Sometimes, while living in Korea, you just need a break from all of the gokee—while delicious, the samgyeopsal, bulgogi, and galbi can sit a little heavy, especially with Daegu’s unwavering wall of scorchery. And while many foreigners are discouraged at first sight of their comparatively closet-sized kitchens, it’s no excuse to avoid them altogether. In fact, you may just learn to appreciate Korean cuisine a little more if you take matters into your own hands. Here, we give a ten-minute meal suggestion, a lighter summer dish that serves up nicely with some rice, veggies, and kimchi—no pork included.
Tofu, in Korean, is known as “dubu”—maybe easiest to remember once you’ve had your first few bites of sundubu jjigae, or soft tofu stew. Tofu is made when soybeans—an abundant Korean crop—are soaked, crushed, and cooked into soy milk, and coagulated (changed into a solid) into blocks to make bean curd. It can then be sold soft or “silken” (순두부), or pressed and drained and sold as firm (단단한두부or부드러운 두부 ), or extra firm tofu.
Most health researchers suggest buying tofu organic, as many soy products contain GMOs, including those in Korea. Pulmone, as pictured above offers organic goods as noted by the small green “organic” label on the bottom middle of the package.
Tofu is best-known for its high protein content and ability to carry flavor, making it an excellent meat substitute. If it’s your first time cooking with tofu, we recommend the firm variety as its texture is a lot more friendly (read: doesn’t jiggle in your jjigae)—and that’s exactly what this simple recipe for Tofu Buchim requires.
First, let’s make the sauce—you’ve probably got all of these ingredients on-hand already!
In a small bowl, mix:
3 tbsp soy sauce (tamari or coconut aminos work great, too)
2 tsp red pepper powder
½ tbsp minced garlic
½ tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp sugar (I subbed agave syrup)
Now that you’ve got your sauce-uh, set it aside, and cut a whole block(one package) of firm or extra-firm tofu into about 8 1x1.5-inch blocks (slice into 1-inch strips and then cut those in half).
Now, fry the tofu in a pan over medium-high heat using your oil of choice, flipping as necessary until it is golden-brown. We found this easiest to do using chopsticks as not to break up our little blocks.
Lay the tofu out on a plate and drizzle with sauce as desired. Top with chopped green onion to make it all fancy and feel like a pro chef.
Serve it up alongside some veggies (kimchi, anyone?) and rice and you’ve got yourself a well-balanced Korean meal. Now, invite all of your friends over to show off your awesome Korean chef skills—mmm, mashisseoyo!
Recipe adapted from Aeri’s Kitchen.