Soondubu, spicy soft tofu soup

by foodhoe on December 17, 2008

Winter has arrived in the Bay Area and the temperatures has dropped to record lows, which makes me start thinking about steaming hot bowls of food.  Bowls have a smaller diameter and visually steam better and my theory is that the smaller air to surface ratio holds the heat in better than wide open plates anyway…  I have been looking for an easy recipe for soondubu that tastes as good as the stuff served in the restaurants for years.  Every single version I tried was all right, but lacked the depth and complexity of flavors that make me crave the soup in the first place.  I have had several of my own versions of Passionate Eater’s Dropping the F-Word in the Kitchen, failures that all ended up going down the drain…

For a recipe to make it in my repertoire, I tend to go with recipes that are one page or less and even better if I don’t have to make special trips to fishmongers and butchers.  Heaven knows that I spend enough time foraging already and my pantry is jammed to the rafters with spices and seasonings and essential ingredients to cook with. 

And again, I have to say that Maangchi is my kitchen goddess…  Her site is chock full of you tube videos on how to cook her soulful Korean homestyle dishes, and also features tons of recipes, which you can also get in her cookbooks, Cooking Korean Food with Maangchi – Books 1&2: From YouTube to Your Kitchen.  She uses ingredients like dried anchovies and seaweed for flavoring, although she recommends just the heads and bodies as the stomach and intestines can make it bitter.

simmered with garlic, chopped onion, dried seaweed and shiitake mushrooms to make a stupendously flavorful starting point with a truly kickass stock.  None of the other recipes I tried had such pungent and rich flavors.  I didn’t even have to put any kimchee in it for that extra kick. 


I chopped up a variety of fresh mushrooms

and sauteed them with spoonfuls of fiery Korean chili powder

poured in the stock, and then a container of soft custardy tofu

And then took it off the stove to take the picture.  I just don’t know how people take those bubbling pictures without the lens getting all steamed up…

I need to get one of those claypots to make it look like a bubbling cauldron, but the flavors were there, and even Mr. K thought it was good!  Get my adapted recipe here, or go to Maangchi’s site and watch the youtube.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Single Guy Chef December 17, 2008 at 9:28 pm

Yum, it looks sooo easy soondobu! This is one of my favorite cold weather food too, next to pho. Where did you get your dried anchovies?

Single Guy Chefs last blog post..Dragon Fruit Lands in the Bay Area


foodhoe December 17, 2008 at 10:46 pm

LOL Single Guy, I just came back from Pyung Chang Tofu House! Today was especially good for hot and spicy soup… I got those at the Korean market across the street from Marina Foods in Union City.


Rosa December 18, 2008 at 1:29 am

Wonderful! That soup looks really good!





grace December 18, 2008 at 12:00 pm

nothing improves my mood in the winter like a good soup. this looks STELLAR.

Reply December 19, 2008 at 7:53 am

whenever i come here; even if i’ve already eaten it’s a sure bet i’ll leave hungry. your soondubu looks ultimate! thanks for the reference to Maangchi ~ i just book marked her informative site… am craving this dish 😉 last blog post..yellow curry with pumpkin: savory spun thoughts over rice alongside taste memories


Gastronomer December 19, 2008 at 3:29 pm

Kick ass execution, Foodhoe 🙂 ! Maybe you’ll get a claypot for Christmas.

Gastronomers last blog post..Din Tai Fung – Arcadia


Passionate Eater December 21, 2008 at 3:06 pm

I think I will be saying the f-word in the kitchen because of this great post, but that f-word is going to be “finally!” I can’t wait to finally get it right with your guidance! Printing Foodhoe’s recipe, now.

Passionate Eaters last blog post..Confiserie Sprüngli


Passionate Eater December 21, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Oh, and I totally have that “steamy lens” problem, so sometimes I try to take the photo at an angle. It does avoid some of the steam that way.

Passionate Eaters last blog post..Confiserie Sprüngli


Kenzie August 27, 2010 at 9:42 pm

To avoid the steam, I just blow it away right before I take the picture. Very professional, I know.. haha. These mushrooms look amazing.. can’t wait to have all the flavors together in an excellent soup. Yum…
Stock Pots


Cindy July 13, 2012 at 10:46 am


It’s interesting that you found Maangchi’s soon dubu recipe to be similar to what you find at the restaurants. I personally did not find it to be anything close to the better soondubus I’ve had out there (I am Korean and grew up in Los Angeles , where there is the best soon dubu hands down). I have found’s recipe to be somewhat better than Maangchi’s. Take a look, and I think if you combine Maangchi’s stock with Kimchimari’s pepper paste, you’ll get a bit closer to what is served at BCD Tofu House and other highly rated soon dubu restaurants.

By the way – it looks like you are not using the correct type of dried seaweed to make your broth. The seaweed that is supposed to be used is called “dashima,” which is thicker and less fragile than the one you used (the one you used is “miyeok,” which is used to be eaten in soups and side dishes). Dashima has much more flavor than miyeok (umami seems to be the popular way to call it these days).

Still, nice post and great pictures!


foodhoe July 13, 2012 at 11:53 am

Hey Cindy, thank you for visiting, your comments are extremely useful, as I find that I still prefer eating soondubu out rather than this version =). I thought it was pretty good at the time, and it is better than the versions I found in a couple of other Korean cookbooks I have. Your insights are awesome, thank you for the education on seaweed too! I’m really looking forward to checking out kimchimari’s site.


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