Tofu Kimchi - Recipe

Tofu Kimchi

Kimchi is the most ubiquitous banchan in Korean cuisine.  I'm sure if you're even remotely interested in Korean food or culture, you've heard of how it isn't just food for Korean people, but a source of national pride and heritage. 

When I was little, I would eat kimchi after my mom rinsed it in water for me.  As I got older and I could tolerate the heat, I'd eat it as is, and I was so proud when my mom let me do that one day.  It was like graduating from kid table to the adult table smiley.

Tonight, I made tofu kimchi.  It's a very popular item at Korean pubs and bars with makgoli (Korean rice wine) or soju.  It's very easy to make if you have ripe kimchi in the refrigerator, and it's low carb to boot.  I know a Korean celebrity that lost about 20kg in 2 months eating nothing but tofu and cucumbers.  Not that I would recommend that!

You can make this dish with or without meat, but I like mine with some pork belly.  Personally, I love pork and kimchi combination, so any time I'm making something with kimchi, I'll add pork.

These are the ingredients you'll need:

  • 1 package of tofu
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups of kimchi
  • One fistful of pork belly, about 1/4 lb
  • some green onion for garnish
  • some sesame seeds
  • sesame oil

You could make this without any extra ingredients if you have very flavorful kimchi.  I added some seasoning to the dish, but it's optional.  For the seasoning, I used:

  • 1 Tablespoon gochugaru
  • 1/2 Tablespoon gochujang
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (this is particularly good if you have over-ripe kimchi, cuts down on the acidity)
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon mirin
  • 1/2 teaspoon - 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon - 1 teaspoon oligosaccharides (available at Korean markets)

Mix the seasoning and add 1/2 of the seasoning to the pork belly.

Heat a pan on medium heat and add few drops of oil.  Add the pork belly to the pan and cook the meat.  

When it's about cooked through, add the kimchi.

Kimchi will cook down a bit so you will end up with less amount than you started with.  Add the rest of the seasoning to the dish and continue to cook the kimchi.

Some people like the kimchi really soft and some people like it with a bit of a crunch, and that will determine your cooking time.  I cooked for about 10-15 minutes until I noticed that the kimchi was pretty soft.  Lastly, add a few drops of sesame oil and add sesame seeds and you're done with the kimchi part.

While you're cooking the kimchi, heat some water in a pot.  When the water is hot, add tofu block and warm it in hot water for a couple of minutes.  

Take out the tofu and slice it up. Be careful, make sure it's cool enough to handle.  Alternatively, you can slice tofu and put it in microwave to heat it up.

Garnish with green onions on top of kimchi and black sesame seeds on tofu.

At bars, you eat this with makgoli, and I found this delicious flavored makgoli in a can at a Korean supermarket.  Definitely not traditional, it tastes like Japanese calpico with a little bit of alcohol.  If you want some refreshing light alcoholic beverage, this might be perfect for you.

We ate tofu with kimchi on top, but it also tastes good wrapped in perilla leaves.  Korean perilla leaves are similar to Japanese shiso leaves, but they're not the same.  I find shiso leaves a little too strong, but I love perilla leaves.  Keep in mind some people find perilla leaves too strong as well.  Similar to cilantro, you either love perilla leaves or you hate it.  I personally love it, but it's not for everyone.

Hope everyone had a nice weekend!  I'm just glad it's not so hot in LA anymore... I'm ready for the fall weather.  My favorite time of the year is coming up, so I'm looking forward to the next few months!

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