Spicy Tofu Stew (순두부찌개)

Gochugaru Girl has been thinking about making 순두부찌개 (sundubu jiggae) at home since trying it in Korea. IMG_0500 (2) Our Korean friends think it’s funny how we have taken to this dish.

When I sent them a picture of us having the 순두부 lunch in Suwon, they had a laugh, because it is such an everyday dish:

Sundubu is a bit like fish and chips to English people.

I think sundubu is better. Fish and chips is basically fish and chips. How many ways can you have it? The only variation is usually between choosing between cod and haddock.

June, my partner in crime in all things culinary, recently sent me a picture of the menu from a 순두부집 (tofu house or restaurant) in America. From what I can see, the base is always the same – the tofu stew, to which they add other ingredients to make up to a dozen different dishes.

Amongst the additions are beef, pork, chicken, ham, frankfurter, kimchi, dumpling, dried seaweed, broccoli, cauliflower, mushroom, onion, potato, carrot, octopus, oyster, clam and shrimp. It appears that you can more or less choose what you want in the stew.


Frankfurters in your tofu stew?



I am not sure how authentically Korean this menu is, but perhaps in a land as big as America, it is necessary to be all things to all men.

When I showed the menu to Junior Two, who spent six months in Korea, she said she would just use leek, courgette, egg and tofu, as the stew is meant to be soft and soothing.

Making the stew is child’s play, and is possibly even easier than making instant noodles. The first time I made it, I used a ready prepared stew base, to which I simply added 200 ml water and the ingredients. Since this is only available from the very big Korean supermarkets in New Malden, Korea Foods Mart or H Mart, I had to learn how to make my own spice paste for the base.

All you need then is water, stock powder, some chopped vegetables, tofu, egg and any additional ingredients that you feel like eating that day.

A word about the stock powder: I used an instant one and you can either use one based on clams or on anchovies. You can also use dried anchovies which are in teabags – just boil the teabag in some water and use the stock as the base for this stew.

If you are vegetarian, it is possible to use vegetable, seaweed or mushroom stock powder. You would also need to substitute soya sauce for the fish sauce in the spice paste.

As for the tofu, it is traditional to use very soft/ silken tofu. I have used a slightly firmer one when making it today as this is what I had in the fridge. I also added dumplings, from the freezer.

So I guess the menu from that tofu restaurant in America is very realistic as to what normal people have around the house, and which can be put to good use in a hearty dish such as this.


Clam stock powder



Anchovy stock powder



I have given the ingredients for one person, which is easy to scale up. The reason is this: since 순두부찌개 is so simple to make, it is ideal of you are alone and need something comforting.

Although this is a perfect dish for cold winter days, it is also good in summer as the spiciness of the stew would revive your appetite in very hot weather.


For one generous serving of Tofu Stew:

½ tablespoon sunflower oil

2 tablespoons Korean Spice Paste

500 ml water

1½  teaspoons stock powder

100 g courgettes, cubed

100 g leeks, sliced

100 g meat, sliced thinly or 100 g seafood/ dumplings

(if you are vegetarian, substitute with 100 g vegetables/ vegetarian dumplings instead)

200 g soft tofu

1 egg

½ teaspoon sesame oil

½ green chilli, sliced


 Dried anchovies in a teabag for making stock20140825_184444426_iOS


How to Make:

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan (like Le Crueset) and add the meat. If you are using seafood or dumplings, add this later.

Fry the meat for 2 – 3 minutes until browned.

Add in the water and stock powder. Alternatively if you have made a soup base from the anchovy teabag, use 500ml of this.

Stir once or twice then add in the spice paste, courgettes and leeks (if you are vegetarian, add the extra 100 g vegetables now). Cook for 10 minutes.

Now add the tofu and seafood or dumplings, if using, and cook a further 5 minutes.

Add in the egg and sesame oil and cook for a final 3 – 5 minutes.

Garnish with the green chilli.

Traditionally the stew is brought to the table boiling hot in its pot, and is served with steamed rice. If you are dining alone, I suggest using ready- cooked rice, and I will write about this in a later post.