I won’t say this soup is authentic, but it does take inspiration from a Korean Ramen-style bowl, while I improvised with what-was-in-my-kitchen ingredients. It also nipped my craving for a healthy, warm and spicy soup on a rainy day. You can see there are no ramen noodles in the soup – I had a package of udon noodles ready to use, but the soup was so densely packed with vegetables, I didn’t see the need to add them (but add them if you wish!) What I did include are gochugang and kimchi, 2 traditional Korean ingredients that are essential to the flavor of the soup. Gochugang is a fermented soy bean and hot pepper paste, which is available in Asian and specialty stores and the international section of well-stocked supermarkets. It’s a murky, spicy and slightly sweet paste which adds umami-rich depth of flavor to any dish it graces. Think of it as miso with a kick of heat. Kimchi is fermented cabbage and other vegetables such as daikon and scallions – kind of a Korean cole slaw – boldly flavored with the likes of fish sauce, red pepper, ginger, and garlic, all of which contribute heat and a fiery tint to the soup broth. Again, kimchi is available in well-stocked supermarkets and health food stores. The shiitakes are also essential to this soup, as the mushrooms impart deep flavor to the broth. Feel free to substitute or add other vegetables such as spinach, broccolini, and bok choy.
Kimchi Soup with Shiitakes, Tofu, and Kale
If you are using udon noodles or ramen noodles, pre-cook them and add to the soup before serving. Serves 2 to 4.
2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil, divided
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, trimmed, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon peeled grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup kimchi, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons kimchi juice
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon gochugang (fermented hot pepper paste)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 small bunch kale, tough ribs removed, leaves coarsely chopped
8 ounces soft tofu, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 red chile pepper, thinly sliced
1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until they soften, turn golden brown and begin to release their juices, stirring frequently. Remove the mushrooms and set aside.
2. Add 1 tablespoon oil and the onion to the same pot over medium heat and sauté until the onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the carrot and sauté until bright in color and crisp tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the kimchi and kimchi juice and sauté 1 minute, then add the stock, soy sauce, gochugang, sesame oil, and sugar.
3. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in the kale and continue to simmer until the kale wilts, about 2 more minutes, stirring frequently. Return the mushrooms to the soup, gently stir in the tofu, and simmer until just heated through.
4. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the scallions and chile.