Monday, November 9, 2015

Meatless Monday-- Korean Tofu Vegetable Stew (Tobu Toenjang Chigae)...

A nutritious traditional Korean stew powerhouse with bean curd and bean paste, plus more beans-- bean sprouts as a side dish is how my family is enjoying meatless Monday and ode to World Vegan November. To know and love this unassuming and hearty fare is to understand and appreciate Korean hearts and minds. I've read Koreans young and old, to think of chigae is to hear "chigul, chigul, pogul, pogul," representing the comforting sound of stew as it gurgles and bubbles in a dark brown clay pot and spills over, hissing and spattering, into a mud's brazier red charcoal fire. This really is simple to cook up and satisfying to serve for the family, giving meat a break and to reap the amazing benefits of eating lots of veggies and high-quality protein, eight essential amino acid-rich tofu.

Korean Tofu Vegetable Stew (Tobu Toenjang Chigae)
Makes 6-8 servings

1 piece of kelp or kombu, about 2 X 6 inches long
1 Tbsp. oil
2 green onions, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion, sliced
5 shiitake mushrooms, hydrated in water to cover for two hours
4 Tbsp. toenjang (fermented soybean paste), or to taste
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. soft tofu, sliced into 1-inch cubes
handful of napa cabbage, cut into 1-1/2 pieces
1 small zucchini, sliced lengthwise and then again into thin moons
225 g or 1/2 lb. white mushrooms, sliced
1 package enoki mushrooms, roots trimmed, mushrooms separated
salt and ground black pepper to taste
jalapeno slices
Korean red pepper powder

Love the sight of these beautiful vegetables-- that spells Korean cuisine right there :)

A marvel tip with mushrooms: Did you know mushrooms naturally generate Vitamin D? Even after being harvested, mushrooms can absorb Vitamin D through direct sunlight so leave them near the window before cooking to absorb those extra rays!

Wipe the kelp/kombu with a damp towel. Soak in 4 cups water for two hours to make stock. 

Heat oil over medium-high in a deep skillet/pot and sauté onions and shiitake mushrooms for two minutes until fragrant and onions soft. Pour in the stock, bring to a boil and add garlic. Let cook for a minute, then add tofu; cover and bring to a boil and let simmer for five minutes.

Arrange the white and enoki mushrooms, zucchini and cabbage on the surface. Cook gently for five minutes more. Top with green onion slices, jalapeno slices and/or Korean hot pepper powder. Serve pot at the table or ladle into individual bowls.

Serve with steamed short-grain rice, kimchi and homemade seasoned bean sprouts (recipe to come).

To take the meal further, offer leafy lettuce (red or green), perilla leaves, garlic and jalapeno slices to make rice wraps. Take a piece of lettuce, put in a little rice, add kimchi, garlic and jalapeno, wrap up and eat straight or dip into sesame oil seasoned with salt and pepper.

Who says vegetarian meals cannot be hearty and satisfying? We definitely did not miss the meat. Adopting a meatless day or two days a week is certainly attainable. The best is sharing your green journey with recipes and tips with others to bring awareness to the health of eating a pure plant-based diet (even if its sometimes) and to understand more about bypassing meat and dairy-- some say to lessen the environmental burden that animal and meat production places on crops and water, and others the health benefits of being a vegan, including a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity (Sage Nov/Dec 2015 "Want to go Vegan?").

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