Nothing cozier than a bubbling bowl of Spicy Seafood Soondubu Jjigae! Comfort food at its best.
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!
And honestly, it couldn’t be easier to make at home. On the table in 30 minutes! By the time the rice has finished cooking, you’ll have a pot of jiggly Seafood Soondubu Jjigae ready to eat!
What is Soondubu Jjigae?
Soondubu Jjigae is Korean Soft Tofu. Soondubu is the Korean word for Soft Silken Tofu, tofu that’s not been pressed or drained. The high water content makes the texture silky smooth, like custard. When handled, it breaks apart easily into clumps.
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.
Soondubu is an essential ingredient to Soondubu Jjigae! There really is not substitute. Although you can certainly use a firmer tofu, the texture won’t be quite the same.
Soondubu Jjigae vs Kimchi Jjigae
At first glance, Soondubu Jjigae and Kimchi Jjigae look like the same thing. They are both spicy, red, tofu-filled Korean stews. There are even Soondubu Jjigae recipes made with kimchi, to make it even more confusing!
The main difference lies in the texture. Soondubu Jjigae has a soft, fluffy texture. Extra Silken Tofu is so soft, it breaks apart into fluffy, cloud-like clumps; it melts away into the broth. The raw egg that’s added at the end also thickens the stew gently, to velvety smooth deliciousness. Overall, the texture is soft, silky, cloud-like!
Kimchi Jjigae, by contrast, usually contains block tofu. Even the softest block tofu keeps its shape and firmness more than soondubu. While soft silken tofu crumbles apart, block tofu retains its shape. Also, Kimchi Jjigae contains lots and lots of aged, sour kimchi! The flavor profile is totally different!
Why frozen seafood? Isn’t fresh better?
I used to make Seafood Soondubu Jjigae with fresh seafood. But honestly, it was kind of a pain. Fresh seafood requires a special trip to the fish monger. Once I started using frozen seafood, Seafood Soondubu Jjigae started becoming an easy pantry meal.
FYI most seafood freezes very well! Once defrosted, you can’t even tell it’s been previously frozen. I do miss the special flavor of fresh clams. But when balanced with the ease and convenience of frozen seafood, I’ll admit — I make this version much more often and see it as an easy weeknight staple.
FYI buy packages of mixed frozen seafood at the Asian market. When they go on sale, I stock up and store in the freezer. The mixed seafood packages provide little bit of everything: mussels, clams, squid, octopus, shrimp!
How to make Seafood Soondubu Jjigae:
Defrost frozen seafood according to package direction.
Make spicy oil paste: cook ground pork, onion, Gochukaru, and Gochujang in sesame oil.
Add water, garlic, sugar, and defrosted seafood. Bring to a simmer. Add soft silken tofu and Saewoojut, Korean salted shrimp.
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.
Enjoy with rice and banchan of choice!
Haemul Seafood Soondubu Jjigae AKA 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!