Kimchi soup

And one cook's list for an essential Asian pantry.

By , In Praise of Leftovers

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    Kimchi soup is a classic Korean dish and can be made in less than 10 minutes.
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This is a classic Korean soup, and there are more complicated and caloric ways to make it. It's often made with pork belly (yum!), but the point for me is usually to have something quick and healthy. I can make it for myself in 10 minutes for a working lunch at home. It takes that long to make a sandwich, for gracious sake.

Of course, this would be impossible without my pantry. When Armageddon comes, feel free to hole up with us. We might have brown rice and kimchi for months on end, but we won't run out of food. If we're really desperate, we could probably live on Asian condiments for a week or two. 

Here's my dream (Westernized) Asian pantry. Sheepishly, I should admit that this dream is a reality most the time. Even though we've moved out of our Asian-Market-on-Every-Corner Seattle neighborhood, I have my ways: 

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  • Sesame oil and sesame seeds (white and black)
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Rice vinegar
  • Soy sauce
  • Fish sauce
  • Mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • Toasted seaweed sheets
  • Sriracha (hot sauce)
  • Sambal (hot sauce)
  • Furikake, a few different kinds (Japanese seasoning shakers, usually containing seaweed, sesame seeds, and dashi)
  • Miso paste
  • Korean hot pepper paste (gochujang)
  • Peanut or vegetable oil
  • Fresh ginger and garlic
  • Napa kimchi
  • White and brown rice
  • Rice noodles
  • Coconut milk
  • Red curry paste 
  • Limes
  • Peanuts

Most of these things keep indefinitely at room temp or in the fridge once opened. If you live in the Seattle area, H Mart in Lynnwood will make you lose your mind. They have an entire aisle of Korean hot paper paste, about 10 million kinds of fresh noodles (soba, udon, etc.), and their cooler of braising greens will make you cross-eyed. If you live in an area that doesn't have Asian markets, Cash and Carry is great for pantry items – a big bottle of sweet chili sauce, for instance, at a fraction of the price the "Asian" aisle at the grocery store will charge.

Kimchi Jigae
Serves 2

1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups napa kimchi, chopped
2 tablespoons Korean hot pepper paste
2 tablespoons miso paste
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
12 ounces soft tofu
Green onions, to garnish
Sesame oil, to garnish 

Heat peanut or vegetable oil in a heavy saucepan. Briefly saute 1 minced garlic clove. Add coarsely chopped napa kimchi with its juice, Korean hot pepper paste, miso paste,  rice vinegar. Stir constantly and saute for another minute.

Add the softest tofu you can find and enough water to barely cover everything. Simmer for 10 minutes until warmed through. If you want to get fancy, you can add lots of fresh veggies – spinach, kale, or chard at the end, or finely sliced zucchini, cabbage, or julienned carrots at the beginning.

Garnish with sliced green onions and a drizzle of sesame oil.

Related post on In Praise of Leftovers: Fiery Homemade Kimchi

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