Return of Recipe Friday! Spicy Korean Tofu

Ummm…Our food stylist is on vacation! This was lunch today. It would look much better if the tofu sheets were reclining whole on snowy rice and artfully sprinkled with green.

We’ve been eating a lot of this lately. It’s Erik’s favorite meal these days, in fact. I make it for him whenever he’s grumpy and he perks right up. I like it too, and I especially like that it’s fast cooking and I usually have all the ingredients on hand, so it’s pretty effortless.

I know, I know–there’s a lot of tofu haters out there, but this is really good–if you like spicy food.

The key to this is Korean chili powder, called Gochutgaru. You just can’t substitute other pepper flakes. We always have this spice on hand because it’s critical for making kim chi. (If you like kim chi you’ll love this dish!)  If you have access to an Asian market, you’ll find Gochutgaru there. It’s sold in big bags and is pretty cheap. Look for bags full of fine red flakes with pictures of red peppers on the front.

Credit where credit is due: I’d eaten this style of tofu somewhere before and went looking for a recipe–and found one on the Blazing Hot Wok blog. This is an adaption of that, which was an adaptation from a cookbook, as I recall.


  • 1 package of firm tofu (Silken tofu works too, see instructions at the end)
  • A few scallions/green onions, maybe 5 or more, depending how much you like them, chopped into 2 inch pieces.
  • This is not cannon, but you could also throw in another veggie along with the green onions for variety. Lately I’ve been adding in a few chopped asparagus spears into the mix.


  • 3 Tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons water (equal amount to the soy sauce, however much you use)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Korean chili powder (This is a whole lot of spice, but we like it that way. You could use much less.)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves minced or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • Maybe some wine if you have a bottle open. See instructions.


  • Toasted sesame seeds or peanuts for topping. Sesame is more traditional, but we really like peanuts with this.


1) Cut the tofu block in 1/4-1/3″ slices. Press some of the water out of it by laying the slices out on a fresh kitchen towel or paper towels, putting more toweling on top and pressing gently with your hands–or by leaving it there under a weighted plate while you do the rest of the prep. This is not absolutely necessary, but the dish will come out better if you do it.

2) Chop up your green onions.

3) Combine the sauce ingredients above in a bowl. Since I use so much chili powder, the sauce can be pretty thick. For that reason I like to dilute it with a splash of wine (of any color) or water.


Get out a big skillet. Heat a couple tablespoons of cooking oil in it and lay down the tofu slices. Cook them about 3 minutes each side over medium high heat, just so they’re nice and hot. Then add the green onions and cook a minute or two longer to soften them a bit.

Then add the sauce and cook it all together until the sauce simmers, tuning the tofu pieces so they get sauced on both sides. At that point it’s up to you to decide whether you want to cook the sauce down for a fairly dry presentation, or serve it right away while the texture is still “wet.” Either way it will be good.

Serve this over short-grained rice. Top with sesame seeds or peanuts if you’ve got ’em.

Silken Variation:

Silken Variation? Is that some sort of feminine product or a Kama Sutra position?

Anyway, if you’re a fan of silken tofu, as I am, you use that, too. You just do things in a different order. Heat up your skillet and add your green onion pieces and cook for a minute or so, then add the sauce and bring it to a simmer. Then add your silken tofu. Toss to cover with sauce then put a lid over the skillet, turn the heat down and let the tofu sort of steam/heat through gently. Takes about 5 minutes.

Leave a comment


  1. OK what would be a good substitute mild spice for those of us whose guts simply cannot handle hot spicy food? (Not enough to just cut down on the amount of hot spice—I need something very mild but very tasty with tofu.

    • Ah, that’s a hard one. First thought: this spice powder is really truly not very hot. I mean, we’re putting *2 Tablespoons* of the stuff in–that’s a crazy amount for a pepper–and that has the heat punch of maybe 1/8 – 1/4 tsp of cayenne. So I would call it a mild spice. Though you say reducing the spice is not really a solution, I’d say that if you dropped the spice down to just 1 or 2 teaspoons and you’d be fine.

      Otherwise, there is really no way to modify this particular recipe because it’s all about the flavor of this spice–the particular smokey/sweet/spicy flavor of those dried peppers is the heart of the recipe. It would be like trying to make Paprika Chicken without the paprika. (Idea: maybe mild paprika would be functional in this recipe???? Not really sure if it would work. The Korean stuff is better than paprika, imho)

    • this was a really popular dish when I was growing up to eat after a long night of drinking, after all the bars and soju cafes have closed we’d often go to a place called BCD tofu house, It’s a growing chain now and they have locations all over So cal. I think they have a few locations in WA and on the east coast somewhere. I grew up on the korean stuff and love it. I’m actually supposed to be making a video on how she makes kim chi sometime soon. just gotta go over to her house.

  2. Just found your website. I am scanning the recipes and must comment on how clever, inspirational, and “cute” I found everything. There. I said it all! Thanks for sharing your personal adventures and tips for cooking interesting vegetables and other foods with myself and the rest of the cookers out there…really!

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