m not. I say its a free country and you should be able to kill yourself at any rate you choose, as long as your cold dead body is not blocking my driveway.” ~ Scott Adams
- 1 block firm tofu
- 2 cups ripened kimchi, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 tbsp kimchi liquid (if available)
- 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 2 tbsp gochugaru (red pepper flakes)
- 1 tsp gochujang (red pepper paste)
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sugar (or mulyeot, corn syrup)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp crushed toasted sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt to taste
- 1 lb. pork belly or choice (optional)
- Optional: Boil the whole tofu block for a few minutes, remove and let rest a few minutes before cutting into smaller pieces.
- For pan-fried tofu with a crisp exterior, first remove excess water by placing a bowl on top, 10 minutes. When most of the water is removed, slice into into desired pieces.
- In a frying pan, add a generous amount of olive oil and set at medium heat. Pan-fry the tofu pieces until well-browned on both sides, approx. 4 minutes each. Remove to a dish lined with paper towels to remove excess oil.
- Cut kimchi into manageable pieces and add them to the same frying pan with all remaining ingredients. Cook until the kimchi becomes soft and make sure to sample the sauce, adjust accordingly. If the kimchi becomes “dry” during this process, add more water or olive oil to the mixture. This step should take about 10~15 minutes at most.
- Plate the kimchi on a serving platter along with fried tofu pieces. Enjoy!
Note to readers: All recipes, or more specifically seasoning and spice measurements, contained in MYKOREANEATS are approximations. Growing up in an old-school Korean kitchen where everything was measured by hand, there was a strict but important rule called “son-maat” (손맛), literally meaning “taste from one’s hand.” My mom would swear by this and always cooked all the dishes using her raw cooking instincts to provide comfort food at its best. This concept of “son-maat” is pretty important in Korean cooking, so I’ve always wanted to keep that tradition alive even with the blog. Another aspect that I love about “son-maat” is the idea of putting one’s signature or stamp on a dish. What makes your food taste like yours, not like anyone else’s, is literally and figuratively the “taste of one’s hands.” As a side note, most Korean dishes like stews, stir fries, and banchan (side dishes) are cooked to taste, meaning that the addition of extra spices is, more often than not, added during the cooking process itself. In that sense, don’t fuss and worry about exact measurements, but rather focus on developing your own “son-maat.”