The versatile Korean banchan that’s spicy, savory, and full of plant-based protein. Make Dubu Jorim once and it will soon become your favorite 15-minute banchan — or breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack!
If there’s one dish that brings me back to my Korean American childhood, this would be it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone frying up squares of tofu, knowing this will soon be on the table.
That’s because Dubu Jorim is the fast, simple banchan that tastes good anytime of the day or night. It tastes good for breakfast AND as a late night snack. It pairs perfectly with rice but also goes with just about everything else, too.
Huh? Never heard of banchan before? Well, if not, let me introduce you to the amazing world of Korean eating.
Koreans do not eat in the typical Western way. The Western way of eating centers on a main dish (usually meat) supported by sides of bread and salad. Of course, there are multiple variations and ways of serving this kind of meal. But usually, there’s 3 dishes — one meat, one starch, one vegetable.
Koreans eat in a completely different way. Typically, there’s individual bowls of rice and soup for every person. Then there’s communal, multiple dishes of banchan in the center of the table. Banchan is the Korean word for “side dishes.” Except the side dishes make up the actual “main course” of the meal, if that makes any sense.
At Korean restaurants, banchan are served no matter what you order. Not surprisingly, banchan are commonly mistaken as appetizers or free food. But actually, all the little dishes of banchan ARE the meal.
Banchan can be kimchi, bean sprouts, or seafood pancake. But banchan can also be grilled fish, braised pork belly, bulgogi, and even galbi jjim. Even if there’s a “main” dish, everyone eats a little bit of everything.
At the very least, Koreans eat and serve kimchi as banchan. At the most, Koreans will serve a crazy variety and amount. The more banchan, the fancier the meal!
Making banchan at home sounds labor intensive (and it can be at times). But once you have a “base” of several banchan, all you need to do is cook rice everyday. When the existing banchan starts running out, you cook 1 or 2 additional banchan per day. Instead of cooking 3 dishes a day (the Western way), you only cook 1 dish a day, maybe, and rice. It’s a totally different way of eating and cooking.
That’s why Dubu Jorim is such a quintessential Korean banchan. Dubu Jorim cooks up fast — on the table in 15 minutes! Dubu Jorim also tastes good the next day, so there’s always a variety of banchan on your table. It can be spicy or more soy sauce and vinegar based.
Dubu Jorim is really the banchan that’s so delicious, you will want to eat it all the time! I love this dish and hope you will, too.
Chinese cooks own woks. Korean cooks own non-stick skillets. In fact, almost every Korean cook I know owns at least one non-stick skillet, if not more. It’s the practical cooking tool that’s perfect for so many Korean preparations. (Like Kimchi Pancake, Korean Beef Patties (aka Donguerang Ddeng), Kimchi Fried Rice, etc.)
Admittedly, I have a love-hate relationship with non-stick skillets. I love that they make pan frying so much easier with a minimal amount of oil. But they don’t seem to last very long. I find they need replacing every year or two because they quickly lose their non-stick capabilities. Not the ideal cooking tool, in my book.
Instead, I like to use cast iron pans. Mine are well greased from years of frequent use. They act like non-stick skillets and I use them everyday — I absolutely love them! The tricky part is the maintenance. But once you get over that, they are the best.
Using a regular skillet will NOT work for this recipe. The tofu will stick to the pan and the sauce will burn. In the end, you’ll find yourself scraping the browned bits off the bottom and swearing to never make this dish again. But I’m here to tell you, it’s not you! It’s the pan! Trust me, you can make this dish!
All to say, this recipe NEEDS a non-stick skillet. But if you don’t have one, a well-greased cast iron pan will do.
How To Make Dubu Jorim:
Cut firm tofu into 1/2-inch thick squares. Pat both sides dry with a paper towel.
Heat a non-stick skillet (or well greased cast iron pan) with 2 Tbsp neutral oil. Add tofu and cook until crispy and browned on both sides.
Spoon sauce over the tofu squares. Add water into the pan. Cook until sauce is reduced and the tofu has absorbed all that saucy flavor. This step goes fast so watch carefully!
Serve with rice and kimchi. Enjoy!
Dubu Jorim aka Spicy Braised Tofu
- Non-stick skillet OR well greased cast iron pan
- 1 package firm tofu
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce (not the low sodium kind!)
- 2 Tbsp gochukaru (Korean chili flakes)
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp rice vinegar (regular white vinegar also works, if you don't have it)
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- Cut tofu into 1/2-inch thick squares. Pat both sides dry with a paper towel.
- Heat a non-stick skillet (or well greased cast iron pan) with 2 Tbsp neutral oil over medium heat. When the pan is hot but not smoking, add tofu. It will splatter so be careful! Cook until crispy and browned on one side, about 3-4 minutes. (Do not disturb! Let the tofu be!) Flip and repeat.
- Meanwhile, mix sauce ingredients (except water) into a bowl. When the tofu has finished frying on the second side, keep the heat on medium and spoon sauce over the tofu squares. Then immediately add water into the pan.
- Simmer until sauce is reduced and the tofu has absorbed all that saucy flavor, about 2-3 minutes. Shake the pan from time to time to prevent sticking and burning. Feel free to add more water, 1-2 Tbsp at a time, if the sauce reduces too much. This step goes quickly so watch carefully!
- Transfer to a serving platter and make sure to spoon up all the pan sauce. Garnish with green onion and sesame seeds. Serve with rice and kimchi. Enjoy!