Gochujang Tofu

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I’m not vegan, but I’m always super excited when I manage to make something that is. Maybe because:

A) For some reason I perceive veganism as super difficult and exotic.

B) Any time I can cut down on meat I feel like my meal is a lot healthier.

C) So many vegan and vegetarian recipes suffer from a lack of umami (the savory flavor), so I’m really happy when I find one that’s delicious and well balanced flavorwise.

So basically I felt like a super hero that just ate something really delicious after making this recipe. And guess what? It was actually really easy!

This is a spicy Korean sauce with a little bit of sweetness. Serve it with rice and a variety of Korean side dishes like bean sprout namul or takuan/danmuji (the yellow pickle).

Gochujang Tofu

Serves 2, 25 minutes

Ingredients:

400 grams (14 oz. or 1 large block) firm tofu

1 1/2 Tbs (22 ml) Cornstarch

Oil for frying

For the Sauce:

2 Tbs (30 ml) Garlic, minced

4 Tbs (60 ml) Gochujang

2 Tbs (30 ml) Sesame oil

4 Tbs (60 ml) Soy sauce

2 Tbs (60 ml) Sugar (used 1 part white sugar to 3 parts raw sugar, but use whatever you want)

1/4 tsp (1.2 ml) Apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup plus (or a large handful) green onions, sliced

1/4 cup (60 ml) sesame seeds (optional)

Water

Step One: Press your tofu between some paper towels for 5 minutes to a half hour. Cut into desired size (I cut mine into 1 cm cubes) and dry with a paper towel. In a large container toss the tofu with the cornstarch until all pieces are lightly coated.

Step Two: Depending on how fast you are in the kitchen, you can do this while doing step three. Combine all sauce ingredients except water together in a clean saucepan. Add the water a few tablespoons at a time until you have a thick sauce consistency to your liking (I used about 1/4 cup of water).

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So much spicy yumminess!

Step Three: Heat oil in a large pan. It doesn’t need to be super deep, but enough that you can fry each side of the tofu pieces in it. Test a small piece of tofu before putting all of them in. The oil should immediately start sizzling and bubbling when the tofu touches. If not, let the oil heat up some more.  Add all of the tofu to the oil and fry each side until it’s a very light golden beige (approximately 2 minutes per side). To me, it looks just a little bit lighter than a chicken nugget. Remove tofu to paper towels to drain and blot off any excess oil.

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Desired “golden beige” color

Step Four: Heat the sauce until it bubbles. Immediately combine sauce with tofu and serve immediately. This recipe makes a lot of sauce, so I would combine a little at a time until you’ve reached your desired “sauciness” level.

 

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That’s it! Time to eat!

Thanks to the bloggers out there with all the different versions of this recipe that inspired this one. Especially Food52’s Gochujang Tofu with Scallions which mine is heavily based on.

If this were an academic paper with a “further work” section: Make a sandwich with this tofu!

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Dubu Buchim: Korean Fried Tofu

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Dubu buchim: Fried tofu with a tasty sauce!

So today I experimented with making my own tofu (details to come later). It went mostly well, except I ended up with firm tofu instead ofsilken! So my dinner menu needed a quick change and I ended up making dubu buchim. All the blogs I looked at translated it simply as as “Korean fried tofu side dish.”

Anyways, this was DELICIOUS! And super fast. The thing that makes this so fantastic is the sauce. It just has that perfect balance of tangy, sweet, and I don’t know…general yumminess? Frying the tofu also provides a nice contrast of textures.

Even though this is typically a side dish, I think this would make a wonderful main dish. Just make sure you have lots of other dishes to add some more calories and bulk.

Ingredients note: I like to put gochugaru in mine. What is gochugaru? They’re Korean pepper flakes that taste sort of like cayenne and paprika. They’re really spicy though, so leave it out if you don’t like spice. You can also substitute red pepper flakes.

Dubu Buchim

Serves 2-4 as a side dish (2 large helpings, or 4 really small ones)

Ingredients:

Firm tofu

Vegetable oil (or similar)

For the Sauce:

2 Tablespoons green onions, sliced thin

2 Tablespoons red onion, minced

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

1 Tablespoon sesame oil

1 Teaspoon sesame seeds

1 Teaspoon garlic, minced

1/4 Teaspoon gochugaru or red pepper flakes (optional)

1 1/2 Teaspoons honey

First: Slice tofu into 5mm thick (1/4 inch) slices. Place on paper towels and gently press with your hands. Allow to dry out in paper towels while oil heats. Add oil to a depth equal of half the tofu thickness (1/8 inch or 2.5 mm).

Second: Gently add the tofu to the oil. If you drop them in violently, you might get splashed! Allow to fry until a light yellow, about 1 minute. Flip and fry the other side for 10 seconds if it has not browned. Remove from oil to a paper towel to drain.

Third: Mix together all of the sauce ingredients. Lay out the tofu in nice overlapping lines, and drizzle the sauce over the top (or alternatively, leave it on the side for dipping).

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This sauce is so full of things that it’s almost more of a salad!

Most of the blogs out there have pretty similar recipes, but I think my version is most similar to this one. Many thanks Food52!

Couple’s Dolsot Bibimbap

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Dolsot bibimbap…sort of

So, I’ve tried to make bibimbap a few times, but have never been terribly satisfied with the results. Making it at home, the rice didn’t have that crunch of being cooked onto the piping hot stone bowls (dolsot) they use at restaurants. However, I wasn’t a big fan of spending 15 dollars per bowl for a recipe I make less than once a month.

But, it occurred to me that I own something else that’s hot like a dolsot stone bowl–a frying pan! And my frying pan is also coated in some kind of stone teflon free stuff. That counts as stone, right? Apparently so! After cooking everything separately, I stuck the rice in the hot pan and put the toppings on. My husband and I ate out of it with spoons while watching TV. It was fun and cozy sharing a big pan of food between the two of us. So, I have named this “Couple’s Dolsot Bibimbap.”

One of my favorite things about bibimbap (and most Korean food) is that there are a lot of vegetables incorporated into the dish. Each of these vegetables adds flavor and texture too. They’re not just there to make you feel healthy! And of course there’s some tasty meat too! Don’t be too turned off by the long list of ingredients. Most of this is just sautéing quickly for 2-3 minutes and then moving on to the next ingredient. For best results, do vegetables first, then meat, then eggs.

This was super fun to make, and fun to eat! I hope you enjoy it!

Bibimbap

Ingredients:

Cooked White Rice, enough for two people

Fried Eggs (I made three for the two of us)

For the Beef:

Bulgogi marinade (I bought a jar from the store, but you can make your own if you want)

Beef, as much as you want, cut into small, thin strips (we used 100 grams (3.5 oz.) for the two of us)

For the Vegetables:

Carrots, julienned, about 2 cm or 1 inch long, as many as you want ( I used 2 carrots)

Shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin (I rehydrated some dry ones by microwaving them in a bowl of water for a few minutes), as many as you want (I used about 4 mushrooms)

Salt, to taste

Small amount of oil, for frying

70 grams or more (2-3 Packed Cups) Spinach, or Baby Spinach

1/2 Teaspoon Sesame Seeds

1/2 Teaspoon Soy Sauce

1/2 Teaspoon Sesame Oil

For the Sauce:

2 Tablespoons Gochujang

1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar

1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil

1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar

1 Teaspoon Toasted Sesame Seeds

1 Tablespoon Water

Method:

For the Vegetables:

Carrots: Sprinkle carrots with a pinch of salt. Using a little bit of oil cook the carrots on medium high until soft with a slight crunch (or preferred doneness). Remove from heat.

Mushrooms: Sprinkle mushrooms with a pinch of salt. Using a bit oil, cook mushrooms until soft and cooked entirely through.

Spinach: Combine spinach with 1/4 cup (60 ml) of water and cook on high heat until the spinach turns dark green. Immediately drain excess water, and squeeze the spinach with your hand to remove more moisture. Stir in sesame seeds, sesame oil, and soy sauce.

For the Sauce:

Combine all the sauce ingredients, and slowly add water until you like the consistency.

For the Meat:

Marinate meat for at least one hour. Cook on high heat quickly with a small amount of oil. Remove from heat.

Assemble and Eat:

Put eggs in center with sauce, and group the other ingredients around the edges. Contrasting colors next to each other is best. Admire it for a second, then mix it up with a spoon and dig in!

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So good! I’m getting hungry again just looking at this!

Fun fact: Unlike Japanese and Chinese, Koreans eat their rice with a spoon, not chopsticks! Want to learn more about proper utensils and eating etiquette? Check out this fun Reddit thread.

Big thanks to Sue at My Korean Kitchen. My recipe is based on hers. She also has a lot of different vegetable variations! The sauce especially, is almost the same. Here’s the link.

Samgyeopsal: Korean Lettuce Wrap

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I can say without reservations that samgyeopsal is my FAVORITE way to eat lettuce! While I would probably struggle to eat a salad as a main course, my husband and I can easily eat an entire head of lettuce when we’re eating samgyeopsal.

So what exactly is samgyeopsal? It’s grilled pork belly, eaten with different sauces, particularly ssamjang, wrapped in leaves, sometimes with other veggies on the side or in the wrap. It is ridiculously easy, and ridiculously delicious. I like to serve it with rice, kimchi, pajeon, and other banchan (Korean side dishes). If you’re feeling lazy, or are short on time, it’s great by itself with just rice!

There are a lot of ways to make samgyeopsal. You can use and combine different sauces. I’ve seen people eat it with raw garlic or sautéd garlic. You can use a mild lettuce like Bib lettuce, or layer different varieties in one wrap (Perilla is popular in Korea). My husband likes to add kimchi to his. In Korea, I’m pretty sure I also saw someone eating theirs with a raw jalapeño! My version tends toward the milder and simpler side, but keep in mind that you can customize this to your own tastes.

A note on finding ingredients: Ssamjang can usually be found in a small plastic tub in your local Asian market. If they don’t have good labeling in your native language, look for an icon with spicy red sauce and vegetables on it. Or you know, just ask someone for help. Here’s what mine looks like:

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Notice the lettuce in the corner? That’s how you know it’s the right one. I only realized today when I was taking this picture that there’s also English on the label! Oops!

Alright, let’s make some samgyeopsal!

Samgyeopsal

Serves: 2 people

Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

1 large onion, sliced

2-3 garlic cloves (leave whole for more spice, slice thinly for a milder one)

200 grams (about 1/2 lb.) pork belly

20+ edible leaves of your choice (In Korea this is usually served with a large variety of different types of leaves ranging from mild bib lettuce to pungent Perilla. I usually just stick with Bib lettuce, because it’s large and mild.)

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Ssamjang Paste (50 grams (1/3 cup USA) is probably enough for 2 people)

First: Slice the pork belly as thinly as possible. Paper thin like sukiyaki is best, but mine usually ends up significantly thicker. Cut to whatever length you want in your wrap. Lightly sprinkle both sides with salt.

 

Second: Heat a frying pan to high heat and place the pork on it. When one side is done cooking, immediately flip and cook the other side (about 1 minute or less per side). Pork is like chicken breast in that there’s a narrow margin of juicy and delicious that lives between underdone and unsafe and overdone and tough. If you have a grill, go ahead and grill it! It’ll be extra delicious! Remove from heat and move to serving dish (cover with foil to keep it warm if you’re not ready to eat yet)

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Behold, my inability to cut meat into the same size and shape 🙂
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Stilled turned out okay!

Third: If possible, do this while the pork is cooking. In a separate pan, cook the onions and garlic cloves on medium to high heat until fragrant, slightly opaque and wilted. If you want a sweeter onion, add some oil and cook until they start to brown and caramelize. Remove from heat. Again, you can do this on a grill if you want.

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Cook onions and garlic to whatever charred or caramelized state you prefer

Fourth: You’re ready to eat! Assemble your wrap by spreading some ssamjang on a leaf of lettuce along with pork, and (if desired) onion and/or garlic cloves. Wrap it up and eat it!

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Yum!