Exploring the World of Tofu

By Stephanie Lemus

It can be hard, soft, and acts as a sponge for sauce... What is it? Tofu! Often considered just for vegetarians, this ingredient is so much more. Tofu isn’t plain, it can convey a variety of different flavors and textures. So, here’s a tour of tofu in Korean food. Some of these side dishes might be sweet and some might be spicy, they might convince you to join the tofu fan club. 

  • Fried Tofu Rice Balls (Yubuchobap, 유부초밥) 

Rice balls and tofu? More likely than you think! These tofu balls are quite popular as a snack. If you go to a Korean grocery store, you’ll definitely find a yubuchobap kit! It comes with the tofu shell, and all you have to do is stuff it. It is surprisingly hearty and sweet, though it depends on what you put inside. Usually, they are filled with rice and veggies. You can also add ingredients like egg and tuna to your liking!

  • Pan Fried Tofu (Dububuchim-yangnyeomjang, 두부부침양념장)

Not too complicated and full of flavor; pan-fried tofu is definitely a side-dish for those just starting to venture into cooking Korean food. Made with firm tofu, so it doesn’t break in the pain, this side dish can also be a salty light appetizer. It is also seasoned with yangnyeomjang sauce. This staple seasoning is made out of rice vinegar, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes called gochugaru. It’s delicious and you only need a pan to make it. 

  • Tofu Pickles (Dubu-jangajji 두부장아찌) 

This recipe doesn’t have any pickles but instead has shiitake mushrooms. It also includes ingredients like onions, apples, and of course tofu! The tofu is pan-fried, giving it a crispy texture, and the onion adds to that crispiness. The brine used here is quite salty since it has vinegar. This side dish goes well with some rice or noodles to stave off that bitterness. This is great if you want a more filling side dish since the mushroom adds some meatiness. 

  • Spicy Braised Tofu (Dubu-jorim, 두부조림) 

Similar to pan-fried tofu, spicy braised tofu is made the same way. The key difference between the two is that this recipe is significantly spicier. Red pepper flakes are mixed with soy sauce to make the sauce. Green onions and white onions are caramelized making it slightly sweet. Perfect if you want some spice in your life! 

  • Kimchi Soft Tofu Stew (Soondubu-jjiga, 김치순두부찌개)

Do you like kimchi? Do you like pork belly? If you answered yes, then this might be the dish for you! This stew also adds a little twist but also including soft tofu and packs a punch with red pepper flakes. The tofu adds to the texture with its chewiness. Add a side of rice and enjoy! This stew is filling and will also fill you with happiness. 

Tofu is more than a flavorless chunk of texture, it’s unexpected comfort food! If you go to a Korean restaurant, you might see these side dishes. Did this tour make tofu make your next culinary destination? 

Written by Stephanie Lemus

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