In the past year I have become a little obsessed with Korean cuisine. After a visit to Franchia last summer, regular stops at Krunkwich Ramen House in Des Moines, and a kimchi habit that has me going through a jar a week, you could say I’m hooked.
In fact, I find myself looking for more ways to include kimchi in my regular meals. Kimchi is similar to sauerkraut in that they both include fermented cabbage. But kimchi takes things up a notch with spices and other fermented vegetables, garlic, and chili peppers. (Some kimchi brands use fish sauce, and so you’ll want to read the ingredient list before buying. However, I haven’t had any problems finding kimchi that is vegan. My go-to brand is Sunja’s.)
One of the ways I’ve been feeding my kimchi desires is with bulgogi-inspired tofu bowls. In Korean, bulgogi literally means “fire meat.” It’s typically made with beef that has been marinated in a spicy sweet marinade and then cooked on a grill. Here I’ve taken those flavors, marinated super firm tofu overnight, and then grilled it on my outdoor grill. The marinade recipe is adapted from a non-vegan bulgogi recipe that David Lebovitz shared recently, which he adapted from Koreatown: A Cookbook.
The tofu beautifully soaks up all of that flavorful marinade and let’s the tastes of gochujang, tamari, and toasted sesame oil shine.
If you’re not familiar with gochujang, it’s a fermented hot pepper paste that’s made with red chili, glutinous rice, and soybeans. The taste and thick, sticky consistency is reminiscent of what would happen if miso paste and Sriracha fell in love. A jar of gochujang lasts a long time in the refrigerator, and you can find it in tubs in any Korean grocery store or in jar-form in Whole Foods in the Asian section. (This is the brand I’m currently using.)
I have tried marinating the tofu for 1, 8, and 24 hours, and I can say that it only improves as it marinates. Aim for at least 8 hours. Make a batch before work, and it will be ready to grill when you get home. Or set it marinating on a Saturday morning for an outdoor cookout that night. I mean, why make another veggie burger when you could have bulgogi tofu instead?
In addition to being great on a bowl or as a main course, this would also work well in a lettuce wrap with kimchi, alongside a stir-fry, or to bulk out a salad.
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