Bring something out of the ordinary to grilling season! These spicy Korean-inspired vegan bowls are made with bulgogi tofu, sautéed spinach, and kimchi on brown rice.
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 brands are Sunja’s and Gold Mine.
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 bulgogi tofu on my outdoor grill.
The tofu beautifully soaks up all of that flavorful marinade and allows the flavors of gochujang, tamari, and toasted sesame oil to shine.
What is gochujang?
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. 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. 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 vegan bulgogi tofu instead?
In addition to being great on a bowl or as a main course, this bulgogi tofu would also work well in a lettuce wrap with kimchi, alongside a stir-fry, or to bulk out a salad.
And if you have some kimchi left over, make kimchi fried rice.
Bulgogi Tofu Bowls
For bulgogi tofu
- 1/4 cup tamari
- 1 Tablespoon gochujang
- 1 Tablespoon agave syrup
- 1 teaspoon brown rice vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- Grind black pepper
- 10 ounces super firm tofu in vacuum packaging cut in 1/2 inch slices*
- Oil for grill grate if necessary
- 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 6 ounces baby spinach leaves
- Salt to taste
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
- 1/2 cup kimchi
To make bulgogi tofu
- In a shallow glass baking dish, combine tamari, gochujang, agave syrup, brown rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, granulated onion, ginger powder, minced garlic, and a grind of black pepper.
- Place the slices of tofu in the marinade, and then flip them so that both sides are coated. Marinate tofu slices for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Flip the tofu again halfway through for even marinating.
- After the tofu has marinated, heat the outdoor grill to 500 degrees. If necessary, lightly oil grill grate. Grill tofu slices on grill for two to three minutes on each side until brown grill marks form.
To make bowls
- Bring a non-stick skillet to a medium heat and add extra virgin olive oil. Sauté garlic in oil. Once the garlic is fragrant, add the baby spinach leaves to the skillet. Move the leaves across the pan until they are just wilted. Add salt to taste.
- Put a half cup of brown rice into two bowls. Divide the sautéed spinach between the two bowls. Top the rice with 1/4 cup of kimchi each. Place 2 slices of tofu in each bowl, and serve.
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