I don’t cook it often, but am probably one of the rare Western carnivores who sincerely likes tofu. Maybe because I have never thought about it as a meat replacement (there is no such a thing!) or as a ‘healthy’ food product… or maybe because I immediately stumbled upon deliciously, richly flavoured tofu recipes. I admit that, unlike the fabulous silken tofu I can taste during my trips to Japan, all I can buy in my home town is not very exciting when tasted straight from the package, but once combined with bold flavours, even this tofu becomes utterly delicious. I love it rolled in smoked bacon, in the famous mapo dofu, in this kimchi and tuna stew… or in the above Dubu Jorim, which I consider – for now – the most delicious tofu dish of my life, both the original and my modified versions.
I first read about Dubu Jorim (or Tubu Chorim) in Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen by Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall, but her recipe didn’t appeal to me as much as Maangchi’s, seeming more vibrant and complex. I based my dish on the latter and never looked at any other version, so check her Youtube channel to see the original (I’ve modified it, namely adding sweet peas, vinegar and opting for more onions).
TIPS: As most Korean dishes, this one requires Korean chilli flakes (gochujaru). They are so special, I cannot imagine replacing them with anything else (especially since they are the only typically Korean ingredient here). They are sold also in general “Asian” shops and can be bought online.
I use chilli flakes labelled as medium hot and I find this dish actually mild, so you may test it even if you don’t like fiery food (but in this case start with a small amount of chilli flakes and increase the amounts). Obviously, sometimes the heat level depends on the brand… so beware if you buy a new one!
I found it difficult to make the tofu crunchy: somehow the outer layers would stick to my pan… If you have the same problem, coat the tofu in flour, shaking off the excess amounts and then pan fry.
The addition of vinegar is my own idea, so feel free to skip it. I think it makes the flavours more complex and vibrant. By the way, the hotter the weather the more vinegar I’d add!
Preparation: about 1 hour (after draining tofu)
Ingredients (serves two-three):
2 small blocks of tofu (250 g)
2 +1 tablespoons frying oil
250 ml (about 1 cup) frozen or fresh sweet peas
1 big or 2 medium onions, finely sliced
(6 long green onion stalks, cut into 1 cm slices)
1 big garlic clove
2 heaped tablespoons Korean chilli flakes (gochujaru)
4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
500 ml (2 cups) water
2 tablespoons sake
1 tablespoon syrup or honey
toasted sesame seeds
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seed oil
(green onions or chives)
(1 tablespoon rice vinegar)
Pat dry the tofu, place a paper towel on top and then something heave (for example a small pot filled with water). Leave the tofu for several hours.
Pat it dry once more, cut into cubes or thick slices and pan fry until slightly golden or until crisp outside. (see the TIPS)
In the meantime stir fry the onions with 1 tablespoon oil until they soften. Add the sauce ingredients to the onions (soy sauce, water, sake, honey and sesame seeds, garlic, green onions, if using) and heat them at low heat.
When the sauce starts boiling, add the tofu and let it simmer until half of the sauce evaporates.
Add the vinegar, the peas and let it simmer for five minutes. Taste and add more soy sauce/syrup or vinegar, if required.
Serve with rice, sprinkled with chives/chopped green onion and a splash of sesame oil.
This dish keeps covered and refrigerated for about a week and can easily be reheated in a microwave too.