Before meeting Jen, I don’t know if I ever tried Korean food before. It’s unlike any other Asian food and now I eat it all the time. We have a few favorite dishes that can easily be ordered or prepared gluten-free and vegan and I’ve been working on perfecting my recipe for the spicy Korean soup known as soon dubu jigae.
To start, you have to make the paste. This is stirred into the boiling water and creates the spiciness and color that this soup is known for. The paste is a blend of Korean chili flakes (gochugaru) and wheat-free tamari, garlic, sesame oil, and a little salt. This paste is best made a few days in advance of the soup, letting all the flavors deepen over time. I make a double batch so I have extra on-hand for when Jen asks for more soup. Which she does.
Meanwhile, I wash and prep all the vegetables, cutting them into tiny cubes and tiny pieces. Zucchini, onion, carrots, mushrooms, green onions, and a small jalapeno pepper. The paste has its own heat so I am very careful to not add the seeds from the jalapeno (or, if I am feeling spicy … I will add 2-3 seeds).
While chopping all the vegetables, I bring a medium pot of water, with a 3-inch piece of wakame, to boil . This sea vegetable adds a ton of nutrients to the soup and also adds a slight “fish” flavor, which the vegan version of this soup is missing. In traditional Korean cooking, the water is actually more of a fish stock so this is a great way to work around that.
Once the water comes to a boil, I lower the heat and take out the wakame to chop it up into very tiny pieces (and then put it back into the simmering water). Stir 2-3 tablespoons of the paste until it dissolves and then add all the chopped vegetables. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, until vegetables are crunchy soft, and then add one brick of silken organic tofu and stir (ideally, you would use silken tofu in a tube but this isn’t as available to us as the standard brick).
Traditionally, this soup is served with a side of white rice that you introduce into the soup a spoonful at a time. Spoonful of rice, dipped into the soup, carefully navigated into your mouth. Boom. You’re eating Korean.