Monday, December 10, 2007

Soon Du Boo (also Sundubu), Spicy Korean Tofu Soup

Imagine a cold and wet night. Your slippers are soaked from dodging puddles on the street. Imagine serendipitously coming across a Korean restaurant that specializes in the delicious but little known (outside of Korean circles) boiling hot, bright red, tofu soup, Soon Du Boo. The restaurant is Duk Chang Do and is just across the street and mauka of Walgreen's on Keeaumoku. Ever since that night when I was Christmas shopping with my sister-in-law, Hedy, and my sister, Sherry, I've found myself craving Soon Du Boo whenever it rains. Haven't felt this strong an attraction, ok, addiction, to a soup since I first tasted Vietnamese Pho 15 years ago.

I felt compelled to thoroughly research how to make this soup and then I went right to the source, a Palama Market cashier. The cashier gave me an important tip. She advised me to use ko choo garu, the dry ground red chili pepper powder and NOT ko choo jang, the bottled red chili pepper sauce, to make Soon Du Boo.

I then had a looonng, informative and enjoyable conversation with my friend, KoreanWiz, (see link to her site at left) about the best Korean restaurants in Hawai'i and Korean food in general, I felt revitalized to continue my quest to make a decent Soon Du Boo. KoreanWiz just notified me that another spelling of Soon Du Boo is Sundubu.

Several attempts later, following is my version of Soon Du Boo. Being Chinese, I had to add dried tangerine peel (kwo pay) because I feel it complements the spiciness well. I also like onions in my soup so I hope I am not committing heresy by including them here. While the soup is bright red it is not so much hot as pleasantly spicy.

You can make this into a meatless soup by using just tofu and substituting either vegetable broth or water for the chicken broth. This is one of those versatile soups that can be made with what's on hand. Please do not be put off by the list of ingredients. Most of these ingredients are generally on hand in local kitchens. The soup goes together faster than almost any other soup I can think of.

Soon Du Boo
also spelled "Sundubu"
photo at left on top

First create the sauce which will be divided into thirds and used for the meat or seafood marinade, the soup seasoning and then the dipping sauce (Yang Yohm Jjang):

2 T. ko choo garu (which is dry ground red chili pepper powder sold in large 1 lb. bags at Palama Market or Don Quixote. Do not substitute ko choo jang which is a bottled, seasoned red chili pepper sauce or red chili flakes, which would be too hot)
3-4 small red chili peppers with seeds, finely chopped
2 T. miso, Korean or Japanese
2 T. sesame oil
3 T. toasted sesame seeds, preferably ground with a sesame grinder. If you don't have a grinder you can use a mortar and pestle and absent that, a spoon and a bowl to crush the seeds.
3 T. soy sauce
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed with the bottom of a cleaver or a spoon
1 tsp. sugar
3 green onions, sliced thinly
2 pcs. of dried tangerine peel

Combine the above and then divide equally into three small dishes, set aside.

Make the Soup.
1/2 to 1 lb. total weight of 3/4 inch cubed, boneless meat (pork, chicken, beef) and/or seafood (shrimp, mussels, clams) or a combination of both
1 round onion cut in the middle on the "equator" and then sliced into 1/8" slices from the stem to the "equator"
1 container of drained, silken or soft tofu, Soon Du Boo (I like House brand which is a Japanese tofu, widely available or you can use the authentic Korean tofu that comes in tubes at Palama Market) cut into 1 inch cubes
1 can of Swanson's chicken broth

1)Use the first portion of seasoning sauce to marinate the meat or seafood. Use your hands to massage the sauce in. Chill for at least 1/2 hour.

2)Using a Dutch oven or similar heavy pot, heat 2 T. of oil and 1 t. of sesame oil on High. Lightly brown first the onions and then the meat. Do not drain the marinade off the meat. Add the seafood last if you are using seafood.

3)Add the second portion of seasoning sauce with the tofu (careful not to break the cubes) and the broth over everything in the pot. Bring to a boil then turn down to a high simmer. Let cook for 1/2 hour with a lid on.

Serve the soup with a bowl of hot white rice and the remaining third of the seasoning sauce in a small dish for dipping.

Strictly optional, but the traditional way to serve this, is by dropping a raw egg onto the bubbling and boiling soup when it's brought to the table in an earthenware or cast iron vessel. Can garnish with more sliced green onions and strips of grilled meats like bulgogi, kal bi, pork or chicken.

A big Mahalo to KoreanWiz for linking my blogsite to her website and mentioning this recipe! If you are at all interested in Korean tv dramas, her site is THE place to go. KoreanWiz started her website six years ago before the English-speaking world caught the craze.


Anonymous said...

Sounds yummy! I wonder where I can find ko choo garu around here...


foodiewahine said...

Ah, my faithful reader, Marian,

Uwajimaya or any Asian specialty store might carry it. It's available locally at a Japanese dept. store called Don Quixote (we went there last summer). For some reason it comes only in large 1 lb. bags and might be labelled ko chu garu or ground red chili powder. It's a bright red powder. It lends a distinctive flavor so I can't think of any proper substitute.

If you cannot find it, email me on my regular email address.

techieguy said...

Oh, man, do I love sundubu, and I also LOVE pho! Glad to know I'm not the only crazy person who gets addicted *CRAVES* some of those soups.

I spent a year in Korea and ate sundubu every day while I was attending Seoul's yonsei university.

Thanks for the recipe.

foodiewahine said...

Dear techieguy,
Ever since I learned how to make it I've made a pot of soon du boo at least once every coupla weeks. Then I eat the leftovers for several more days. Somehow the soup seems to preserve the tofu so it doesn't spoil so easliy.

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