This 25-Minute Soup May Redeem Your Winter

It may also change your mind about tofu

Photo: Burcu Avsar & Zach DeSart

Earlier this year (I believe it was just before quarantine set in) we did a sort of tofu primer, with an eye towards encouraging those of you who are anti-tofu or tofu agnostic to give this polarizing ingredient another chance. In doing so, I neglected to include the recipe that many people have told me was their gateway drug: kimchi-tofu soup.

Now that it’s basically winter, a dish like this — warm, comforting, highly flavorful, and done in 25 minutes — is a lot more than just a friendly vehicle for tofu; it’s borderline essential. The main ingredient is kimchi, which adds spice and sourness to the broth while requiring literally no work from you (unless you make your own). Note that while many varieties of kimchi that you can find at the store contain fish sauce or shrimp paste, there are plenty that don’t, so if you want to make this soup vegan, just look for one of those.

Where the kimchi delivers all the flavor, the tofu brings the body. Silken tofu is traditional in a dish like this; it soaks up every flavor you surround it with, and breaks apart gently in the soup. (Most people’s main complaint about tofu is the texture, but this stuff is luscious, smooth, and a lot harder to knock, IMHO.) A handful of short-grain white rice cooked directly in the broth thickens the soup and makes it especially hearty.

Normally, a dish with this much flavor and oomph takes a while to make, but when someone else takes care of the hard part (fermenting the kimchi), it becomes fast weeknight dinner territory. If this soup doesn’t turn you on to silken tofu, try this Mexican chocolate pudding.

If that doesn’t work, I may be out of ideas.

Kimchi Soup With Tofu

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons good-quality vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1½ cups kimchi
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus more to taste
  • ½ cup short-grain white rice
  • 12 ounces soft silken tofu, drained
  • Pepper
  • ½ cup chopped scallions for garnish

Instructions

  1. Put the vegetable and sesame oils in a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add the kimchi and cook, stirring, for just a few seconds. Add 7 cups of water along with the vinegar and soy sauce and bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the mixture bubbles gently but steadily.
  2. Add the rice, stir, and once again adjust the heat so the mixture simmers. Cover and cook, undisturbed, until the rice is tender and the broth thickens, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Add the tofu and stir to break it into pieces with a spoon. Let the soup return to a boil, then remove from the heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more soy and vinegar if you’d like, along with some black pepper. Garnish with scallions and serve.

— Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

Has published 30 books, including How to Cook Everything and VB6: The Case for Part-Time Veganism. Newsletter at markbittman.com.

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