Korean Soft Tofu Stew (Soondoobu Jjigae) by Cynthia Raub

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At a Korean table, a variety of side dishes (banchan) will clutter and cover an entire table to the corners and edges. Each diner is set with their own bowl of rice, a spoon, and chopsticks. A soup or stew is a standard for every mealtime during a Korean meal. As such, a single pot of soup is set in the middle of the table for everyone to eat from directly. Due to the long reach to the communal pot, Korean spoons have longer handles than other culture's spoons for this reason. Interesting, right? You're welcome for that tidbit of trivia knowledge. Don't ever say I never gave you anything. 

This tofu soup comes together in no time, and as I explain in the notes below, is very flexible in ingredients as well. The silken tofu's luscious and soft texture is carried through a mildly spicy soup base with small nibbles of vegetables and meat along the way. Share this pot of stew with your family or some friends, or eat the whole thing by yourself. There's no wrong way to enjoy this fragrant and bubbling mess. 

Notes: This soup can easily be made vegetarian or even vegan! You can also swap the seafood for beef or pork and it will be just as delicious. I made this version of tofu soup to accompany Korean Green Onion and Seafood Pancakes (Pa Jun) so I used the same seafood for both dishes to make it easier on myself. If you omit the animal broth and/or meat, I recommend a spoonful more of kimchi and a bigger glug of sesame oil for more flavor. This is a mild version, so feel free to add Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru) or sliced spicy peppers to your liking. Also, I had a difficult time tracking down silken tofu - so don't be discouraged if you can't find it, either. Soft tofu is a perfectly delicious substitute for this soup.

Serves: 1 - 4
Time: 20 minutes

1/4 cup chopped seafood (I used shrimp and squid.)
3 clams
1 tablespoon grape seed oil (or any other neutral oil)
1/4 cup chopped kimchi
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup diced mushrooms
1/4 cup diced zucchini
1 cup of stock (vegetable, seafood, chicken, beef) or water
14 ounces silken tofu
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon green onion, thinly sliced
1 egg

Cut seafood into small dice and clean and sort clams. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat grape seed oil on medium high heat. Add kimchi, garlic, mushrooms, and zucchini; cook until tender and barely browned, about 2-3 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Scoop large spoonfuls of silken tofu from its package into the boiling soup base. Reduce heat to medium and bring back to a hard simmer, stirring occasionally to break up the tofu. Simmer for 3 minutes until tofu is heated through. Season with kosher salt. Add seafood and cook until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Reduce the heat to low and drizzle the soup with sesame oil and scatter green onions. Crack an egg into a small bowl and gently pour on top of the soup; the hot soup with cook the egg. Serve from your saucepan and enjoy!

Salmon Cakes by Cynthia Raub

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Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 10 as an appetizer, 5 as a meal

1/2 pound salmon (cooked and cooled)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided)
3/4 cup small-diced red onion
1 cup small-diced celery
1/2 cup small-diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup small-diced yellow bell pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons crab boil seasoning (recommended: Old Bay)
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and pepper
Lemon (optional)

Place 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, onion, celery, red and yellow bell peppers, parsley, capers, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, crab boil seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a medium saute pan over medium-low heat and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Flake the chilled salmon into a large bowl. Add the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, and eggs. Add the vegetable mixture and mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Scoop into desired size and shape into patties. (I used a 1/4 measuring cup and made 10 good-sized patties)

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. In batches, add the salmon cakes and fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until browned. Place on paper towel lined plate, sprinkle with kosher salt. Serve with lemon wedges. 

Recipe adapted from

Audy's Tom Yum Soup by Amy Cantu

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When I told my sister that we were going to feature some of our dad’s Thai home-cooking on the blog, she enthusiastically said, “Oh Dad makes the BEST tom yum soup!” I think she’s right. I’m hard-pressed to find a better one at any Thai restaurant - with generous pieces of fish, shrimp, and scallops (my favorite). The key to his soup is making sure to get the right balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy - you really do need to taste the soup and adjust the seasonings so that they equally satisfy all four senses. Limes vary in size, acidity and sweetness - so use your tastebuds as your guide and the listed amounts in the recipe as suggestions.

Notes: Thai soups are fragrant and spicy from all the fresh aromatic herbs and chilies. There will be large chunks of galangal, lemongrass, and lime leaves in the final soup that are not meant to be eaten, but are there to flavor the soup. You can fish them out before you serve, or do as the Thais do, and just eat around them. Lemongrass, lime leaves (a.k.a. makrut or kaffir lime leaves), and galangal can be found in the produce section of most Asian supermarkets and some well-stocked grocery stores. If you cannot find lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves, you can substitute strips of lime or lemon zest. You can also substitute ginger for the galangal. It will not have same flavor, but the soup will still taste good. Thai fish sauce or nam pla, can also be found in Asian supermarkets or in the Asian section of a well-stocked grocery store.

My dad uses scallops, salmon, and shrimp for the seafood in this soup. You can use any combination of seafood (mussels and other firm-fleshed fish work well) or substitute cut-up chicken.

Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4-5 generously

¼ cup cilantro (with stems), finely chopped
1-2 fresh Thai bird chilies or serrano chilies, finely diced
1-2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla), add more or less to taste
2 teaspoons sugar
1 quart chicken stock
2 cups water
1 inch piece of galangal, sliced into ⅛” pieces
4 makrut lime leaves
2 stalks of lemongrass, cut into 2" lengths
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1” dice
1 shallot, cut into 1” dice
½ pound white button mushrooms, sliced into ½” pieces (about 2 cups)
½ pound salmon, cut into 2” pieces
½ pound sea scallops
½ pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Combine cilantro, finely diced chilies, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar into a serving bowl and reserve. Remove outer layer of lemongrass stalk and cut stalk into 2-inch lengths. Using the butt of a kitchen knife, pound and bruise stalks all over.

Pour stock and water into a large pot, add galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and sliced lemongrass; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add onion and shallots and simmer for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and simmer for 3 more minutes. Add salmon, simmer for 1 minute. Add scallops and simmer for 1 minute. Add shrimp and simmer for 1 minute or until just pink and no longer translucent. (Seafood will continue to cook in the hot broth after removing from heat.)

Ladle into serving bowl containing chili and cilantro mixture, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust lime juice (sour), fish sauce (salty), sugar (sweet), and chilies (spicy) as needed. (The soup should taste equally sour, salty, sweet, and spicy.) Serve immediately.