Tofu Noodle Soup (topped with spicy red pepper sauce)

In Korea, this would be called Yangnyeomjang (red pepper sauce) Dubuguksu (tofu noodle soup).

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Get ready for the quickest, least complex, and easiest-to-assemble soup recipe you’ve seen here.  This soup was a great comfort to me when I moved to Korea in late summer 2010.  It was simple, had very familiar ingredients, and nursed me back to health the several times I fell ill in my first winter there.  While I assume the broth was not meat-free, the rest of the ingredients certainly were.


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.

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I’m not talking spicy red pepper sauce (gochujang) you’d find in bibimbap.  Not even the salty red sauce (ssamjang) you’d dip your pork belly into.  Yangnyeomjang was a whole different ball game.  A mix of spicy, salty, with just a hint of sweet to round the flavours; this was a perfect addition to the noodle soup.  On the rare occasion that I came across this sauce outside of Grandma’s was when it was slathered across sliced blocks of silken tofu as an appetizer.  It was always a delightful surprise when this appetizer was served.

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.

For the sauce (1-2 servings):
  • 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
Whisk all sauce ingredients together in a separate small dish.Prepare noodles by adding to a pot of boiling water.  Once softened, drain, set aside, and rinse pot.  Add the stock to the pot and bring to boil over medium high.  Bring temperature down to a simmer and add tofu to warm throughout.Add the noodles to two bowls, and pour soup on top.  Sprinkle a handful of green onions into each bowl.  Spoon as little or as much of the sauce as you like right on top.  I prefer, you know, LOTS, so I may even double up on the sauce recipe.  You may want to give it a taste and gauge your own preference.  Garnish with sesame seeds.

Serves 2.

8 thoughts on “Tofu Noodle Soup (topped with spicy red pepper sauce)

  1. Yum! This looks great!! I love to make similar soups, with veggies and then I would just add some buckwheat noodle to it! Soups are soooo comforting!! I love to make them all year round 😉

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