There are people who are frightened by kimchi. It’s too… too much. Too fermented, too cabbage-y, too hot, too salty. It’s like the inside of a subway car in July. It explodes when you open the jar (much like a subway car).
This is not for them.
But if you’re feeling puny, overwrought, in dire straits, in need of restorative potions, this might cure what ails you. I originally found the recipe on Epicurious and of course made some changes, partly because I could not find the gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste) required. I made do with what I had. I used King brand kimchi, available in every supermarket here (it would be even better if you get some real kimchi from a Korean store, but it will cost more).
This isn’t for sissies, kittens, Lawrence Welk fans, or the fearful. If you have to have chop suey and sweet & sour pork at Chinese restaurants, if you’re the girl in the horror movie who is running from the monster and sprains her ankle – open a can of Cream of WTF instead.
HOT KIMCHI AND TOFU SOUP
- 1 16-ounce package soft tofu, cut into 1″ pieces
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 14-ounce jar cabbage kimchi, drained (reserve the scary orange liquid)
- 2 tablespoons chile-garlic paste or Sriracha or sambal oelek
- 4-6 green onions, cut into 1″ pieces
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, reduce heat, and carefully add the tofu.
Under the best of circumstances, tofu doesn’t look too exciting.
Let simmer about 4 minutes, then drain and set aside. (The original recipe said to remove the tofu to a “medium” bowl and you can certainly do that if you don’t mind washing an extra “medium” bowl.)
Open the kimchi carefully – it is still fermenting, which is why the jar lid may be bulging.
Drain the orange liquid off the kimchi and save it.
Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large saucepan and add the drained kimchi plus the 2 tablespoons of whatever hot chile paste you have. If you can get the gochujang, more power to you, but don’t obsess over it if you can’t.
Saute the kimchi and chili paste over medium-high heat until it starts to brown. (This may smell pungent, in which case open a window.) Then add the kimchi liquid and 6 cups water, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer.
Let simmer about 35-45 minutes until the kimchi cabbage gets tender.
Then add the green onions, soy sauce, and tofu.
Let this simmer very gently for 25 minutes to allow the tofu to absorb the flavors.
Stir in the sesame oil; season (if necessary, though I don’t think it will be) with salt and pepper.
You can serve as is.
Or you can add an egg yolk, to cook very lightly by the heat of the broth, and some toasted sesame seeds. To toast sesame seeds:
Put sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat. Shake and/or stir the seeds very frequently.
When the seeds are lightly browned, remove them from the pan right away; otherwise they will continue to brown and burn by residual heat.
If you wanted some more body to this, some rice noodles (the silken type used in pho) would be a good addition, or some shrimp tossed in the last five minutes of simmering. Some fresh basil leaves – especially Thai basil – or mint leaves or cilantro would be nice shredded and used as garnish, though that might just be window dressing and not really required.