This kimchi seafood soup is an easy version of Korean tofu stew (Sundubu jjigae), and is made with kimchi, tofu and shrimp. Make it in the Instant Pot or on the stovetop!
2020 has been an odd year, that's for sure.
However, even though the year has been... not great... I've been grateful for the gift of time.
Time to (try to) learn how to keep a sourdough starter alive. I failed (this time), for the record.
We've also had the time to practice making our favorite restaurant meals at home. Because guys, I really miss eating out!
Yes, we have been ordering delivery or take-out on occasion, but some of our favorite spots are simply too far away. Not all foods keep well in take-out containers for an hour drive, ya know?
And guys, I've been working on a recipe for my favorite Korean soup for a while now. If you've been following along with my Instagram stories, you've probably seen me testing the recipe.
Korean Kimchi + Tofu Stew (Sundubu jjigae)
This kimchi seafood soup is inspired by Korean kimchi and tofu stew.
I wanted to use a recipe that was easy to make without a trip to a specialty market, but that also tasted pretty much exactly like the restaurant version.
Happily, this kimchi seafood soup is exactly that! It's easy to make in both the Instant Pot or on the stovetop, and the ingredients should be (relatively) easy to find.
I'll walk you through where to buy the ingredients and how to make the soup!
This post (and the photos) will focus on the Instant Pot version of the soup. Check the second half of the recipe card for the stovetop version.
Do I Need Sesame Oil?
In my opinion, no.
Most traditional recipes I found called for sesame oil, but it's added at the beginning of the recipe and is cooked into the food.
Sesame oil tends to lose its distinctive flavor once cooked, so (again, in my opinion), it's not necessary. I tried this recipe with and without sesame oil and couldn't taste any difference.
Swap in olive oil if you prefer.
Where Can I Buy Kimchi?
Look in the refrigerated produce area at your local grocery store. Pre-made kimchi is getting easier to find: I've even found it at our local Kroger.
If you're shopping at Whole Foods or a health food store, check with the other refrigerated fermented foods.
What Specialty Ingredients Do I Need for Kimchi Seafood Soup?
There are a few ingredients that might be difficult to find at your local grocery store. That said, I've actually seen almost all of the following ingredients at our local small-town Kroger and Walmart!
Gochugaru (Korean Chili Flakes)
Gochugaru, or Korean chili flakes, are important in this dish.
I buy Mother-In-Law's gochugaru chili flakes online.
Yes, you can swap red pepper flakes, but the flavor will be slightly different. Also, in my experience, red pepper flakes are hotter than gochugaru, so you'll need to use less.
Gochujang (Korean Hot Pepper Paste)
Next, you'll want to buy gochujang, or Korean hot pepper paste.
This spicy paste is an optional ingredient in this kimchi seafood soup, but adds an extra level of flavor (and heat!).
Broth or Stock
First let me reassure you that you can use store-bought or homemade broth that you already have on-hand.
But, if you really want to take this soup to the next level, here's how.
When I made this soup, the versions that tasted the most like the restaurant version I love were made using anchovy stock.
And guys, anchovy stock can be super easy to make.
I used these anchovy dashi packets, and the stock was ready in just a few minutes. Check the recipe card notes for more specific directions.
What Kind of Tofu Should I Use for Kimchi Soup?
Look for silken tofu or extra-silken tofu. It's usually in the refrigerated produce area at the grocery store.
What Type of Shrimp Should I Buy?
For the best flavor use raw, uncooked shrimp.
That said, you can use any type of shrimp in this recipe!
Can I Add Other Types of Seafood to This Kimchi Soup?
You sure can!
For simplicity, the recipe only calls for shrimp. However, this soup is also delicious with other small shellfish such as mussels or clams.
Want to try more seafood soups? We also love this fish coconut curry soup with noodles!
How to Make Kimchi Seafood Soup in an Instant Pot
Start by using the Instant Pot's sauté feature to heat the oil.
Add the kimchi, gochugaru, gochujang, garlic, ginger and salt to the pot. Cook for just a moment or two until the spices become really fragrant.
Next, slowly begin adding the broth and kimchi liquid.
As you pour, scrape the bottom of the pot to release any bits of food stuck to the bottom. Press the cancel button to end the sauté feature.
Set Instant Pot to pressure cook/manual, high pressure. Set the cook time for 2 minutes.
After the count-down timer finishes, carefully quick-release any remaining pressure.
Check the recipe card for more directions on which buttons to press.
Add the Tofu
Cut the tofu into cubes and add it to the soup.
Add the Shrimp
Add the shrimp and bring the soup back to a simmer.
Add Eggs to the Kimchi Soup
Next, crack eggs into the soup.
Watch the eggs and shrimp as the soup simmers.
The kimchi seafood soup is ready when the shrimp is pink and the egg whites are cooked through.
Divide the soup into bowls and serve it with rice. I like to serve mine with jasmine rice or sushi rice.
Dig in right away and enjoy!
Kimchi Seafood Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive or sesame oil
- ⅓ cup kimchi
- 3 teaspoons gochugaru (Korean chili flakes) Or substitute 2 teaspoons red chili flakes
- 1 tablespoon gochujang (optional, for more heat)
- 4 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt Omit or reduce if using store-bought or pre-seasoned broth
- 4 cups broth or stock (anchovy, seafood or vegetable) See Recipe Notes
- ¼ cup liquid from kimchi
- 1 package silken tofu (16 ounces), diced into 1" squares Or use extra silken Korean tofu
- 8 ounces shrimp, shells removed + deveined, tails on or off as desired Or use a mixture of other shellfish (such as mussels + clams)
- 4 eggs (optional) Or 1 egg per person
- 1 green onion (scallion), green tops only, diced
- sushi rice or jasmine rice, to serve (optional)
- Add oil to the Instant Pot. Press the sauté button. Press the adjustable temperature setting until it reads normal.Add kimchi, gochugaru, gochujang (if using), garlic, ginger and salt to the pot. Stir together and cook 1-2 minutes, or until the spices become fragrant.Slowly pour in the broth and the kimchi liquid. As you pour, scrape up any bits of vegetable stuck to the bottom of the pot (to prevent the burn warning).
- Press the cancel button. Set Instant Pot to pressure cook/manual, high pressure. Set the cook time for 2 minutes.The Instant Pot will take about 5-10 minutes to come to pressure, depending on how hot the liquid is, and then will start counting down the cook time. (If the broth was hot when you added it, the Instant Pot will seal quickly.) The Instant Pot will beep to let you know the cook time has finished.Carefully quick-release the remaining pressure by using the handle of a long spoon (I use a wooden spoon) to turn the steam valve to venting.
- Take the lid off the Instant Pot. Press the cancel button to end the cook cycle.Press the sauté button. Leave the adjustable temperature setting at normal. Optionally, mash the tofu cubes with a fork. Add the tofu to soup. Add the shrimp and bring the broth back to a simmer.
- If adding eggs, carefully crack them directly into the soup.Continue simmering until the shrimp are opaque and the egg whites have cooked through, or until the eggs are cooked to your desired doneness.
- Top soup with diced green onion and serve immediately along with rice.
- Heat oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot.Add kimchi, gochugaru, gochujang (if using), garlic, ginger and salt to the pot. Stir together and cook 1-2 minutes, or until the spices become fragrant.Add the kimchi liquid and broth. Bring soup to a simmer, and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Optionally, mash the tofu cubes with a fork.Add the tofu to soup. Add the shrimp. If adding eggs, carefully crack them directly into the soup.Continue simmering until the shrimp are opaque and the egg whites have cooked through, or until the eggs are cooked to your desired doneness.
- Serve soup immediately, dividing the eggs and shrimp evenly between bowls. Top soup with green onions and serve with rice.
- Easy Anchovy Stock: Use an anchovy dashi packet. Add one packet to 4 cups of simmering water and continue simmering for about 6 minutes. Remove the packet and discard.
- Shellfish Stock: Use leftover shellfish shells to make homemade shellfish stock.
- Vegetable Broth: We love using both homemade vegetable broth and homemade mushroom broth.