Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dubu Buchim -- Korean Basics

I would guess that most people think of Korean barbecue and kimchee when they think of Korean food.  For good reason - that's some tasty eats!  But it's quite easy to put together a vegetarian Korean meal.  For this week's Meatless Monday meal, I turned to tofu.

Tofu, or "dubu" in Korean, is used in many dishes, from banchans like this one, to soups and stews, in both firm and soft varieties.  This dish, dubu buchim, translates simply to "fried tofu."  You could stop there, and eat it as-is, with lots of salt and pepper, with kimchee and some mushroom banchan.  But Koreans LOVE the spicy, so here it is served with a sauce called "yang nyum jang".  I don't know what that translates to, but it is a combination of very basic Korean condiments that dresses up plain tofu and elevates the simple bean curd banchan to higher levels of deliciousness!

Yang nyum jang:  Eat the fire!
I made this for my husband last night and asked how it was.  "Great!" was the reply.  "Thank you.  But how is it, as far as authenticity goes?  Does it taste like your Mom made it?"  He said they only got the yang nyum jang when company or family came over, and usually they just had the tofu fried, with salt.  "But I like it better like this," he told me, and when the tofu was gone, he dragged his roasted broccoli through the leftover sauce.  "Koreans will put gochujang on anything!", he said with a grin.

Dubu Buchim with Yang Nyum Jang


  • 1 block firm tofu
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or grape seed oil
  • 1 heaping teaspoon gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  1. Drain the tofu, then squeeze it between two salad plates.  You can use whatever method you want - some people wrap a brick in tin foil and place it on top of the tofu!  Just squeeze that block of bean curd, then squeeze some more - but be careful, you don't want to crush it!  Lay it on your cutting board, and slice it half lengthwise.  Then cut it crosswise into squares about 1/2-inch thick.  I got 16 squares out of mine.
  2. In a large non-stick pan, heat the sesame and grape seed oil.  Salt the tofu and add to pan.  Cook for about 5 minutes on one side, and when it gets crispy and golden, flip it and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.
  3. Meanwhile, stir together remaining ingredients to make the yang nyum jang.  The gochujang is thick, so this may take a little effort to get it incorporated.  Spoon the sauce over the tofu.  You can eat this hot, warm, or cold.  Slather the leftover sauce on vegetables or mix it into rice.

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