This stew reminds me of my trip to Gyeongju, a historic city in the southeast coast of Korea, a few years ago. It was our first meal after a long train ride from Seoul. Recommended by the hotel staff, we ate at a restaurant well-known for its freshly made sundubu (aka extra soft tofu or silken tofu). The bustling restaurant, which had been converted from an old traditional house, had a homey feel. They make their tofu the old-fashioned way, using maetdol (grinding stone) and seawater. Needless to say, it was unbelievably fresh and delicious - the best sundubu I've ever had! Sundubu (also spelled soondubu) is soft soybean curds left at the stage before being drained and pressured into tofu blocks. Thus, it has high water content. The stew, jjigae, made with sundubu is enormously popular both in and outside Korea. If you're lucky, you might have a good tofu house near you that specializes in this dish with several variations (seafood, meat, vegetables, combination, etc.) offered on the menu. The secret to making this restaurant favorite at home is in the broth. Take the time to make a good broth. I like to use anchovy broth, which is typical, but beef or vegetable broth will work well as well. Using the same basic technique, you can make different variations - meat only, vegetarian, kimchi, etc. Whatever you do, let the soft tofu be the star of the dish and do not overcrowd it with a lot of other ingredients. The result is delicate sundubu that is deliciously contrasted with the spicy broth and bold flavors. Who can resist this bubbling bowl of hearty stew on a cold day?
2 ounces beef or pork (rib eye, sirloin, pork loin or pork belly)
7 - 8 pieces of seafood assortment (shrimp, mussels, clams, and/or oysters)
1/2 small zucchini (2 - 3 ounces)
1/4 onion (2 - 3 ounces)
1 tablespoon red chili pepper flakes (gochugaru)- adjust to taste.
1 teaspoon sesame oil (use a little more if using more gochugaru)
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon soy sauce
salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1 cup anchovy broth (or other broth or water)
1 egg (optional)