Gourmandistan

Soy-braised tofu begins Gourmandistan’s assimilation of Koreatown

Soy-braised tofuIt’s not as if Gourmandistan hasn’t ventured Korean cuisine before. But now that we own Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard’s Koreatown: A Cookbook, we’re pretty sure our realm will now frequently include meals with banchan, gochugaru and other good things out of the Hermit Kingdom and its more friendly neighbor to the south—quite possibly this soy-braised tofu dish called Dubu Jorim.

Gochugaru

Hong is a Korean-American chef who runs the restaurant Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong in New York’s Koreatown, and who previously worked in the kitchens of Momofuku and Jean-Georges. He partnered with Rodbard, a Brooklyn food writer, to create a book with interviews, essays and photos from Korean places across the USA. From Los Angeles to Atlanta to Manhattan, recipes and reminiscences mix to present an enticing picture of Korean food, which we are eagerly exploring.

Soybeans

We began our journey with a selection of banchan, including a kimchi contest between David Chang’s Momofuku recipe and the marinade/cure mix offered in Koreatown. (The competition was declared a draw, though Steve still misses the funky salted shrimp Michelle has banned from Chang’s version.) In addition to various marinated vegetables, we’ve tried out braised soybeans, blistered peppers, soy and sesame spinach, cucumber salad and glazed potatoes.

Banchan

Since our long ago purchases of Momofuku and Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen, we’ve always kept many Korean ingredients on hand, and we were able to bang out the braised tofu with very little effort. The sweet and smoky undertones of gochugaru (ground Korean chili pepper) really are essential for the dish and thankfully most any decent-sized American town has at least one Asian grocery where you can pick up a bag. Koreatown describes Dubu Jorim as something “for fans of cooking with texture,” and we did find the dish, in which the tofu is first fried then braised, to have “an incredibly pleasing mouthfeel.”

Soy-braised tofu

Our tubs of fermented bean paste and bags of chili powder may be in danger of running low quite soon as we’re decidedly into a Korean cooking phase. But since we’ll be running to our nearby Asian grocer in the not-too-distant future to stock up on more things for banchan and other ideas Korean, that should not be a problem.

SOY-BRAISED TOFU

(adapted, barely, from Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard’s Koreatown: A Cookbook)

  • 1 lb. firm tofu
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2″ piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 TB gochugaru (Korean ground chili pepper)
  • 1 tsp. roasted sesame oil
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 1 TB mirin
  • 1/2 c. water
  • vegetable oil
  • generous handful of minced scallion
  • TB or so toasted sesame seeds

Slice the tofu into 1/2″ pieces and wrap in paper towels to dry.

Mix together soy sauce, garlic, ginger, gochugaru, sesame oil, sugar, mirin and water in a bowl.

Generously coat a skillet with vegetable oil. Heat until just starting to smoke. Add tofu and cook, in batches, turning frequently until nicely browned on both sides. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate or a cooling rack set over some waxed paper.

When all the tofu is cooked, remove all but about 1 TB of oil from the skillet. Add the soy sauce mixture, then return the tofu to the skillet. Braise over medium-high heat until the liquid is caramelized (about 4 or 5 minutes). Remove from heat.

Serve at room temperature, garnished with scallions and sesame seeds.

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33 comments

  1. Eha

    ‘Tis a small world’, it really is! . . . . In Australia Korean and Mexican are the ‘flavours-of-the-month’ at the moment and how can you possibly not have gochugaru amd gochujang in your pantry 🙂 ! And everyone has ‘their’ favourite kimchi recipe in ‘the making’!! Actually my favourite and very practical recipe comes from a Lille academic in France 🙂 !! Fusion: the name of the game!!! Your tofu marinade shall be tried in absence of a certain book . . . and I am certain, enjoyed!! Thanks !!!!!

  2. I agree. I will try it, as I have been experimenting more with tofu lately, after a re-reading of Mark Bittman’s VB6 and for a new business project A trick which I have picked from Kenji A Lopez from Serious Eats is to pour over tofu some boiling water, this, counterintuitively as it might sound, apparently has the effect of firming up tofu even more. I did not do blind testing, I just trust theme and do it. stefano (pr right now I have to admit that my favorite way of serving tofu still remains the ubiquotus tofu chocolate mousse, with or without spices). s

    • That’s interesting. I’m hoping someone will buy me his new cookbook. 🙂 I like tofu … as long as somebody’s not trying to pass it off as something else. Like fake meat.

  3. Anything with gochugaru in it moves to the top of my list. I have to confess I’m not wild about tofu but this sounds really good. Sorry, was that damning with faint praise? Not the intention, it really does sound delicious! Lx

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