Korean Soft Tofu Stew with Seafood (Soondubu Jjigae)
This Korean soft tofu stew known as Soondubu jjigae is made with seafood and kimchi. With this traditional recipe, you will enjoy the velvety soft silken tofu flavored in deep umami flavor of spicy stew. Enjoy this heartwarming Korean tofu soup at its best. Use any seafood of your choice for this recipe.
If you can pick one stew to make out of the many Korean stews, most people would put this soondubu jjigae (순두부 찌개), the Korean tofu soup (or stew), at or near the top of their list.
It’s easy to make with just a few ingredients, and the hearty and comforting taste of this Korean tofu stew is what everyone loves.
Korean soft tofu stew
The name of the recipe in Korean is soondubu jjigae.
Whether you spell it soondubu jjigae or sundubu jjigae, it is the same Korean soft tofu soup or soft tofu stew recipe. Jjigae means stew in Korean.
A block or tube of silken tofu is simmered with zucchini or other vegetables and mushrooms in a spicy broth made from Korean chili flakes. Almost always, chopped kimchi is added to give an extra flavor boost to the stew.
Traditionally, soondubu jjigae is made with seafood, such as clams, shrimp, or mussels, and is a well-known Korean seafood tofu soup.
If you are not a seafood lover, you can use pork (pork belly), beef, or mushroom. If you go to Korean tofu house restaurants, their menus will offer a number of different varieties of soondubu jjjgae.
My cookbook, Korean Cooking Favorites, has an excellent recipe for beef soondubu jjigae recipe. So check it out.
What is the difference between soondubu jjigae and kimchi jjigae
Although many of soondubu jjigae recipes are asking for a little amount of sour kimchi in the recipe, it is not the main ingredient and you can omit the kimchi if you want.
In contrast, kimchi jjigae features kimchi and fatty pork to be the main ingredients and a few tofu pieces are added to make the stew hearty.
Recipe Tips for Korean soft tofu stew
Below are a few recipe tips that help you make an outstanding soft tofu stew.
- No need to use chili oil: You can use pre-made chili oil from a jar if you want. But I don’t bother because you can easily start the recipe by infusing Korean chili flakes in oil, which takes no time at all.
- Spice level: Adjust the amount of gochugaru (Korean chili flakes) to suit your heat tolerance.
- Infuse chili flakes with green onion: Infusing the fragrance of green onion and Korean chili flakes gives more depth to the soup broth. I used Asian leek, but green onion works just fine.
- Anchovy stock is a must: You have to use a flavored stock to give more umami flavor. Plain water won’t bring the same result. Making anchovy stock from scratch is super easy and quick if you have dried anchovies and sea kelp (dashima or kombu).
- Not a seafood person? Then use beef or pork: The only difference in the cooking process is that you will need to cook the meat before you add the stock.
- Stone pot vs regular pot: You can use either one. Stone pots tend to hold the heat longer, keeping the soup hot throughout serving and eating. But you don’t need to purchase one if you don’t have one.
- Egg or no egg? It’s a personal preference. Some prefer to enjoy their soft tofu stew without adding the egg on top. I am one of them. If you like the taste from the egg, add it at the last minute of cooking.
What type of tofu should I use
Although we call this dish a soft tofu stew in English, the choice of tofu is not the typical Korean soft tofu that is used in other soup and stew recipes. The texture is close to silken tofu, which is even softer.
Soondubu tofu (or soon tofu) is not a pressed tofu, which contains lots of water in it, so it maintains its silky, velvety texture. Look for a package of silken tofu or soondubu (soon tofu) that is specifically made for jjigae recipe.
Soon tofu comes in two types. One type comes in a cylinder-like plastic tube and the other comes as a block in a plastic container. Either one works fine, although I prefer the cylinder kind for its ease of use.
List of ingredients
People might think making soondubu jjigae would be complicated, but the truth is that it is really simple and quick to make from scratch. And making homemade soondubu jjigae is significantly more delicious than one of those ready made packets.
- oil – use for cooking the onion garlic, and kimchi before adding the stock
- Korean chili flakes (gochugaru)
- Asian leek – or green onion
- onion – chop into small pieces
- garlic – can’t skip when you make Korean stews
- kimchi – make sure your kimchi is sour and fermented
- zucchini – any kind of your choice. You can also add mushroom in place of zuccini or in addition to.
- seafood of your choice – I use whole clams (frozen) and shrimp. You can use peeled and cleaned seafood.
- Korean soup soy sauce – to season and add flavor
- Korean anchovy sauce – to season and add flavor
- fresh chili – optional
For anchovy stock: Anchovy stock brings umami in the soup.
- dried anchovies – Use large size
- dried sea kelp – optional. You can omit this if you don’t have.
How to make Korean soft tofu stew
Step 1. Make the anchovy stock
Combine dried anchovies and sea kelp with water in a pot. Bring to boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Discard the sea kelp once water comes to boil. Discard the anchovies and reserve the stock.
Step 2. Soak clams
If using frozen whole clams, soak them in cold water for 5 minutes. If you see that the clam shells are open, that’s a good sign. Discard any clams that are closed. If using clam meat, you don’t need to soak it in water. You will also need a half the amount if using clam meat.
Step 3. Infuse oil with chili flakes
Heat oil in a pot over low heat. Add Korean chili flakes and the leek (or green onion) and gently stir for 1 minute. Be careful not to burn the chili flakes.
Step 4. Stir-fry onion and kimchi
Add the onion, garlic, and kimchi and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes over medium heat until soft.
Step 5. Add tofu, zucchini, and seafood
Try not to break up the tofu when you scoop it out—big chunks are better than letting it break into too many small pieces. I am using whole shrimps since they make the soup broth deeper in flavor. You can use peeled shrimps if you find whole shrimps to be bothersome to peel later when you eat them. (I don’t mind that much.)
Step 6. Pour the stock
Pour the anchovy stock into the pot until it barely covers the tofu and seafood, about 1 3/4 cup. Bring the soup to boil first and reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for 4-5 minutes.
Step 7. Season the soup
Use Korean soup soy sauce and anchovy sauce to season the soup. Taste the broth and season more with salt if needed.
Lastly, top with green onion and fresh chili (if using). Serve hot with rice and Korean side dishes (banchan).
Addition of an egg: If you like to add an egg, crack it right on the soup at the last minute and remove the pot from the heat. The remaining heat in the pot will cook the egg. You can stir the egg to break the yolk while waiting.
What to eat with Korean spicy tofu stew
The stew itself is full of flavor and satisfying. Therefore you don’t need so many other side dishes to serve with. Make sure to serve with rice and enjoy with 1-2 Korean side dishes. My suggestions are:
- Korean Spinach Side Dish (Sigeumchi Namul)
- Bean sprout salad
- Korean Potato Side Dish (Gamja Jorim)
- Korean Cabbage with Soybean Paste
- Homemade Roasted Seaweed Snack
More Korean stew recipes
If you enjoy heartwarming Korean jjigae, you will love these recipes:
- Kimchi Jjigae (Kimchi Stew with pork)
- Iconic Korean Army Stew (Budae Jjigae)
- Classic Doenjang Jjigae (Korean Soybean Paste Stew)
- Korean Spicy Pork Stew with Zucchini
Tried this recipe? Please take a moment to leave a star rating & comment below. I love hearing from you, and it helps other readers, too.
Korean Soft Tofu Stew with Seafood (Soondubu Jjigae)
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp Korean chili flakes (gochugaru)
- 1/3 cup sliced Asian leek, or green onion
- 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup chopped kimchi
- 1 lb silken tofu
- 1/2 zucchini, sliced
- 1/2 lb fresh or frozen whole clam, or shelled (use about 1/4 lb)
- 6 medium raw shrimp, whole or peeled
- 1 tbsp Korean soy sauce (gukganjang)
- 2 tsp Korean anchovy sauce
- 1 green onion, chopped
- 1 fresh chili, optional
- 1 egg, optional
- To make the anchovy stock, combine dried anchovies and sea kelp with water in a pot. Bring to boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Discard the sea kelp once water comes to boil. Discard the anchovies and reserve the stock.
- If using fresh or frozen whole clams, soak them in cold water for 5 minutes. If you see that the clam shells are open, that’s a good sign. Discard any clams that are closed. If using clam meat, you don’t need to soak it in water.
- Heat oil in a 1.5 qt pot over low heat. Add Korean chili flakes and the leek (or green onion) and gently stir for 1 minute. Be careful not to burn the chili flakes.
- Add the onion, garlic, and kimchi and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes over medium heat until soft. Add the tofu, zucchini, and seafood. Try not to break up the tofu when you scoop it out—big chunks are better than letting it break into too many small pieces.
- Pour the stock into the pot until it barely covers the tofu and seafood, about 1 3/4 cup. Bring the soup to boil first and reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for 4-5 minutes. Season the soup with Korean soup soy sauce and anchovy sauce. Taste the broth and season more with salt if needed.
- Lastly, top with green onion and fresh chili (if using). Serve hot with rice and Korean side dishes (banchan).
- Addition of an egg: If you like to add an egg, crack it right on the soup at the last minute and remove the pot from the heat. The remaining heat in the pot will cook the egg. You can stir the egg to break the yolk while waiting.