In general, I don’t cook Korean very often. I have a tendency to be drawn towards rustic Italian dishes or interesting ingredients like quinoa and wheat berry. These foods feel more exotic to me so many times I skip the Korean and cook up something I’ve never eaten before. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but I do think it’s a bit sad that I barely know how to cook what I call my comfort food.
To redeem myself a little bit, there is one Korean dish I know well and have almost mastered. It is a browned tofu in a spicy soy sauce. In Korean it’s called tubu chorim, 두부조림, which roughly translates to tofu boiled in sauce. It’s very easy and fast. It does require a couple of Asian condiments like soy sauce and sesame oil, but if you don’t have those in your pantry I highly encourage you to get them. Soy sauce is well known, but sesame oil may not be. It is a vegetable oil made from sesame seeds that is intensely fragrant and used in many Asian dishes.
I made this for dinner tonight. While I was cooking I got so caught up in the conversation I was having with my sister, Michelle, that I totally forgot to add the soup stock in the sauce. It turned out a little redder and not as soft as usual, but it was tasty none the less.
Browned Tofu In Spicy Soy Sauce
Adapted from A Korean Mother’s Cooking Notes
Serves 2-3 as a Main Dish
1 pack firm tofu, drained
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil for frying
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper powder*
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
3 stalks green onion, chopped
3 tablespoons soup stock**
Cut the tofu in 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick rectangles. Season with salt and set aside.
To make the sauce, combine soy sauce, sugar, red pepper powder, sesame oil, garlic, green onions, and soup stock together. Pour into a wide pot and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer.
Heat a non-stick skillet with vegetable oil and cook tofu until light golden in color. Flip and brown the other side. When the tofu is ready transfer them to the sauce pot and cook for 1 minute or until the sauce has reduced to half. Flip the tofu and cook until all the sauce has been absorbed.
Serve with rice.
*I used a Korean red pepper powder, but red chili flakes can be substituted.
**I normally use chicken stock, but vegetable stock can be used to make the dish completely vegetarian.