Blazing Hot Wok

Without my wok, I might starve.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Korean Spiced Tofu

I know what you’re thinking. Tofu?! Ugh!

Why does tofu get a bad wrap? I love it. I love the different textures it can assume. I love the way it absorbs flavors like a sponge. And apparently, it can give you an orgasm in your mouth. (Click on the link to see a hilariously compelling advertisement my neighbor stumbled upon; you won’t be disappointed!) ☺

This simple Korean dish is one of my favorite ways to eat tofu. The tofu is first lightly fried then simmered in a soy sauce spiked with garlic, green onions, sesame and Korean chili flakes. It absorbs the sauce beautifully and has a texture a little like steamed eggs. Totally easy and tasty.

One important thing to note is the use of Korean chili flakes (gochugaru), which are different from the chili flakes we like on our pizza or in pasta dishes. The Korean version doesn't really have seeds so it doesn't pack the same heat. However there are spicy versions, which would be indicated on the packaging. I don't think the two taste a like, so substituting the regular red pepper flakes will not give the same result to the dish. I think it's worth it to take a trip to your local Korean or Japanese grocery to pick up a bag.

Korean red pepper flakes (left) vs. regular red chili flakes.

Tubu Choerim (Fried spiced tofu)
Adapted from The Korean Kitchen
  • 1 block firm (not extra firm) tofu, sliced into ½ inch rectangles
  • 3 tbs soy sauce (I used low sodium tamari) mixed with an equal volume water
  • 2 tsp Korean chili flakes (or more to taste)
  • ½ tbs toasted sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped into a paste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 5 to 8 scallions, cut into 2-inch segments
  • 1 tbs toasted sesame seeds
Lay the sliced tofu out on paper towels and lightly sprinkle with salt. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes. This will draw out some of the excess water. Blot the slices with a paper towel before frying.

Make the sauce by combining the soy, chili flakes, sesame oil, garlic and sugar in a small bowl.

In a hot frying pan (something that is non-stick; I used well seasoned cast iron), fry the tofu slices in about 2 tbs oil for about 3 minutes on each side. The goal is not to get a crispy crust, just cook the tofu so it’s not raw. Add the scallions and fry for another minute. Add the sauce and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer until most of the liquid evaporates, flipping the tofu slices at least once during the process. We like it a bit saucy, so I don’t let the liquid evaporate all the way down. Throw in the sesame seeds and remove the tofu to a serving platter. Ladle the sauce over. Serve warm or at room temp.

This makes a wonderful side dish in a multicourse meal, but it’s just as filling when eaten alone with steamed short-grain rice and a few fresh cucumber slices (or tomato slices) or Korean pickles.

This is my submission to Regional Recipes, where the spotlight is on Korean food. The host this round is Wandering Chopsticks. If you’d like to participate, send your submission to wanderingchopsticks(at)gmail(dot)com by midnight, June 15th.

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