Chigae is Korean dish that is somewhere between a stew and a soup. It's flavourful, warming comfort food, and perfect for solo dining. This one uses very soft bean curd, lots of vegetables, plus an egg, so it's hearty and filling.
I often order soondubu chigae at Korean restaurants, and they vary greatly. Some are fiery hot, others are mild; some restaurants add only seafood, while others include small pieces of meat.
It took several attempts before I started making good soondubu chigae at home. Upon the advice of a Korean friend, I started using Korean or Japanese instant soup stock, which looks like tea bags; it's known as yuksu (in Korean) or dashi (in Japanese). Using this instant soup bag as a shortcut, I can make a flavourful chigae in about 15 minutes.
Adjust the spiciness of the dish by changing the amount of gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes).
Cut the beef or pork into 5mm (¼in) pieces, put them in a bowl and mix with the soy sauce. Rinse the clams then drain them.
Chop the onion and mince the garlic. Cut the Korean zucchini lengthwise into halves or quarters, then slice about 5mm (¼in) thick. Trim off and discard the root ends of the mushrooms.
Put the fish stock or dashi bag into a bowl and add 200ml (¾ cup and 1tbsp) of hot water. Stir briefly, then leave to steep for 3-5 minutes before removing the bag and squeezing it to extract the flavour.
Pour the sesame oil into a pot (preferably a Korean earthenware pot) that holds about 750ml (3 cups). Place the pot over a medium flame and after about a minute, when the oil is hot, add the meat. Cook, stirring often, until the meat starts to lose its pink colour, about 90 seconds. Add the onion and garlic and cook for about a minute, stirring occasionally. Add the gochugaru and mix constantly for about 10 seconds.
Pour in the fish stock and bring to the boil. Stir in the zucchini and when the liquid comes to a boil again, add the mushrooms and bean curd. Use a spoon to break the bean curd into smaller pieces. Simmer the ingredients and taste for seasonings; add a little salt, if necessary, and more gochugaru, if you like it spicier. Add the clams, then crack the egg into the bubbling broth. Cover the pot then simmer until the clams are open and the egg is softly cooked.
Cut the spring onion into 5mm (¼in) pieces and the chilli into thin slices, and scatter them over the chigae. Serve immediately, with steamed rice and banchan.