All those who love sinking a spoon into pillowy soft tofu got a serious treat when Joodooboo opened in Oakland in January 2022. The banchan shop makes fresh dooboo (the Korean word for tofu) every day, as well as offering an array of seasonal veggies, from cabbage kimchi to sesame carrots. Fans have been feasting on fresh tofu and punchy pickles ever since, as well as carrying home deli containers full of this jiggling ingredient.
But what exactly do you do with a precious block of fresh dooboo?
At Joodooboo, chef-owner Steve Joo, who cooked at Chez Panisse and Terra in Napa before diving deep into the Korean tofu tradition, laboriously soaks and milks the soybeans, and coagulates and swaddles the bricks. He speaks gently to the curds. He never lets them get pressed. As a result, the dooboo turns out creamy and custardy. He recommends handling it gingerly to appreciate that hallmark texture.
At the shop he serves dooboo several different ways.
“If you’re trying it for the first time, try it fresh as is,” he said. “But part of the selling point is its versatility.”
Start by slicing the dooboo into thick slabs, drizzling with a garlic-scallion sauce, and munching with a few banchan. At the shop, the most popular preparation is the panfried dooboo with golden crispy edges, which comes with soup, rice, and kimchi. While at home Joo has spotted some mapo tofu trending on Instagram, with cooks sinking cubes into the spicy Chinese dish.
Joo confirms dooboo can be seared, panfried, or stewed. He only warns against stir-frying, as it will threaten to fall apart. “Treat it like a tender piece of fish,” he advised. So reach for your finest spatula, don’t claw it with tongs like an animal.
Of all the options, Joo has a soft spot for sinking it into a flavorful broth. “The texture of the dooboo in the hot broth gets extra soft and jiggly and delicious,” he said. “It absorbs the flavor of whatever it’s sitting in, and also has its own presence at the same time.”
He simply calls this dooboo soup. It’s easy to make, although there is some leisurely simmering, so maybe save it for a weekend. The dashi takes the most time, first letting the kombu steep in warm water, before swapping in anchovies and aromatics. Cleaning dried anchovies will take a moment, and Joo recommends “getting in touch with your inner Korean and putting on a Korean drama.” But it’s a tidier job than deveining shrimp, and will make you very popular with puppies, kittens, and anyone else who loves little fish. The Korean pantry staples can easily be found at Koreana Market in Oakland or the upcoming H Mart in Dublin.
Once you have the dashi, the soup itself is a breeze. Joo tosses in any seasonal veggies from the farmers’ market, quickly blanching sweet Tokyo turnips or charring tender-crisp asparagus. You don’t have to cook the dooboo at all, just slice it into thick slabs. Then just make sure the bowls are warm and the dashi is hot.
“That’s all there is to it,” promised Joo.
Dooboo soup with spring vegetables
The pillars of this dish are the pillowy soft fresh dooboo and the aromatic anchovy dashi. The veggies and herbs can all swap by season or whatever you already have in the crisper. Consider the size of your spoon when slicing, and serve with steamed rice and grilled fish.
Makes 4 servings.
- 12 oz fresh dooboo, drained
- 3 or 4 Hakurei (Tokyo) turnips, including the greens
- 1 or 2 stalks spring onions, using just the pale bulbs
- ½ bunch (6 or 8 stalks) asparagus
- 1 or 2 stalks green garlic
- Sea salt
- Sesame oil for drizzling
- Zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1½ quarts anchovy dashi (see recipe below)
- Fresh parsley or cilantro leaves (optional)
Set the dooboo on the counter to let it come to room temperature. Separate the turnip bulbs from the greens, cut the bulbs into thin wedges, and chop the greens. Thinly slice the pale bulbs of the spring onions about ⅛ inch thick. Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus, and slice the asparagus about ¼ inch thick. Thinly slice the green garlic, including the green tops, as long as they feel tender.
Meanwhile, bring a saucepan full of salted water to a boil. Add the turnip bulbs and spring onion bulbs and blanch until tender-crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the vegetables and transfer them to a bowl. Drizzle lightly with sesame oil, sprinkle with the lemon zest, and toss to coat.
Warm a cast-iron skillet over high heat until it almost starts to smoke. Add the turnip greens and asparagus, drizzle with the canola oil, and stir-fry until vibrant green with a nice toasty char, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and season with salt.
Return the saucepan to medium heat, pour in the anchovy dashi, and bring to a happy simmer. Add the green garlic last and let steep while assembling your bowls.
Cut the dooboo into chunky cubes or slabs and place them in warm bowls. Spoon the vegetables around the dooboo however it makes you happy. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and ladle in the hot dashi. Tear fresh herbs over the top, if you like, and serve warm.
The simplest Japanese dashi steeps kombu and bonito in warm water until it tastes like the sea. Korean anchovy dashi swaps in the umami rich little fish, and Joodooboo goes further by sinking in extra aromatics. If you’re missing the jalapeño or bonito, it’s not a big deal, but the full pot is magic. This big batch leaves golden leftovers.
Makes about 3 quarts.
1 large sheet (1 oz/35 grams) kombu
2 cups (3 oz/80 grams) dried dashi anchovies
½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 or 2 stalks spring onions, using just the green tops
1 slice Korean radish, about 2 inches thick
4 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger, sliced
½ cup (5 grams) dried mushrooms, such as shiitake
½ jalapeño pepper, seeded (optional)
1 cup (8 grams) bonito flakes (optional)
2½ tablespoons soy sauce, preferably Korean soup soy sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Spray or sprinkle the kombu with water to let it bloom, 10 minutes. But don’t wash away the white residue, that’s what makes the flavor good.
In a pot over medium heat, add the bloomed kombu and 4 quarts water, preferably filtered. Bring the water up to barely steaming, but don’t let it boil, to extract the fullest umami flavor. Steep the kombu in the steaming water, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Pop open the anchovies and remove the guts, reserving the heads and bodies. Arrange the cleaned anchovies on a sheet pan, transfer to the oven, and toast until the fishy smell turns sweet and savory, 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove and discard the kombu from the pot. Add the yellow onion, the green tops of the spring onions (reserving the pale bulbs for the dooboo soup), and the radish, garlic, ginger, dried mushrooms, and jalapeño, if using. Turn up the heat to bring to a happy simmer, and cook until the flavors begin to come together, 10 minutes. Add the toasted anchovies and continue to simmer until the flavors have completely combined, 20 minutes longer.
Add the bonito last, if using, and make sure all of the flakes are submerged. Return to a boil, remove from the heat, and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain the anchovy dashi. Season with the soy sauce, ½ teaspoon salt, and a crack of pepper.
If using right away, return to a clean pot to warm through. Otherwise let cool, transfer to a tightly lidded container, and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.