In Korea, this would be called Yangnyeomjang (red pepper sauce) Dubuguksu (tofu noodle soup).
I had been a vegetarian for 4 years before moving to Korea and had made the hard decision to start eating meat again, since I truly wanted to participate in a very important part of Korean culture. Communal meat-eating straight from the grill was one of the most important parts of socializing. Whether with coworkers, bosses, or new friends, it was something that you were expected to participate in.
While adjusting to eating meat again and in between these massive meat dinners, I managed to find a few dishes that prominently used vegetarian ingredients while concealing a meat base. My new coworkers and immediate best buds introduced me to what quickly became my favourite lunch spot near the first school I taught at. The restaurant was part of a chain called “Hal-mo-ni”, which translates to Grandmother. This particular location was a small lunch place, while most of the other locations were barbeque joints that did not feature soups and small meals on the menu. We lovingly referred to this spot as “Grandma’s Noodles”. It was a rare find and I was thankful for my coworkers having taken me there my first week in Korea. This massive bowl of soup cost me about 3 dollars and I strayed from this dish maybe only once or twice at Grandma’s. The main ingredient was tofu. The star of the show, however, was the red pepper sauce you’d find atop this soup.
I started making this soup at home after I moved to Seoul from Incheon to start my second teaching contract. Assembly took very little time and it saved me from making the hour-trek back to the old stomping grounds every time I had a craving. Though not used in the original soup at Grandma’s, I adopted buckwheat noodles for this recipe (shout-outs to Amy over at Buckwheat For Your Health!) since they were so abundant in Korean grocery marts. I exclusively used them with this recipe at home and certainly reaped the benefits.
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp green onion, chopped
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp sesame seeds
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 1 clove garlic, minced
For the soup (2 servings):
- 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 person portions buckwheat (soba) noodles
- 2 cups soft to medium firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 green onions, chopped