Korean Soft Tofu Clam Stew, bring out the innocence in you

Korean Soft Tofu Stew
Have you ever tried to run away from your home when you were a kid?
I think I did once, but only lasted less than 1 hour. I was 7 or 8 years old, I think. I was mad at my mom and my sisters for some reason. I only went about 3 blocks, got scared, and went back home. I don’t think my mom ever noticed that I was gone.

I went to Norman Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge last weekend. Stockbridge is a beautiful town in west end part of Massachusetts. I understand why Mr. Rockwell loved that place so much.
It was about 8 hours drive form Northern Virginia where I live. Why did I go there?
Well, I was in the mood of New England clam chowder and missing the beautiful fall foliage there, plus I always have been a fan of Mr. Rockwell’s works. I saw his famous “The runaway” and it reminded me of my somewhat-forgotten childhood.There is no artist that captured everyday life of American people more charming and nostalgic than Norman Rockwell did. Even though I did not grow up in this country, I could still relate my Korean childhood and rediscover my innocence through his works. They are honest, sincere, and yet brings out smile from your heart.

My family of four continue the journey toward the east from there, Cambridge, MA.
We used to live in Cambridge while my piano man was attending law school.  It has been 10 years since we left. Some stayed the same but some has changed. I remember how much I enjoyed the fall season in this region of U.S. We often went to the farm in Vermont to get maple syrup and cheese, go up to Maine to eat lobsters and see the northern ocean.

 The lake at Concord, MA

I did have my clam chowder, twice, in our 4 days of trip! One in the roadside caboose cafe of small town in Connecticut, and the other one in the famous Colonial Inn at Concord, MA. They both were good.

So, what does this Korean soft tofu clam stew called Soondubu Jjigae(순두부찌개) has to do with Norman Rockwell or New England?
Nothing! Absolutely nothing!
I don’t know Mr. Rockwell ever had tofu in his life but he should have eaten clams, though.
I just wanted to comfort myself in this chilly weather with this hot stew and try to find my Korean innocence along the way.

Warning! This is spicy stew, in case you want to knock yourself out…

 The list is long this time.
Korean soy sauce, chili oil, chili flakes, mushrooms, clams, Asian leeks,
red and green chili, onion, garlic, dried anchovies and sea kelp, egg, beef, and soft tofu…
 Did I miss any?

I hope not…

 Close up for the main ingredients;
The clams, beef, and the tofu
I happened to have precooked clams (that’s why their mouths are open) in my freezer
so I did not have to clean myself.
If you buy fresh clams (even better), soak them in salted water in a bowl covered with dark plastic bag  and keep them in the fridge over night.
That will get rid of all their ocean gunk in them.

First, make anchovy stock.
For detailed instruction click here.
You will need about 1 1/2 cup.

Prepare the vegetables.

Chop, dice, slice, tear or whatever…

In a heavy bottom pot, heat the chili oil over medium heat.

Saute beef, onion, garlic, with chili flakes for 2 minutes.
Now, I added 1Tbsp of chili flakes. That is on the very milder side.
If you want to knock yourself out add 2Tbsp or more.
If you want to knock someone else out…
Well, all I can say is, follow your guts.

He/she might curse you when he/she sits on the toilet.

Add the stock to the pot.

Let them boil, about 1 minutes.

Cut the tofu package with knife.

Don’t panic if the water squirt out.

Squeeze out big chunks of tofu into the pot.
Let it boil for 1 minute.

If you are using fresh clams, add with tofu and boil for 2 minutes.

Add mushroom, and chilies.

I add my clams last since they are already cooked.

Season with Korean soy sauce.

You can use fish sauce instead as a substitute.

Lastly add Daepa (Asian leeks), and crack one egg in the pot.
Turn off the heat and cover.
The heat in the pot will cook the egg white and some yolk.
If you want your egg to be cooked completely just keep the stove heat on.
Taste it first and season with salt and pepper if you need.
You can add a tiny bit of sesame oil if you like.


I am having a lunch with meditation,

with a tissue in one hand in case I need to wipe my nose.

Life goes on with time no matter what.
We all get older and wiser.
Our body will fade away just like the leaves,

but our spirit will remain the same.


Once in a while,
Bring out the innocence of the past.

You will find gratitude and joy of life itself.

For that reason,
I thank to Mr. Rockwell

for the memories of my childhood in a country far far away…


Korean Soft Tofu Stew

Korean Soft Tofu Clam Stew (soondubu)

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Serving Size: 2-3


  • 1 package soft tofu
  • 1/4lb beef chuck in small chunks
  • 1/3lb clams cleaned
  • 1/2 small onion diced
  • 1 garlic chopped
  • 1Tb chili oil
  • 1-3Tb Korean chili flakes, depends on your preference
  • 1/2 package Enoki mushrooms or other types of mushrooms
  • 1 1/2C anchovy stock*
  • 1/2 red chili sliced
  • 1/2 green chili sliced
  • 1/2 Asian leek sliced
  • 1Tb Korean soy sauce or 2tsp fish sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2tsp sesame oil, optional
  • For the Anchovy stock
  • 6-7 dried large anchovies
  • 2-3 slices of dried sea kelp
  • 2 cups water


  1. Heat chili oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Saute beef, onion, garlic with chili flakes until beef is browned and the onion becomes translucent. Add Anchovy stock to the pot. Let it boil for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Cut the tofu package and squeeze out the tofu into the pot. Make sure you keep the tofu in big chunks. Add clams and let the stew boil for 1 minute. You will see the clams starting to open. Add the mushrooms, chilies, and leeks. Season with Korean soy sauce or fish sauce.
  3. Crack one egg and add it to the pot. Cover the lid and turn off the stove heat. The heat inside of the pot will cook the egg. if you want to cook the egg completely, just keep the heat on for 1 more minute.
  4. Taste it first and adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper. You can drop a tiny bit of sesame oil if you like.
  5. Serve with hot bowl of rice and make sure you have a napkin with you. :)
  6. For the anchovy stock, combine all in a pot, cover, and let it boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it sit for 20 minutes covered. Remove the anchovies and the sea kelp.

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  1. 2


    Besides the very yummie recipe, your words are always so touching and bring back my own memories, like old pictures hanging in my mind,as precious as those shells that kids collect during summer days in the seashore… and suddenly summer is gone, fall knocks on the doors and here come the silence from winter… and we are not expecting, spring blossoms again!

    Yes, we may not be that young anymore… but we still have a beautiful journey ahead us!


    Hugs and kisses from southern sky – yeahhh counting days to fly back to my little island, my pearl from North Sea =D

  2. 5

    Tiffany says

    My husband and I do not like clams, but we both really like soondubu (we usually order it with beef in restaurants like BCD Tofu House). Can I use this recipe as-is without the clams?

  3. 7

    Alex says

    Hello Ms. Holly! Im from the Philippines and I LOVE LOVE LOVE Korean food! Ive recently tried out your Denjang jigae recipe and IT WAS AMAZING! I loved it! It tasted just like what they serve in the restos only better. I’m having a problem with this Soondubu recipe though. I just tried out (as in 20 minutes ago) this recipe and it didn’t taste quite right to me. I don’t know if it was just too salty but it tasted off. I didn’t use Korean soy sauce, I used fish sauce. The fish sauce I used however is a LOCAL ONE. Its the Philippine version called PATIS. Is this why it tasted wrong? Should I add sugar?

    • 8

      Holly says

      Hi Alex

      Thanks for the comment. I have not tried the Philippine version of fish sauce, but fish sauce is quite different than Korean soy sauce. When I mention soy sauce as “Korean soy sauce” that means it is soy sauce for soup, which is clearer and more pungent than regular soy sauce that we all know. Although Korean soy sauce is saltier than general soy sauce, it is far less saltier than fish sauce. Also fish sauce has its unique flavor that is quite pungent. So I believe the reason your soondubu stew was salty and didn’t taste right was using fish sauce rather than Korean soy sauce if you use the same amount that is given in the recipe. Hope this helps you to solve the problem. If you find the Korean soy sauce for soup, please, try again. It is such a comforting stew to enjoy if you can handle the heat!

  4. 9


    I tried this recipe out today! I had no clams, so substituted with mussels. I also had to chilli flakes, but I had Korean chilli paste which I added 2 tablespoons. The result was not-too-spicy, yet my tummy was nice and warm after the meal! Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe!! :)


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