I am fascinated by Korean food! Actually, all food fascinates me, so it is no wonder that I try to recreate every delicious dish I’ve ever enjoyed, hence, this recipe for Tofu Bulgogi. My husband and I were at an Asian Fusion Bistro and it is there we ordered the Tofu Bulgogi and loved it, and would return a half dozen times to order the same dish. Usually I like to explore the menu at a restaurant we frequent, but I tell you, this dish is that good! The term ‘Bulgogi’ literally means ‘fire-meat’ – thanks Wikipedia. The dish is of marinated meat or like in this case, tofu and then grilled or pan-seared. If you were to grill the tofu you’d use barbecue skewers, and I think it would taste heavenly! Of course, when I try grilling tofu, I’ll update this post. I did some research for the recipe and I also paid close attention to what the server told me about the dish so I was able to develop a recipe and add a little more ‘heat’ to it since we love hot food! Of course, you can always leave out the added pepper and chili paste – and make this recipe your own. I hope you enjoy my version of Spicy Tofu Bulgogi and Rice!
The very first step is to buy super or extra firm tofu! This is so important or you’ll end up with a less favorable product in the end. Once you’ve got your super or extra-firm tofu, you’ve got to drain it, press it so all excess water is out of the tofu. This way the marinade can be absorbed better the tofu cubes will fry up to a golden and crispy morsel. Once you’ve pressed all the water out (I used paper towels and a clean cloth, and it took me a good 20 minutes to get all the water out), cut the block into small bite sized pieces.
Prepare the marinade and toss it over the cubes of tofu and gently mix until each little morsel of tofu is blanketed by the spicy and super tasty marinade. Cover, and toss in fridge to let the pieces marinate for at least 6 hours – overnight.
Heat a heavy bottom skillet on the stove. I used a skillet that has a heavy bottom – a cast iron skillet would also work well. Once you’ve heated the pan to the point water dances about when it hits the pan, add about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and then the tofu!
You’ll add the marinade once you’ve initially caramelized the tofu pieces. The marinade will cook down to a delicious sauce that you’ll pour over the tofu and rice!
For the rice I used a medium grain rice called Calrose White. It is a sticky rice and it works really well with this dish. I cooked it according to directions but added 1/4 teaspoon of salt and then just before serving, I added some rice vinegar and organic turbinado sugar. I also added finely cut red cabbage and julienned carrots add crunch and color. I think cucumbers would be fantastic with this dish as well. It is all served on a bed of organic red bibb lettuce. I rolled up the rice and tofu in the lettuce and enjoyed it that way.
- 1 pound extra or super firm tofu, drained and pressed completely dry, cut into bite-sized pieces
- sesame oil
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 5 green onions, chopped
- ¼ cup finely sliced onion
- 1½ inch peeled and grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon chili paste
- 1 Serrano pepper, minced (optional)
- 1 cup prepared medium grain rice
- 1½ teaspoon rice vinegar, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- Drain tofu and press the remaining water out by placing it between paper towels or a clean cotton dish towel and using your hand, carefully press down. I've read that a plate can be used too. Once the tofu is dry - be careful not to press too hard or you may squish it and compromise its structural integrity.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the tofu into bite-sized cubes, place in a medium sized non-metal shallow dish, arranging them in a single layer.
- Make the marinade by combining all the ingredients in a medium sized bowl, pour over the tofu, ensuring each piece is submerged and bathing in this glorious marinade.
- Cover and place in refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight. You may want to gently stir the pieces about halfway through the time.
- If you are going to prepare rice, begin to do so now!
- Heat a heavy bottom skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. Check for temperature by flicking some water in the pan. If the water 'dances' then evaporates quickly, it is hot enough. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil to pan and make sure the pan has a light coating of the oil.
- Using tongs or a slotted spoon, add tofu cubes to hot pan (do not crowd the pan though), fry for about 30 seconds each side, then add ⅓ cup of marinade to the pan. You may need to adjust the temperature.
- Be sure to turn the cubes so each side gets caramelized. Once the tofu is evenly caramelized you can either remove from pan and add the rest of the marinade or leave the tofu in the pan and add more of the marinade and let it cook down until thickened a bit, (about 5 minutes)
- Drain rice, add rice vinegar and sugar if you wish. Set aside.
- Arrange bibb lettuce on plates, along with fresh veggies and rice and then top with Spicy Tofu Bulgogi! Enjoy!