Cultivating Solace Part 1: Or How The Korean Side Dish Dubu Jorim Brings Me Joy

A Korean dish of spicy braised tofu, called Dubu Jorim, sits atop some steamed Jasmine Rice on a square black plate. Metal chopsticks sit on the edge of the plate.

This last week has been tense for me. For a lot of us. I was with my sister, Laura Bellows of JUL Designs on Thursday. It was to be a working as well as social visit. But it was tough: I was agitated and upset by what was unfolding on Capitol Hill. We were alternately talking about our latest creative projects and absolutely sick about and rivetted by the news coming out of DC. I was distracted, sad, angry, worried, disbelieving, not surprised. So many emotions. It was hard to concentrate and settle down: I didn’t get my Thursday blog post written, or my Friday one.

As the afternoon became evening and I worked on pictures of fruit as inspiration for new colorways and as I knit and reknit a new small bag I will share with you this coming week, I found myself seeking solace, some joy to balance the anxiety of the day.

Once home, I wanted something soothing after such a day. My husband and I decided to relax by watching a lovely, quiet Japanese import TV series we have been enjoying on Netflix: Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. Here is a review that you might like to watch. The stories center around a tiny little diner in Shinjuku, Tokyo, that is only open from Midnight until 7am. There is only one thing on the menu, but the cook, know only as Master, will make anything you ask for as long as he has the ingredients.

The show is an homage to comfort food, to foods whose deliciousness is as much about the fresh ingredients and skill of Master as it is about the memories and emotions the different diners associate with their requested dishes. it is beautiful, poitnant. I cherish each episode. I want such a diner to be tucked away in my own town . . . the sort of gem you want to succeed but you want to keep it secret so it will always be intimate, special, welcoming. Watching the way Master prepares food, and the way his customers enjoy it, had made me take more care with the dishes that I make myself.

I thought I’d share with you here one of the dishes I have recently made . . . ia Korean dish called Dubu Jorim, officially a side dish, or “banchan,” that we had been buying already prepared from a local asian grocery store. But it was expensive there and served in plastic packaging that I really didn’t want to take home and wonder if it was ending up recycled or the landfill. Plus, it was not always as fresh as I would have liked.

Lately, I have been trying to learn how to make some things that I have always previously purchased, such as Naan, tempeh, my favorite Indian dishes, harissa spice paste, and things like this tasty Korean braised tofu. What I have discovered is that it is always better when I make it myself. And my life is better, too. . .

A Korean dish of spicy braised tofu, called Dubu Jorim, sits atop some steamed Jasmine Rice on a square black plate.
This is the version of this dish that I served to my son during one of his breaks in on-line school.

At first, I didn’t know what it was called . . . but some googled descriptions turned an abundance of recipes quickly. I’ve made it many times now and from several different recipes, so here is my own rendition of a “double” recipe using 2 cakes of extra firm tofu. You can serve as banchan, eat as a main course with sauteed baby bok choy over jasmine rice, or make a wonderful innovation of your own. Delicious!

Steaming sauteed baby bok choy with the extra Dubu Jorim sauce drizzled over the top. Umami!

Here is what you will need:

For the tofu

  • 2 cakes of extra firm tofu
  • 2 tbs neutral oil such as grapeseed or canola for frying the tofu

Prepare the tofu by removing it from the packaging and draining off any water. Place the two cakes on a paper or cloth towel and pat dry.

Next cut the tofu into 1/4 inch slices. Pat the slices dry if necessary.

Put the oil in a non-stick pan and heat over medium heat. Add the tofu to the frying pan in a single layer – for 2 cakes, you will need to fry in 2 – 3 batches. After one side has browned slightly, flip using tongs and lightly brown the other side. My son likes the tofu to be slightly crisp while I like a softer skin . . . try both and see what you like. Once each piece is browned on both sides, remove and arrangeattractively on a plate. Some people lay the pieces down so that they are like dominoes that have already been toppled. You can also simply arrange them so that they are not touching. I try different things each time.

While the tofu is gently frying, you can mix up the sauce.

For the sauce (mix in a small mixing bowl – this reciipe makes enough to have some left over):

  • 6 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 2 tbs water
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp korean red chili flakes
  • 1 tbs sesame seeds – I like to use black and white mixed but just toasted white is nice by itself, too.
  • 1 large or 2 medium cloves of garlic minced finely or grated using a fine grater
  • 4 – 5 fresh scallions
  • Extra sesame seeds, chili flakes, and scallions for garnish.

Mix all together with a spoon or fork until well integrated. Separately, wash and remove the roots and any yellowing bits of 4 – 5 scallions. Cut into small rounds. I use the entire scallion, not just the white or green part. These will be sprinkled on top of the dish. You can certainly add some to the sauce as well so the scallions marinate.

Scallions both whole and chopped sit on a dark wood cutting board.

Once the tofu is arranged on a plate, spoon the sauce over the top, making sure each piece of tofu has some sauce and that all pieces are sitting in a little bit of sauce.

Slices of tofu are lined up on a black plate and drizzled with a spicy Korean sauce of soy sauce, sesame oil, and chilli flakes to make Dubu Jorim, a classic Korean side dish.

Finally, sprinkle the scallions over the tofu and then sprinkle more chili flakes and sesame seeds over all.

A plate of Dubu Jorim: Slices of fried tofu are lined up on a black plate and then drizzled with spicy sauce and sprinkled with fresh scallions and sesame seeds.

Eat as a snack, with your fingers standing up in the kitchen! Or serve over steaming hot Jasmine rice. Or serve the platter alongside baby bok choy that has been sauteed in a little bit of oil. Put in a pretty bowl while it is still bright bright green and drizzle with the extra Dubu Jorim sauce. Joyful food. I hope you love this dish as much as I do.

I will be sharing more of the ways I add joy to my days or meals.

How do you inject moments of solace and pleasure into your own days? Please share in the comments.

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