Whenever you go to a Korean restaurant, there will be a section of the menu that’s devoted to hot pots or “jeongols.” They are cooked at the table and are designed to be shared by the table. I always loved getting budae jeongol (a large budae chigae) with my family or friends, so that I could have a bowl of stew with my rice and whatever “entree” I ordered. While most jeongols are “meat-centric,” I wanted to make something that was tofu forward, because I love silken tofu so much. I also had a jar of leftover kimchi that was just aching to be used, so I thought I’d revisit my epic kimchi-soondooboo mashup and make it jeongol style.
Think of this recipe as a mix between soondooboo and kimchi and budae chigae. You start out by infusing the oils (I used both olive oil and sesame oil) with some aromatics: onions, scallions, garlic, and gochugaru. Remember, watch the gochugaru so it doesn’t burn. If the gochugaru starts to turn brown, you will have a brown and bitter stew.
I add a healthy amount of kimchi. Now, for non-vegan kimchi, I always had to wait until the kimchi was super stinky. The thing is, vegan kimchi doesn’t really get that stinky (thanks to the elimination of fish sauce). So, in lieu of using smell as my guide for when kimchi is good for stewing, I just let the kimchi sit in my fridge for at least a week before adding it to my soup.
The other thing I like to add to my kimchi chigae (or stew) is gochujang. Some people don’t add any gochujang to their kimchi chigae, but I find that it adds a lovely deep smokiness and a hint of sweetness to my kimchi chigae. The thing with any stew, of course, is about developing layers of flavor. That’s why we start out with the aromatics, add the kimchi, and then hit it all with some gochujang–fermented soybean chili paste.
To ensure the broth is velvety and lovely, I like to use a good vegetable broth. If I don’t have any of my own on hand, I’ll just store bought. If you don’t have broth, you can, of course, use water. But, in my opinion, using a vegetable broth (one that you like) makes a humongous difference in flavor and consistency.
Finally, add the silken tofu. I always get asked “what are those white jiggly things?” when I make soondoboo chigae. “Soondooboo” means silken tofu (“dooboo” literally means tofu). Silken tofu tastes a lot like plain yogurt, only a little bit firmer and no real sourness. It’s a very bland flavor, but has the ability to take on the flavors around it. A lot of folks use silken tofu for their smoothies or as an egg replacer, but I’ve always just enjoyed the taste and texture of silken tofu, without using it as a stand-in for something else.
After adding the silken tofu, you get to have some fun! I took inventory of my freezer and fridge and picked a few things I wanted to add–ricecakes (the kind you use for tteokbokki), some dumplings, and some fresh noodles (the ones I didn’t use when I accidentally made tofu fettuccini). I grabbed a handful of fresh enoki mushrooms that I only just started falling in love with, before heading back to my pot. I also had a bag of frozen corn that I almost dumped into the stew, but decided I didn’t want to go overboard (literally–didn’t want to have my stew spilling over the edge!).
And then you just bring everything to a boil and let it do it’s thing for a few minutes, until the noodles are cooked, the ricecakes are soft, and the dumplings are not longer frozen.
Here are a few quick tips:
- Keep an eye on your gochugaru, to make sure it doesn’t burn. Your stew should be a bright orange color–not brown. If it’s brown, that means you burned the gochugaru in the beginning, which will make it bitter.
- Make sure to reserve some kimchi juice to add to the stew for extra kimchi flavor.
- Use vegetable broth (homemade or store bought) in favor of water, for a richer and more dynamic flavor.
- Use both gochujang and soy sauce to build multiple layers of flavor.
- Do not overcook the stew–once the noodles and rice cakes are fully cooked, start eating. Otherwise, the kichi will become soggy and not fun. 🙁
- Make this recipe gluten free by using gluten free soy sauce and gluten free gochujang.
Kimchi Soondooboo Jeongol
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1/4 cup julienned onion
- 4 scallions, chopped
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 tbsp gochugaru use less if too spicy
- 1 cup vegan kimchi
- 1 1/2 tbsp gochujang
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 cup chopped zucchini
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tbsp kimchi juice liquid in kimchi jar
- 1 container silken tofu
- 1/2 cup ricecakes
- 4 to 5 frozen dumplings
- 4 ounces fresh noodles can sub in ramen noodles
- 3 handfuls enoki mushrooms
- 1 tbsp chopped scallion greens
- Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and sesame oil in a large pan over medium high heat.
- Add onions, scallions, and garlic and sautee until they become translucent, about 3 minutes. Add gochugaru and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add kimchi, zucchini, and gochujang, and stir until vegetables are evenly coated with sauce. Add soy sauce and vegetable broth, together with kimchi juice.
- Spoon the silken tofu into the broth in chunks.
- Add the ricecakes, dumplings, noodles, and enoki mushrooms. Bring the soup up to a boil and continue cooking at a gentle boil until the ricecakes are soft and the noodles are cooked.
- Garnish with scallion greens before serving.