Nothing cozier than a bubbling bowl of Spicy Seafood Soondubu Jjigae! Korean Soft Tofu Stew is tasty, comforting, and so easy to make at home!
Once the cold weather hits, I start craving Soondubu Jjigae — Korean Soft Tofu Stew. Slick with spicy oil and loaded with silky soft tofu, this bubbling pot is the ultimate in comfort food.
Yes, you can make Soondubu stew at home! My Soondubu Jjigae recipe really couldn’t be easier. On the table in 30 minutes! By the time the rice has finished cooking, you’ll have a cozy bowl of delicious Seafood Soondubu Jjigae.
What is Soondubu Jjigae?
Soondubu Jjigae is a spicy Korean stew that highlights Soondubu — tofu that’s unpressed and extra silky and soft.
Regular tofu is pressed which makes it more firm and able to hold its shape. By contrast, soondubu is not pressed at all. The texture is so soft, it breaks apart easily into fluffy, cloud-like clumps; it melts away into the broth.
A spicy soup base with a shimmering layer of spicy oil and ultra silky, custard-like tofu is the ULTIMATE Korean comfort food. So good with a bowl of rice!
A raw egg is usually added to Soondubu Jjigae, right before eating. Mixed gently into the residual heat, the stew becomes even more velvety smooth and rich. YUM!
FYI, there are many Soondubu Jjigae variations — just as there are many kinds of chicken soup. Seafood Soondubu Jjigae is extra special because it highlights the briny flavor of the sea with shrimp, mussels, and squid. YUM!
- Soft Extra Silken Tofu. The star ingredient. Find the best you can get. Goes by many names: Soondubu, Soon Tofu, Soft Silken Tofu or Extra Silken Tofu.
- Frozen Seafood. For ease and convenience, I use frozen seafood packs that include an assortment of clams, mussels, squid, and shrimp. If unavailable in your area, a mix of shrimp, clams, and squid works great.
- Pork. A little bit adds richness and depth.
- Onion + Garlic. The aromatic base of this flavorful Korean stew.
- Gochujang. Korean fermented chili paste.
- Gochukaru. Korean dried chili flakes.
- Sauwoojut. Korean fermented shrimp paste. A classic ingredient for kimchi, it adds lots of seafood flavor.
- Fish sauce. Just a splash at the end!
- Soy Sauce. Deep umami richness and flavor.
- Sugar. A pinch rounds out all the flavors.
- Sesame Oil. Fragrant and nutty.
- Egg. For serving. Adds velvety richness and silky smoothness.
- Defrost frozen seafood. Cover with cold water and set aside to defrost for 15 minutes. (Check package directions).
- Make spicy oil paste. cook ground pork, onion, Gochukaru, and Gochujang in sesame oil until the fat renders out of the pork and the onion becomes fragrant.
- Make broth. Add water, garlic, sugar, and defrosted seafood. Bring to a simmer. Add soft silken tofu and Saewoojut, Korean salted shrimp.
- Add egg. Off the heat, crack a raw egg directly into the cooking pot. Mix around; the residual heat will gently cook the egg. You can leave out the egg but the texture and flavor will not be exactly the same; the broth will be thinner and less rich.
- Garnish and serve. Add green onions and enjoy with rice!
Watch how to make it:
- Don’t reduce the oil amount. The shimmering layer of spicy oil is characteristic to this spicy stew. It’s really not that much but essential to the overall flavor of the dish.
- Temper sesame oil. Similar to olive oil, sesame oil easily burns and has a high smoke point. Add a little bit of regular cooking oil (grapeseed oil, vegetable oil, etc.) to temper the oil and prevent burning.
- Make it spicier. If you’d like more heat, add 1-2 more Gochukaru. Also, top with a fresh minced chili like fresno or Jalapeno pepper AND whole mustard seeds right before serving.
- Taste + Adjust seasonings. Since fermented food items (in this case – gochujang, soy sauce, fish sauce, sauwoojut) change over time and the soft silken tofu can dilute the flavor of the broth, taste and adjust seasonings right before serving. If bland, add a splash of fish sauce. If too salty or too tangy, add a pinch of sugar.
- Serve in a Korean clay pot (ttukbaegi). If you have one, a medium-sized (1000ml) earthenware bowl is perfect for serving this homey stew. The clay pot keeps the jjigae hot and bubbling.
Where can I find Soondubu? What does it look like?
Soondubu comes in plastic covered, tube-shaped packages OR plastic sealed boxes. Look in the tofu section at the Asian market.
Korean Soft Tofu goes by many names: Soondubu, Soon Tofu, Soft Silken Tofu or Extra Silken Tofu.
If your Soondubu comes in a plastic tube, look for a dotted line. That dotted line tells you where to cut, but don’t cut all the way through! Cut halfway, then open the package like a hinge. Once opened, spoon or squeeze the extra silken tofu directly into the cooking pot.
Can I substitute Soondubu with another ingredient?
Soondubu is an essential ingredient to Soondubu Jjigae. There really is not substitute. If you use a firmer tofu, the texture won’t be quite the same.
What is the difference between Soondubu Jjigae vs Kimchi Jjigae?
The main difference is the kind of tofu that’s used. Soondubu Jjigae is made with soondubu or Korean soft, silken tofu and thick, rich broth. Kimchi Jjigae usually includes firmer tofu and a thinner broth. Also, Kimchi Jjigae contains lots of aged, sour kimchi for a completely different flavor profile.
Why frozen seafood? Isn’t fresh better?
Fresh seafood tastes very good in Korean Seafood Soondubu Jjigae. Especially the special flavor of fresh clams. If you live close to a fish monger, that’s what I recommend.
However, the ease and convenience of frozen seafood packs makes this an easy weeknight meal. Stock up when they go on sale and stash in the freezer. Seafood freezes very well. Once defrosted, you can’t even tell it’s been previously frozen.
FYI Asian markets usually sell packages of mixed frozen seafood. The mixed seafood packages provide little bit of everything: mussels, clams, squid, and shrimp.
Other easy Korean soups to enjoy:
- Kimchi Jjigae with Pork Belly
- Korean Rice Cake Soup with Dumplings (Tteok Mandu Guk)
- Doenjang Jjigae (Soybean Paste Stew)
- Korean Oxtail Soup (Kkori Gomtang)
Spicy Seafood Soondubu Jjigae (Korean Soft Tofu Stew)
- Ttukbaegi (Korean clay pot) OR medium saucepan
- 1 360g/12 oz frozen seafood pack
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1/4 cup ground pork (medium)
- 1/2 large onion, chopped
- 2 Tbsp Gochukaru (Korean dried chili flakes) (1 Tbsp if you'd like it less spicy)
- 1 Tbsp Gochujang (Korean fermented chili paste)
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 3/4 cup water
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp saewoojut (Korean fermented, salted shrimp)
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 package Soondubu or Soft Silken Tofu
- splash fish sauce
- 1 large egg (preferably organic)
- Defrost frozen seafood according to package directions. Run under cold water for 3-5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Make spicy oil paste: heat a medium cooking pot (or Korean clay pot, a Ttukbaegi) over medium heat and add sesame oil. When the oil is warm (but not smoking), add the ground pork. Cook until the pork is no longer pink, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add onion, Gochukaru, and Gochujang. Cook until the onion has softened, about 3-4 minutes. Lower heat if necessary, making sure the Gochukaru doesn't burn. Add soy sauce and mix for 30 seconds. The mixture will be thick, pasty, and oily looking.
- Add water, garlic, and sugar, mixing well with a spoon. Bring to a simmer. When the pot is bubbling, add defrosted, drained seafood and saewoojut. At first, it will look like there's too much seafood. But it will shrink down and release liquid. Cook until the seafood is 90% cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add soft silken tofu (soondubu) and mix gently, breaking up the curds. Taste and add a splash of fish sauce. Cook until heated through. It should be bubbling.
- Remove from heat and crack a raw egg directly into the pot. (Optional step but highly recommended). Mix gently. Eat immediately with rice, kimchi, and other banchan (side dishes) of choice!
I used the base to make kimchi soft tofu stew and it was perfect! Thanks Lis for the best recipes