This Korean Soft Tofu Soup or Soondubu Jjigae is an umami-rich, spicy, savory stew with veggies and lots of silky soft tofu that pairs deliciously with some steamed jasmine rice or noodles. You may recognize it from the menus at K-BBQ restaurants, but it’s incredibly easy to make at home and add to the dinner rotation!
In Korean, soondubu means soft tofu and jjigae means stew which sums up this recipe perfectly. The soft tofu is the star ingredient of the stew, although you can load it up with veggies, poached eggs, and meat to your liking. This particular Korean Tofu Stew recipe is a vegan take on the stew but I also share how to make this as authentic as possible below.
I highly recommend stocking up on two Korean cooking staples: gochujang – hot pepper paste, gochugaru – Korean red chili flakes. Even if you don’t plan to cook authentic Korean food, both these are super versatile!
How do I use Gochujang and Gochugaru in other recipes?
You can add the gochujang to chicken marinades for a fabulous sweet-and-spicy kick like in these Baked Gochujang Chicken Wings or Spicy Korean Chicken Thighs or mix it with some soy sauce and oyster sauce to make a dumpling dipping sauce. Gochugaru lends such a vibrant appearance to any dish and it’s got a bright flavor that really goes a long way when you use it as a seasoning.
All the other ingredients are pantry staples – I keep a package of silken tofu in my fridge at all times. Read on for the specific brand recommendations!
Ingredients You’ll Need to make Korean Soft Tofu Stew
- Soft Tofu: Sundubu jjigae calls for silken soft tofu – I love the Mori-nu brand. Both their soft and firm Silken Tofu will work here, and you can find these across any major supermarket in India. If you have a Korean store in your city, they generally stock freshly made soft tofu as well.
- Dried Shiitake Mushrooms: These add that burst of umami to the stew. Traditionally, kelp and anchovy broth packets are used to make the stock but dried shiitake mushrooms are both more accessible + vegetarian-friendly so I prefer these.
- Toasted Sesame Oil: A classic in Korean cooking. You will absolutely notice the slight nuttiness this lends to the stew. I even drizzle some extra over my jasmine rice before eating this and it’s sooo good!
- Gochujang: A key ingredient for this stew and several other Korean recipes. This is a fermented condiment that’s made using red peppers, glutinous rice, soybeans, aromatics, sweeteners, and salt. It’s savory, sweet, and spicy and just a tablespoon goes a long way. You can get this at any major supermarket in the Asian condiments aisle.
- Gochugaru: These are Korean red pepper flakes. UrbanPlatter has started selling these – they’re everywhere now and I’d definitely recommend getting them. You can use our traditional red chili powder as an alternative but the color of your stew will not be as bright.
- Spring Onions: With the whites and greens separate. These are essential for that pop of freshness!
How to make Korean Soft Tofu Stew
- Soak Shiitake Mushrooms in hot water
- Squeeze and reserve water
- Slice mushrooms
- Saute garlic, green onions and onions
5. Add gochujang, gochugaru, salt, sugar and saute
6. Add zucchini, carrots, mushroom and all the water
7. Let this simmer till the veggies are tender
8. Add tofu and serve hot topped with green onions
If you’re looking for easy recipes to try and spice up your weeknight dinners, this Soondubu Jjigae has got to be on your hit-list. It might seem intimidating at first, but trust me, this is as easy as it gets! It’s such a wholesome way to get all key nutrient groups in your meal too which I love, and I always feel so comforted and happy after having this.
If you liked this recipe, try out my Korean Pork Bulgogi Bowl for another Korean weeknight comfort meal, and as always, send me your recreations over on my Instagram @my_foodstory.
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Soondubu Jjigae (Korean Soft Tofu Stew)
If you want to try cooking Korean food, this is the recipe you want to start with. It’s easy, fun, really forgiving and sooo flavourful you’ll be licking the bowl clean. You’ll need two important ingredients – Gochujang and Gochugaru which are a great addition to the pantry. This Korean Soft Tofu Stew is definitely going to go on repeat!
Servings: 4 people
Soak shiitake mushrooms in 1 cup hot water for 10-15 minutes. Drain the shiitake and squeeze, reserving all the mushroom water for later. Slice the shiitake and set aside.
In a pot, heat sesame oil and vegetable oil. Add the white part of green onions, sliced onions and garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes.
Add korean chilli powder, gochujang, salt, sugar, soy sauce and the mushroom water along with 2 cups of regular water.
Bring this to a quick boil and add zucchini, shiitake mushroom and carrot. Reduce the flame and simmer for 10 minutes till the zucchini and carrot are tender.
Top with tofu and green part of spring onions. Turn off the flame. Serve hot ladled over sticky rice.
- Some great additions to Korean Tofu Soup are kelp, wakame, kimchi and egg.
- Can you swap tofu for paneer? While generally paneer is a good substitute for tofu, this recipe doesn’t call for firm tofu. Silken/soft tofu has a different texture from paneer, it sort of melts in your mouth, which is a great consistency for stews. Paneer will feel too tough here, I wouldn’t recommend it.
- How do you eat Korean soft tofu soup? You can drink Soondubu Jjigae like a soup, or add noodles to the broth as the carb or serve it with some steamed jasmine rice, which is my personal favorite.
Calories: 101kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 841mg | Potassium: 360mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 3851IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 54mg | Iron: 1mg
Additions you can make to Korean Tofu Stew
- Kelp: You can find kelp on Amazon and add a strip to the broth for it’s flavor to infuse into the stew. You can also add a bag of dried anchovies – this is similar to how kelp and anchovy broth packets are prepared in Korea and used for flavoring their stews.
- Wakame: Something that isn’t as traditional to Sundubu Jjigae specifically but is a common addition to Korean stews is wakame, a type of seaweed that is purchased dried that you rehydrate in water, cut into bite-sized pieces, and add to the stew. Wakame has a silky texture and is packed with nutrients like iodine and manganese. I’d say this is an acquired taste, but if you’re familiar with Korean Cuisine it’s definitely worth keeping a bag of it at home to make this easy, nutritious addition.
- Kimchi: If you’ve got Kimchi on hand, add some of the chopped kimchi and kimchi juice when sauteing the spring onions. It adds an incredible sour tang to the stew and a stronger depth of flavor. While this isn’t traditional to Sundubu Jjigae, it’s how Kimchi Jjigae or Korean Kimchi Stew is made!
- Egg: You can also crack an egg into the broth right as it’s boiling and cover the pan with a lid for some poached eggs in your stew that add a subtle creaminess that is sooo good when you serve this with rice. And of course, add any meat or seafood that you’d like. You can stir-fry that along with the spring onions. If you want to add noodles, you can add them into the pot when the broth is boiling.
A little cheat hack that I use sometimes is to sprinkle some Shin Ramen seasoning into the stew too. So so good and flavorful!
Frequently Asked Questions:
You can drink Soondubu Jjigae like a soup, or add noodles to the broth as the carb or serve it with some steamed jasmine rice, which is my personal favorite.
Soft Tofu Stew doesn’t traditionally call for Kimchi as Kimchi Stew does, however I love making this ‘hybrid’ stew by adding kimchi to my soft tofu stew sometimes!
Soon = soft Dubu = tofu
Soft tofu in itself is ‘raw’ but is safe to eat as is. We add it to a boiling broth in this recipe so it isn’t served raw in this case, although it’s a common snack in Korea to eat ‘raw’ tofu and kimchi together!
While generally paneer is a good substitute for tofu, this recipe doesn’t call for firm tofu. Silken/soft tofu has a different texture from paneer, it sort of melts in your mouth, which is a great consistency for stews. Paneer will feel too tough here, I wouldn’t recommend it.