Easy Vegan Tofu Kimchi
Tofu Kimchi is one of the most popular bar foods in Korea. It may seem strange to foreigners who are used to nuts or pretzels when they go out drinking but once you have tried this lovely Stir Fried Kimchi and Fresh Tofu dish with a glass of ice cold beer, you’ll never order nuts again!
How to Make Tofu Kimchi
Koreans like to eat when they drink. Alcohol that is. When you go to a bar or nightclub in Korea you will be expected to order some side dishes. These are called Anju and can be anything from a fruit platter to Stir Fried Kimchi Pork. Bars make a lot of money from Anju so it is frowned upon if you only order drinks. They are usually served in a Tapas style and the portions are not enormous. If you are planning to visit a lot of bars during your night out you don’t have to worry about eating ten meals especially if you are in a group as the side dishes don’t tend to last long.
Tofu Kimchi is one of the quickest side dishes to cook which is why it is on practically every bar menu in Korea. It is very healthy, vegan, gluten free, dairy free and soo delicious and low on carbs too! When I was researching this dish I came across a blog post where the blogger mentioned that she often cooked this dish if her husband’s friends turned up unannounced after a night out. It’s quick to prepare, made from (Korean) store cupboard ingredients and above all else, cheap.
When my husband and I lived in Korea we would often go hiking on the weekends. South Korea is 55% mountainous, so you are never far from a National or Provincial Park. Koreans are not ones to miss an opportunity to make money, so at the entrance to every park you will find motels, restaurants, food stalls, souvenir shops and drinks sellers. You will even find something to eat and drink and the very top of the mountain you decide to climb. The sellers will have carried everything up the mountain very early in the morning, so you can enjoy the view with a freshly cooked kimchi pancake and a bottle of soju. They must be incredibly fit to carry such heavy loads every single day! I appreciated their effort though.
On one particular hiking trip, we visited a mountain about an hour away from Daegu called Hwawangsan. I remembered that I had climbed it with a bunch of my university friends in my early 20’s and told my husband that it only took half an hour. We weren’t feeling particularly energetic that day so it seemed to be the perfect easy walk on a sunny afternoon. As it was only going to be a short walk we didn’t pack any food or drink thinking we would be up and down in an hour. Maybe I was a lot fitter when I was younger but an hour and a half into our hike I realised that maybe it took a little longer than half an hour to climb. After three hours we finally reached the top. The pair of us were so thirsty we would have drunk from a puddle! Thank goodness for the food sellers waiting for us at the top. We guzzled down bottles of ice cold water and ate kimbap and pajeon (vegetable pancakes) sitting amongst Pampas Grass and looking out to the horizon. My husband has never let me forget it!
One of our favourite places to eat Tofu Kimchi is at the top of Palgong Mountain, just outside of Daegu. You can get a cable car to the top, have lunch at the restaurant while enjoying the beautiful view and then hike down the trail to the bottom. The restaurant serves the most fabulous fresh tofu. And I think that is the key to this dish. Try to use the freshest tofu you can find. There is such a difference between UHT tofu and fresh tofu. If you have only ever eaten UHT tofu and never really liked it then you have to try the fresh version. It is easy to find in Asian supermarkets and you don’t even have to buy Korean tofu (although it is the best). To make this vegan, check out my Easy Vegan Kimchi recipe.
- Vegetable Oil
- ½ Onion, chopped
- 400g Kimchi, chopped
- 1 tsp Salt (You can adjust the salt amount depending on how salty your kimchi is)
- 2 tsp Sugar
- 2 tbsp Korean Red Pepper Powder (Optional)
- 2 tsp Sesame Oil
- 1 pack of Tofu, 360g cut into 1-2cm thick slices
- 3 Slices of Chillies (Optional)
- A Pinch of Roasted Sesame Seeds
- Heat a pan with a little vegetable oil over a high heat. Add the onions and fry them for 2 minutes to soften.
- Add the chopped kimchi, salt and sugar. Fry for 4-5 minutes. Add a bit of water whenever it gets too dry. Using water is healthier than oil.
- Add the Korean Red Pepper Powder and stir fry for another 1-2 minutes. Keep adding a little water if needed. You don’t want it to burn!
- Add the sesame oil and stir in. Leave it to cool.
- Boil some water in a kettle and pan. Put the tofu in the pan and cover with boiling water over a high heat. Boil the tofu for 3-4 minutes. When the tofu is cooked, drain the water and remove the tofu from the pan. Alternatively, you can heat the tofu in a microwave for 2 -3 minutes.
- Arrange the cooked tofu and the cooked kimchi on a plate. Sprinkle on the slices of chillies and roasted sesame seeds. Enjoy it with some drinks like Makgeolli (Korean alcohol made with rice), soju (Korean alcohol made with potatoes) or your favourite ice cold drink. It is perfect with a bowl of rice as well.