Posted by: ThePseudotarian | July 21, 2010

Cravings, beaches and sundubu jjigae

picture courtesy of Matthew …

We just got back from Ocracoke Island after a week of wonderful, glorious vacation. Which, of course, would be why I haven’t posted a single thing. Sorry!

Have you been down to Ocracoke? It’s one of the most wonderful places I’ve been. Last year, only a few months after Matt and I started dating, his family invited me down to Hatteras with them – just a ferry’s ride away from the island. I left work after a grueling week and drove down there for the weekend. I finally got on the road around 7, and made it to the house by midnight. The sky was lit with millions of stars and the only thing rustling the air was the gentle rocking of boats at their moors. Matt met me at the front steps and took me to the back of the house and I looked over the sound. I have never been so grateful to be in one single place.

This year was no different. We had an amazing week full of beach and sand, hot tubs, ocean waves and shells. We laid on the dock of the sound and watched a thunderstorm cross the water, lightning skipping on the waves. We spent nights in the crows nest on top of the house looking out across the water until the curve of the earth took our sight away. And remember that post I made about mimosas? Well, we brought an entire case of champagne with us. It’s hard to beat a bottle of champagne shared between two in a hot tub.

But I didn’t get to cook much while we were there. I made an impromptu flounder dinner for the family, but that was really it. So here’s one thing I ate before I went – and one thing I craved while I was there, especially on the one or two rainy days we had.

This is like … a type of soup rather than a recipe. Think of how many different types of chowder we have here in the states. Well, Sundubu jjigae is a rich, brothy, tofu-based soup most commonly cooked in a small clay vessel as a one-pot meal. The clay keeps the soup hot, which is critical, since at the table, a raw egg is cracked into it. Don’t go “ewwwwww!” yet. The boiling broth is gently stirred and the egg is broken up, creating a rich, satisfying meal. Great for a night recovering from a busy weekend  =)

I got my recipe from Serious Eats, and tweaked it a bit. This serves 2 people comfortably as a full meal.

Sundubu Jjigae

16 oz silken tofu (do not substitute firm, use extra silken if you can find it)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 to 1 cup of diced vegetables (seasonal) I used squash, sliced mushrooms and spinach
2 tsp garlic chili paste
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 cups vegetable stock
2 eggs
Salt to taste
Thinly sliced green onions as a garnish
Rice as an accompaniment

Unfortunately, I do not own a clay pot, so I made this all in one soup pot and then ladled the finished product into bowls. It worked very well though. This soup is all about building flavors. I heated one tablespoon of the olive oil in the pot over medium high heat and sauteed the mushrooms until they gave up their liquid and turned a nice deep brown color. Maybe about 10 minutes.

I set these aside, with their juices, and added the remaining olive oil and turned the heat up a bit higher. I found squash can turn mushy and unpleasant if it’s not sauteed and browned rather quickly over a bit higher heat than, say mushrooms. Plus, they don’t need to be cooked all the way through at this point. Once they’ve gotten a nice crisp brown around their edges, add the mushrooms and juices back in the pot, and stir in the chili paste and soy sauce. Do not let the paste burn. You may want to turn the heat down a bit here.

Pour in all the broth and bring to a good simmer – nearly a boil. Let this go until all your vegetables are tender. 2-7 minutes, depending on your choice of vegetable. Please note that I haven’t added in the spinach yet  =)

When the vegetable are nearly tender, stir in your spinach and then start adding your tofu in big spoonfuls. Try not to break up the tofu into bits, but allow it to retain a lumpy shape. When all the tofu is added, let the broth simmer a bit. There should be just enough to cover all the ingredients in the pot. Add more if necessary, and adjust your chili paste and soy sauce to your taste.

Here is where I diverged from the original recipe even more, since I don’t have nice clay pots (someone get me some!!). I brought the soup back to a healthy rolling boil and cracked two eggs in. Gently, verrry gently, I stirred in wide loops to break up the yolks and whites while preserving the shape of the tofu spoonfuls. I was not 100% successful, but you know what? It doesn’t matter too much. I spooned it into two bowls, and sprinkled some green onions on top.


Whenever I cook something new, especially if it’s ethnic (is that PC?), I have an unshakeable fear that it’s going to be awful. Halfway through the cooking I get stressed out and nervous, and that’s what happened here. But we loved it! It was such a nice way to decompress before our big vacation. The custard-like tofu blobs are almost egg white-like in their consistency, and the yolk makes the broth so rich. I can’t wait to try this with fall, winter and spring veggies. You can also add shellfish, but Matt’s not a big fan for consistency’s sake.

In Ocracoke, we made orzo soup for his parents, and the whole time all I could think about was THIS soup. I may have to broaden my Korean cooking repertoir …


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