If you’ve never tried Korean food before, it should be on your “do before I die list”, SERIOUSLY! It is full of fresh vegetables, fermented foods, tofu and a blend of amazing seasonings and sauces. Obviously, there is also a lot of meat, fried foods and MSG, so you have to be mindful of what you order just like anywhere else.
A dish that seems to be our “go to” is called Bibimbap, which means “mixed rice”. It is basically a bowl of white rice with a pinwheel of meat and veggies around the perimeter with a fried egg on top. Most restaurants, as well as my mother-in-law who is Korean, uses sliced meat, like skirt steak, for the main protein portion. Some places use ground beef. Veggies typically include spinach, bean sprouts, shredded carrots (but the options are endless when you make it at home). The main star of this dish is gochujang (fermented hot pepper paste).
Since going Vegan, as well as my daughter and youngest choosing to be Vegetarian, making this dish with beef just is no longer an option. And thankfully my husband and oldest son love tofu, so everyone is happy.
I made this dish to show that you can still eat incredibly tasty dishes, similar to ones we are familiar with, and make them healthier. Instead of red meat, I use tofu and instead of white rice, I used Soba Noodles made from buckwheat. And did you know that buckwheat isn’t actually a wheat? Its part of the rhubarb family and gluten free!
Preparation for making this seems to take the most time, but if you prep your vegetables in advance, it really comes together in no time.
For Tofu Steak:
- 1 lb. firm organic tofu (non-gmo), press out liquid with tofu press of wrap with clean cloth and place heavy object on top to remove some liquid.
- 1/3 C. shoyu (fermented soy sauce, use Tamari if needing to be Gluten free)
- 1 TB sesame oil
- 2 TB. minced ginger
- 1 TB. finely chopped garlic
- 1/4 C. brown rice vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 tsp. brown rice syrup (pure maple syrup makes a good substitute)
For Vegetables and Noodles:
- 1 package Soba Noodles
- 2 C. bean sprouts
- 5 carrots, peeled and shredded
- 1 package spinach
- 2 TB. soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed (or 1 tsp. minced)
- 1 TB. sugar
- 2 TB. Gochujang (+more for taste)
- Sesame seeds for garnish
- Optional Veggies: julienned zucchini, shitake mushrooms, sliced cucumbers, kimchi
- Cut the tofu in half width and place each half on its side then slice again. You should have 4 "steaks".
- Pour 3/4 C of water into a bowl. Whisk in the shoyu, oil, ginger, garlic, vinegar, red-pepper flakes (if using) and rice syrup then pour over tofu and cover. Marinate at least 1 hr in a baking dish.
- While the tofu is sitting, start prepping your veggies. Shred the carrots, rinse and seperate the bean sprouts removing the brown ones, rinse your spinach and julienne or slice any other veggies you choose to use. These will be cooked separately.
- Preheat oven to 375. Bring 2 pots of water to a boil.
- Remove tofu from marinade and place on a baking sheet and baste with sauce. Reserve remaining.
- Bake tofu for 15-20 minutes. Turn over halfway, baste again and bake an additional 10-15 minutes longer.
- While your tofu is baking. Add soba noodles to 1 pot of boiling water and cook according to package directions.
- In the other pot, add bean sprouts to the boiling water and cook about 5-10 minutes. I like mine to still have some texture and not be mushy. Use a colander to drain so you can reuse the water for the spinach. Season the sprouts with 2 tsp. soy sauce and 1 TB. of sesame oil. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired and set aside.
- Throw the spinach in the pot of boiling water and blanch. Drain spinach as soon as it turns dark green. Place in a bowl and season as you did the sprouts.
- Put a little bit of sesame oil in a pan and stir fry the carrots. Set aside.
- Put 2 TB of Gochujang in a bowl and add a little bit of hot water to thin it out. If it is too spicy for you, add in a tsp of raw cane sugar and mix well.
- To assemble: Put about 1/2 Cup noodles in a large bowl. Place bean sprouts, carrots, and spinach next to each other on top of the noodles. Place baked tofu steak in the center. Add your gochujang for spice and drizzle with additional sesame oil if desired. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Serve hot and mix it all together well.