Sunday, May 19, 2013

Soondubu Jjigae with Spot Shrimp

Jjigae is Korean for hot pot or stew. Soondubu means silken tofu. This is Korean comfort food at its best, even more than the Bibimbap of an earlier post.

The key is finding quality Korean pepper flakes. I also like to goose mine with an added jolt of pepper paste, gochujang. Look for both at a Korean market such as H Mart, along with the extra soft and silky tofu that comes in a tube-shaped package. For the stock you can make your own with onion, kombu, and dried anchovies, or take a short cut with a store-bought variety (I like the heartiness of beef stock, with a splash of fish sauce added at the end).

Spot shrimp, cooked whole in the shell, add good flavor to the broth. As I mentioned in my previous post about shrimping in Puget Sound, the heads make a killer stock—while the tails are one of the true culinary delights of the Pacific Northwest. It's a rare case of: heads, you win; tails, you win, too!

5-6 fresh spot shrimp (or other large shrimp in shell)
1 10-12 ounce package of extra-silken tofu (soondubu)
1/4 lb pork or steak, sliced thinly across the grain
5 shiitake mushroom caps, sliced into strips (if using dried shiitake, reconstitute in warm water for 20 minutes first)
1 large handful chopped vegetables (bok choy, napa cabbage, etc.)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tbsp Korean coarse hot pepper flakes (gochugaru), or to taste
1 tbsp Korean pepper paste (gochujang), or to taste (optional)
1 cup meat, vegetable, or fish stock
1 handful other seafood (optional): clams, mussels, squid
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 green onions, 2 cut into 3-inch sections and 1 thinly sliced for garnish
2 eggs
2 tsp sesame oil, plus more for serving

Note: Many of the ingredients above can be found in any Asian supermarket in the U.S., though a Korean market is best if you have one nearby. I use H Mart, where I bought my clay pots, gochugaru, gochujang, and soondubu, among other things. Clay vessels are traditional for Korean hot pot; they can be used on the stove top and then as serving dishes, and they keep the food hot! Also, you'll benefit from searching out Korean-made coarse hot pepper flakes (gochugaru), made from sun-dried peppers, which will be more colorful and have a greater depth of flavor.

1. Combine garlic and sesame oil in small bowl (and pepper paste, if using).

2. Heat cooking oil in clay pot or other soup pot over medium heat. Add sliced beef or pork and sauté until edges begin to brown but meat is still rare. Remove to bowl and set aside.

3. Saute shiitake mushrooms a few minutes until starting to brown and then remove to bowl.

4. Add vegetables, green onions, and mixture of garlic and sesame oil to pot and stir until fragrant, 30 seconds.

5. Sprinkle pepper flakes (gochugaru) and stir another minute, careful not to burn.

6. Pour in stock. Bring to boil.

7. Spoon in tofu, then add seafood, including shrimp. Boil together another few minutes.

8. Remove from heat and season with fish sauce, soy sauce, and salt, if necessary. Crack eggs into pot and stir.

9. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with sliced green onion and sesame oil to taste.

Serves 2, with rice

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