I like to eat, and because of that, I also like to cook. I've never written down any of what I make (I freestyle my cooking quite heavily), but this time is an exception. After giving the recipe, I will talk a little bit about it, how you can vary it to suit you, and also what it means to me. You know, the stuff that most food blogs put first that you have to scroll past. This may become a series, and if it does, I already have a series name: Delicious Things.
This recipe is definitely spicy - feel free to adjust the ingredients to suit. It is also based on a Korean dish called kimchi-jjigae; no cultural appropriation is intended by my posting of this. It also takes a while and may cost a decent amount, depending on where you live and how easy it is to get a hold of some of the ingredients. I have tested these specific amounts, but I nearly always vary them slightly; feel free to do the same. The measurements of how large each component needs to be are close, but inexact (that is, don't feel like you need to use a ruler).
This recipe takes about 1 hour to make, excluding chopping time. This recipe is suitable for pescatarians, but if you don't eat fish or seafood, kimchi may pose a problem. There are vegetarian and even vegan-friendly kimchi out there, but you might have to search for them. The recipe is gluten-free.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 400g napa cabbage kimchi
- 550g firm tofu
- 2 onions (red, yellow or white, doesn't matter)
- 5 cloves of garlic (use more if they're small)
- 200g mushrooms
- 1 tbsp gochujang (or more if you like it spicy)
- 1 tsp red chili powder (or more if you like it spicy)
- 500ml vegetable stock
- 500ml water
- 400g leafy greens (I like bok choi, but anything green and leafy will do)
- One or two green onions (optional)
Peel and cut the onions in half, then into 5mm slices. Crush the garlic cloves with the flat of your knife against your work surface, then remove their skins and chop into 2.5mm slices. Dice the tofu into 2cm dice. If your leafy greens have hard stems (like bok choi does), separate the 'leafy' part from those stems and set aside. Cut everything else (including leafy green stems) into 1cm slices (although the kimchi can be cut a bit bigger if you like).
- Put a pot capable of holding 2-2.5 litres on medium heat, and add the oil. Wait for it to come up to temperature (this can take several minutes if you're not on gas).
- Add the sliced onions, along with a decent pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the onions start to soften and change colour. Watch for the formation of a fond; if you're starting to see that, then it's a sign you're close.
- Add the sliced mushrooms, along with another pinch of salt. Cook for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the mushrooms no longer 'squeak' when you stir them. The fond from the previous step should start to 'lift' at first; when it starts coming back, you're close.
- Add the cut kimchi. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes. Your goal isn't to brown the kimchi, but just 'wake it up' a bit. This should lift any fond from the previous step, especially if you add it with the juice.
- Add the crushed and chopped garlic, chili powder and gochujang. Mix everything well so that everything is coated. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Again, the goal here isn't to brown anything, but to 'wake up' all the spices.
- Add all the liquid, along with the leafy green stems, and mix. Add the tofu cubes, and stir gently (you don't want to break them). Raise the heat to high and wait for it to come to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and let cook for 25 minutes. Check on it occasionally - you want a gentle simmer, not a rolling boil. Feel free to stir it a few times during this process (but I just set a timer and go).
- Cut up the leafy parts of the greens into 2-3cm slices, and add them to the pot. Put the lid back on, and let cook for another 5 minutes or until the leaves soften.
- If using the green onions, cut them into 1cm slices and add to the pot. Gently stir everything one more time, taking care not to break the tofu.
You can serve this on top of rice, or with some noodles (made separately). I find that I don't really need any side dishes to go with it, but some folks like some salad. If you're eating this with noodles, I recommend first eating all the tofu, as it'll let you mix the noodles up with the other ingredients and let them absorb all the flavours in the liquid.
This will serve at least three people, more likely four. It'll keep in the fridge for at least 2 days after it's made, and will probably become better if you do.
Making this your own
There is really almost no limit to what you can add to this recipe. If you like particular vegetables (especially green ones), they are particularly good. I have used carrots in this recipe before, which turned out great. If you eat meat, you can use chicken or even beef stock instead of vegetable stock, and add some pork or bacon to the recipe. I've added shrimp to this before as well with good results.
About this dish
I went pescatarian many years ago, and kimchi-jjigae was a favourite of mine since long before. Obviously the kimchi posed no problem, but traditionally, kimchi-jjigae contains meat. I'm also a big fan of tofu, and I particularly like the combination of kimchi with tofu. Thus, this recipe is my attempt at creating something similar which I can enjoy. It also happens to be quite healthy, or at least, I'd like to think so.
This is also good if you have a cold, hay fever, or pretty much anything amiss with your sinuses; the combination of garlic and spices will quickly clear anything, or at least give you some relief. This is another reason why I regularly make this stew (as I have hay fever and a lot of other allergies besides).
Hope that you enjoyed this unusual post. I may put up more recipes in the future, as I have quite a few others that I make regularly. Think hard, have fun, and eat.