Both these kimchi soups fulfill my deep need for a warming, spicy cabbage soup but I wouldn't say they're interchangeable. The simpler kimchi soup makes a great meal for the Woman Alone. It's hot and quick and gets the job done. While the flavor isn't as rich as that of the complex kimchi soup, the simple kimchi soup dials up the heat and intensity and clears out my sinuses faster than you can say "Snakes on a Steamy Swim." And it still performs admirably 4 or 5 days later. That's value, folks.
On the other hand, this complex kimchi soup works well for company and also exudes a more comforting quality. Gavin really enjoyed it, and even George—for whom hot spice is anathema—gave it a lingering glance as it passed by. I made minor changes to Kindelsperger's/ Bittman's recipe and ended up with a subtle flavor and a delightful mélange (yes, I wrote mélange. what are you going to do about it?) of textures. In a mildly spicy thin broth swim spicy bits of kimchi, soft and chewy cubes of tofu, and soothing spoonfuls of white rice. It's like Chicken Soup with rice, if the chicken were tofu and the broth were scarlet with spiciness. Nor does this soup actually take that long to make; it's just more of a hassle when shopping. Here's my version. If you eat gluten-free, check to make sure that all your condiments, especially the soy sauce, are gluten-free.
Kimchi Soup with Tofu
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
6 scallions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 Cups kimchi, chopped into bite-size bits, plus some kimchi liquid
1 standard package firm tofu, packed in liquid
1 Tablespoon go chu jang (Korean red pepper paste)
1 Cup vegetable broth plus 4 Cups water
1 Tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 Cup short-grain white rice (sushi rice works great)
a couple of handfuls of spinach
fresh ground pepper
1. Drain block of tofu. Press between two plates and top with a heavy jar. Wait 5 minutes, pour off liquid, and repeat with the tofu upside-down. Cut the block lengthwise so that it is only half as thick. Carefully cut all the tofu into bite-sized cubes. Set aside.
2. Sauté scallions in heated sesame oil for 1 minute.
3. Add kimchi plus liquid, tofu, and go chu jang. Cook 30 seconds, tossing to coat.
4. Add in water and stock plus vinegar and soy sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.
5. Stir in the rice. Cook 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. Five minutes before it's done, add the spinach.
6. Grind in some fresh pepper. Serve hot, but keeps well for a week.
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