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Cook this: Warm tofu with kimchi and pork belly stir-fry — dubu kimchi — from My Korea


Our cookbook of the week is My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes by Hooni Kim. Over the next three days, we’ll feature more recipes from the book and an interview with the author.

If you’ve tried your hand at making kimchi during lockdown, Hooni Kim’s dubu kimchi (warm tofu with kimchi and pork belly stir-fry) will let it shine. “It’s all about the kimchi,” says Kim. “When you have a good kimchi, you want to show it off. You don’t just want to eat it as banchan — as a complement to the other main dishes — you want to cook with it.”

Kim devotes a chapter to kimchi in My Korea , which includes recipes for napa cabbage, white napa cabbage, Korean radish, white water-radish and ramp versions. His three favourite ways of eating the fermented food cooked, he says, are in kimchi jjigae (aged-kimchi stew), kimchijeon (kimchi pancakes) and this dish.

A classic anju (drinking snack), Kim likes to order it alongside a bottle of soju whenever he’s at a pojang macha (a small, nocturnal tented bar). “It’s a traditional market-restaurant dish — it’s peasant food,” says Kim. “The fat of the pork really neutralizes the acidity of the kimchi, and the texture of the tofu (softens) it even more. It’s a very comforting dish.”

WARM TOFU WITH KIMCHI AND PORK BELLY STIR-FRY

두부김치 (Dubu Kimchi)

1 medium leek
2 tbsp (30 mL) grape seed or canola oil
1 lb (455 g) pork belly, sliced 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick (you can have the butcher slice it for you)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp (2 mL) minced ginger
1 lb (455 g) aged kimchi (fermented for at least 3 weeks), store-bought or homemade, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) squares
2 tbsp (30 mL) toasted sesame oil
1 tsp (5 mL) sugar
1 lb (455 g) silken tofu
1/2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, rinsed and dried as directed (see note)
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Step 1

Set a large pot half-filled with water over medium-high heat. Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat to maintain a simmer.

Step 2

Meanwhile, cut off the green tops of the leek and trim the bottom, leaving the root intact. Slice lengthwise in half; the two halves will be held together by the root. Rinse the leek under cold running water, separating the layers to remove any dirt. Rub the leek with your hand to make sure there is no dirt remaining between the layers. Pat the leek dry with paper towels. If your leek is large, you may need to cut it lengthwise in half again; you want the parts attached to the root to be about 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide. Then cut each half or quarter of the leek into 1-inch (2.5-cm) squares and discard the root ends. Set aside.

Step 3

Set a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the grape seed or canola oil, and when it begins to shimmer and just smoke, add the pork belly and season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the underside turns a deep golden brown. Flip the pork and add the ginger and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t burn, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the ginger and garlic have softened and are fragrant. Transfer the pork and aromatics to a plate.

Step 4

Wipe out the pan, set it back over the heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 mL) oil. When the oil begins to shimmer and just smoke, add the leeks and stir-fry for 3 to 5 minutes, until they soften and release their fragrance but do not brown. Add the kimchi and increase the heat to high. Add the sesame oil and sugar and continue stir-frying for 5 minutes, or until the kimchi starts to soften slightly. Add the pork belly and stir-fry for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until the meat is hot.

Step 5

While the kimchi is cooking, slide the tofu into the pot of simmering water. Let it cook for 5 minutes, or until it is heated through. Use a large skimmer to lift it out onto a plate, letting any excess water drain back into the pot. Cut the tofu into 16 rectangular pieces.

Step 6

Arrange the tofu around the circumference of a large serving plate. Mound the pork belly and kimchi mixture in the centre. Generously sprinkle the scallions and toasted sesame seeds over everything. Serve immediately, with chilled soju.

Serves: 4

Note: To thinly slice scallion rounds, first slice the scallions (both green and white parts) as thin as possible, using the “long slicing” method: This means that you use your knife to slice back and forth across the vegetable rather than chopping up and down. It’s important that your knife be sharp, so it can do all the work for you. Avoid putting pressure on the scallions while slicing, which would cause them to become slimy. Transfer the sliced scallions to a colander to set inside a bowl in your sink and run cold water over them for 5 minutes to wash away as much slime as possible. Drain the scallions thoroughly, then put them on a clean, dry kitchen towel, wrap them in the towel and squeeze them as dry as possible. Spread the semi-dried scallions on a dry paper towel and allow them to air-dry for 10 minutes, then store in the refrigerator in a covered container lined with a paper towel. When you are ready to use them, the scallions will be fluffy and light.

Excerpted from My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes . Copyright (c) 2020 by Hooni Kim. Photographs copyright 2020 by Kristin Teig. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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