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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Soondubu Jjigae (Soft Tofu Stew) 순두부 찌개

My first ever Korean meal was one that I had in Sri Petaling, Malaysia with all my housemates celebrating one of our birthdays. This part of the city was where we started our uni life together. Owned and run by Koreans, that restaurant in which I had plenty of fond memories was sadly no longer in operation the last time I returned to the same area. Being my very first time there, ordering out of the menu required a whole world of imagination on how it would look and taste like. Having very little idea of what to expect, every dish big and small that was served after that came as a pleasant surprise. As with all Korean joints, we started with banchan, each small plate so elegantly presented. Simply appetizing they sure were, they were made perfect for sharing. Our main entrées that followed were not at all disappointing in any ways too, although it remained a fact that I probably would never know if they tasted the way they should then.

Moving to the States, Korean was one of the very first Asian food that I had here. It was a hit right away and it sure did not take me long before I declared myself a Korean food fan. While I could not possibly compare this to the few experiences that I had back in Malaysia - with different menus and me trying different things, I think it would be fair to say that they simply are awesome in their own ways. Whether or not they are on par in terms of the standard and quality, the memories of my very first experience of Korean food stays unchallenged.

Getting more comfortable with food making over time, here in the US kitchen was where I started exploring into homemade Korean food. Like many other different cuisines, I started simple too - first with bibimbap, before engaging in more. This soondubu jjigae is one that I have come to love so easily. Bubbling hot and spicy, it warms a tummy on any chilly day so perfectly. And making it at home sure has its advantages - you get to decide on the choice of ingredients, spiciness level adjusted to personal spice tolerance and nothing beats homemade cooking simply said. These surely are good enough to satisfy my occasional random cravings at home without the hassle of getting a table and dining out, well lets just say at least for a while.

Soondubu Jjigae (Soft Tofu Stew) 순두부 찌개
Adapted from Maangchi
Serves 2 1/3lb pork tenderloin, sliced across the grain
3 pcs of soft tofu (2"x2"x1")
1 cup frozen mixed seafood (a combination of shrimps, mussels, squids and scallops)
4 extra shrimps (about 1/6lb) shelled leaving just the ends intact, deveined
1 jalapeno peppers, sliced 
2 stalks spring onion, cut into 1½" sections
4 tbsps hot pepper flakes (more or less to personal preference)
ingredients for stock base making
2 tbsps fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
light soy sauce to taste
2 eggs 
1 tsp cooking oil 

Meat marinade
a dash of white pepper powder
1 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp corn starch

Stock base
15 anchovies, rinsed with heads and intestines removed
3 shiitake mushrooms
1 onion, quartered
5 cloves garlic, skin and hard parts removed
1/2 dried kelp, rinsed
5 cups water 

1. Begin with marinating the meat and set aside.
2. To make the stock, heat up a small pot with 5 cups of water. Once boiling, bring in all the ingredients of stock making and let boil on high heat for 10 minutes. Cover, turn down the heat to medium-low and let it continue simmering for another 20 minutes. When done, remove and retain the shiitake mushrooms. Run the stock through a sieve removing the ingredients, keeping the stock aside for later use, discarding the rest.

sieved stock with the residues

3. With the shiitake mushrooms, slice them thinly and set aside.

4. Heat up a hot stone bowl with 1/2 tsp of cooking oil. Once hot, add in the marinated pork slices and stir fry until the pork changes color. 
5. Bring in the sliced mushroom next. Stir for another minute, mixing them well.
6. From the stock, measure and pour in 2 cups of stock into the hot stone bowl. Add in the hot pepper powder, mixing well with a spoon.
7. Bring in all the seafood and let boil. 
8. Add in the tofu pieces one after another, mixing and breaking it into pieces. 
9. Once the content starts boiling again, add in the fish sauce and light soy sauce to taste.
10. Top with the jalapeno peppers and spring onions and let simmer for a couple of minutes more.
11. Finish by cracking in the eggs slightly apart. Leave undisturbed to let cook on its own, and drizzle with sesame oil.

12. Best served bubbling hot with a bowl of plain rice. 

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