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Spicy Kimchi & Tofu Stew

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Spicy Kimchi & Tofu Stew

Joe Ricchio

Recipe From Joe Ricchio’s kitchen | Photos by Lauryn Hottinger

As you can see, I have made the ill-advised choice to wear a white shirt while working with several brightly colored ingredients at high heat—save yourself the dry-cleaning bill and do not do this.

As you can see, I have made the ill-advised choice to wear a white shirt while working with several brightly colored ingredients at high heat—save yourself the dry-cleaning bill and do not do this.

When it comes to food, I don’t love the word “authentic.” Not only do I find it condescending, but it also implies a rigidity to cooking that is entirely unnecessary. This stew takes elements from different Korean dishes with the goal of creating something delicious. There are endless adaptations, which I will discuss in the notes, but as long as you end up with a pleasing, umami-laden combination of spicy, pungent, and salty, you’re on the right track. 

We will begin by addressing the significant elements of the stew.

THE BROTH

While I have opted for a play on dashi here, there is really no broth that will not work—meat or vegetable stock would be equally delicious, and even just water would get the job done. The amount of broth added can also help adjust the heat if it ends up being a bit much.

THE TOFU

I often utilize silken tofu for this stew—the texture is a delightful contrast to the kimchi. In this case, I used the firm variety to highlight Heiwa tofu, an excellent product made locally in Camden. Anytime someone tells me that they do not care for tofu, this is what I serve them to change their mind, as it actually has its own great flavor rather than just the flavors of whatever it is cooked in. 

THE KIMCHI

Again, any kimchi will work here, but I have opted for Gracie’s Garden, which is made in Standish. I personally think it’s so good that I often find myself just eating it straight out of the jar as a snack—and it goes exceptionally well with a ton of cold beer and karaoke. 

Variations. This stew can easily be made vegan by adjusting the broth and omitting the eggs and can just as easily go the other direction with shredded beef and veal stock. You can add rice, star-shaped pasta, or a tube of crushed Ritz crackers. There is no wrong way to do it.

The stew comes together fast, so being fully prepped before starting is optimal.

The stew comes together fast, so being fully prepped before starting is optimal.

A nice balance of fresh and fermented.

A nice balance of fresh and fermented.

GETTING STARTED

The Broth

4 quarts cold water

1 strip kombu

8 dried anchovies, heads and bellies removed

6 dried shiitake mushrooms

2 ounces shaved bonito flakes

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons sake

2 tablespoons mirin

Kimchi: pungent, spicy, salty, and crunchy. You can obviously choose to make your own, but I’m convinced others already have it dialed in perfectly, so I save myself the effort.

Kimchi: pungent, spicy, salty, and crunchy. You can obviously choose to make your own, but I’m convinced others already have it dialed in perfectly, so I save myself the effort.

Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, removing the kombu after 15 minutes and continuing to simmer for about 1 hour. Remove the pot from the heat and let the broth cool a bit before running it through a fine-mesh strainer. I have found this stock to freeze quite well for later use. 

The Stew

3 cups kimchi

1 sweet onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean fermented chili paste)

2 tablespoons gochugaru (Korean chili powder)

2 tablespoons double-fermented soy sauce

1 16-ounce block of firm tofu, pressed to remove some of the liquid, cubed, and lightly salted

2 quarts broth (see above)

4 scallions, chopped

5 eggs, cracked into a bowl

Maldon sea salt

Cracked white pepper

Chopped cilantro for garnish

Additional notes. Once you stock your pantry with the items for the broth they tend to last for quite awhile. It has become increasingly easier to find specialty items in supermarkets, in case you do not have access to an Asian grocery store. 

I am comfortable with your criticism of the way I chop scallions. This is not an instructional knife skills feature.

I am comfortable with your criticism of the way I chop scallions. This is not an instructional knife skills feature.

Finished product. Not pictured: big, beautiful porcelain soup spoon.

Finished product. Not pictured: big, beautiful porcelain soup spoon.

The Assembly

STEP 1

In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, sauté the kimchi for 3–4 minutes, until some of the liquid starts to cook off. 

Step 2

Add onion, garlic, sesame oil, gochujang, gochugaru, and soy sauce, continuing to cook while stirring constantly. Add the tofu and continue to stir-fry for another minute, before pouring in the broth. Bring to a boil, drop to a simmer, and let it roll for 20 minutes. 

Step 3

Add the chopped scallions and bring the heat back up, close to a boil. Drop in the eggs, kill the heat (leaving the pot on the burner), and cover. Let the stew sit for 5 minutes. 

Step 4

Stir the stew, then season it to taste with sea salt and white pepper. Ladle it into bowls, trying to divide the eggs up accordingly. Garnish with more scallions and/or chopped cilantro. Serves 6–7.