I went a bit nuts at the Asian markets this week. Truth be told, I hadn’t been to an Asian market in about two years (or more!) since I moved away from the Korean section of Atlanta (i.e. waaaay out in the suburbs, and I only lived there for one summer at my mom’s temporary condo). The thing I loved about this part of town was the Super H, the excellent pho, and all the bubble tea I could want.

This week, after buying a car last Saturday (I’ve been car-free for the past 3 years) so I could work my summer job and then move to Roanoke which isn’t not a car-free-friendly town, I had to drive up to the aforementioned suburbs to register the car and buy a license plate (I’m getting a Share the Road one at least!). Since I was in the ‘hood, I swung over to Super H. $50 in noodles, mushrooms, tofu products (bean curd twists hurrah!), and soup bowls, I left in a hurry. Renae, I didn’t find any vegetarian fish sauce there. Sad hat. Since I hadn’t been able to find the vegetarian fish sauce, I stopped at the Asian Farmers Market right by the highway entrance. Score! The place was nuts–half Hispanic food, half Asian–but I found the vegetarian fish sauce (yay!) and a can of veggie abalone and veggie duck. In cans! So weird and so cool! The poet says he isn’t going to eat the canned “meats,” but what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. And its only gluten. So really, what could be so horrible?

As soon as I got home I was really hungry, something about driving around all afternoon and buying tons of food, so I decided to whip up some Korean tofu soup. I first had this soup a few months ago in the same part of town and it was amazing. So hot and spicy-hot and mushroomy and tofu-y and sizzling rice-y…mmm. Due to the language barrier, I’m afraid it may have been made with beef stock…but I’m going to ignore that as much as I can. It was the only all vegetable soup on the menu (at a tofu house–so misleading!), so if it was beef stocked, well, the waitress didn’t speak English so I’ll give myself a break.

My version, while not authentic (I still need some real-deal Korean clay pots to cook with so I can do the sizzling rice thing), is uber tasty. I ended up adding more pepper paste than the recipe calls for because I like my food really hot, but that’s definitely something each individual should play with. I also didn’t add any extra mushrooms than the string mushrooms, but that could be a tasty addition. How authentic is the soup? I’ve no idea. But it was perfect for the absolutely random April snow we had (yes, April snow in Atlanta, Georgia!).

Korean Tofu Soup

1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp Korean pepper paste (I used 2 tbsp)
4 cups vegetable stock or veggie “beef” stock
1 cup kimchee (or sauerkraut, if you don’t have kimchee around)
1 tbsp soy sauce/Bragg’s
4 cups soft tofu, sliced into 1″ squares
2-3 baby bok choy
1 package string mushrooms
3 scallions, chopped
Sesame oil
Cooked rice

Sauté the garlic in the oil for 1-2 minutes. Add the stock, kimchee, soy sauce, and pepper paste. Stir everything to combine. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Gently stir in the tofu. Add more soy sauce or pepper paste to taste. Simmer 5 more minutes.

Add the baby bok choy and string mushrooms. Simmer 1-2 minutes.

Place one serving of rice in each bowl. Ladle soup on top. Sprinkle spring onions and a couple dashes of sesame oil on top.