Korean food is not for everyone. It takes a certain palate to appreciate Korean food, because they love their meats sweet instead of savoury, appetizers cold instead of hot and flavours predominantly sour and pungent. For non-Koreans, Soondubu Jjigae, or beancurd stew, is probably the least polarizing Korean dish. Its simple, straightforward, hot and spicy flavours are what makes it very popular amongst non-Koreans. For a long time, this was one of the only 2 dishes that I'd eat during our annual "pilgrimage" to the Hubs' motherland, while the Hubs is happily wolfing down his year's quota of Korean food.
Soondubu Jjigae is super easy to make, and there are a ton of variations for you to change up, once you've got the base recipe down pat. You start off with the yangnyum, the Korean version of our nonya or Malay rempah. That forms the base flavour for the stew, that you add water or stock to, and then load it up with any protein and vegetables you'd like, apart from its namesake tofu. This is the seafood version with prawns and clams, and I've set out at the end, the variants of this seafood version.
Ingredients (serves 2):
1 block smooth tofu
1 bunch enoki mushrooms
4 tiger prawns, deveined but with heads on for full-on flavour
1 cup water, or half a cup anchovy or chicken stock mixed with half a cup water
Yangnyum (mix in a bowl):
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 and a half tbsp gochugaru (Korean red chilli powder/flakes)
1 tsp light soy
Dash of fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp mirin or sake
1 tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1) Fry the whole lot of yangnyum at low heat with 1 tbsp of frying oil for a minute until fragrant.
2) The paste should look and smell all toasty like this.
3) Add 1 cup water. OR half a cup stock together with half a cup water.
4) When soup starts bubbling, dump in the ingredients, starting with the prawns;
5) Then the tofu;
6) Followed by the enoki;
7) And lastly, the clams.
8) When the clams all open up, the stew is ready to serve.
Vegetarian: load it up with assorted mushrooms and a bunch of clear vermicelli
Meat: use chicken fillet and/or pork belly, with mushrooms and glass vermicelli, like I did below: