bulgogi-style tofu

fiery tofu + sesamed cucumbers = banchan style ::::
There is nothing better than Korean barbeque to replete post-workout calories and to give in to the primitive urge to cook meat over fire. I’ve spent many a night over a grill in numerous smoky Korean restaurants, watching wang kalbi (marinated short ribs) and beef bulgogi (thinly-sliced marinated meat) sizzle over a blackened grill and glowing embers.

The banchan (side dishes) tile the table in every possible space, many dangerously close to the hot flame and risk for melting the small bowls in which they sit. Every table is the same: diners all intently watch grills as the meat cooks, anticipating, drooling, and shoving banchan deftly into hungry mouths. The table glitters with choices: myulchi bokkeum  (salty-sweet dried anchovies), ojingochae bokkeum  (salty-sweet dried squid), kaktugi  (radish kimchi), gaeran mari  (rolled egg omelet), and sigmuchi namul  (seasoned spinach), among many others.

Afterwards, we waddle to our respective transportation in the midst of meat sweats, reeking of smoke and beef, and garlic permeating our skin. We are unmistakeably noticeable in other venues soon after our meal: we have just attended a Korean barbeque, somewhere in the city. We carry its mark with us, that is, until we wash our clothing, take a soapy shower, and perspire eau de cologne garlique overnight.

Seeing as I don’t have a grill and I don’t have nearly enough little bowls in my kitchen to have proper mulitple banchan  for a crowd, making a one-dish meal is good fix. And, against all primitive urges and drool, forget the meat. And the fire.

Huh? For a barbeque? No meat? No fire??


This bulgogi-style tofu is hearty with a little spicy heat, offset with the cool and crunch of the cucumbers, and the ever-present nest of rice. A triumvirate: protein, vegetable, and starch. A trinity of delight. Once again, you won’t miss the meat. And no meat sweats. Asian cooking is often about components: be prepared to start the cucumbers the night before (or up to a week) and marinate the tofu for at least 2 hours.
This recipe is adapted from the lovely Sophia over at the Burp and Slurp food blog.


bulgogi-style tofu
Recipe type: vegetable
  • 19 oz firm tofu (Mine was packaged as four slabs)
  • ¼ cup gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste; look for a heavy, squat jar)
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1 inch ginger, grated
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 stalks green onions, chopped (which I forgot to add before I took the photo above....der!)
  • cooked rice (white, brown, with beans, you choose)
  • cucumber banchan (recipe follows in notes section)
  • sprinkles of sesame seeds
  1. Before cubing tofu, press it to remove some moisture (for crisper tofu after cooking). Here's how: Place clean tea towels or paper towels on a large plate, top with tofu, and place another semi-thick clean tea towel on top. Place heavy pot on top for 15 minutes.
  2. Cut each slab into 16 cubes, thus giving 64 cubes total. Why is the number of cubes important? Marinating time may change, depending on how salty you want the tofu and how large the cubes are.
  3. Mix tofu cubes, gochujang, garlic, ginger, onion, soy sauce, sesame oil, and brown sugar together in a large bowl and marinate 2-3 hours, at least.
  4. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place marinated tofu onto lined baking sheet for 30 minutes.* When the wayward marinade is starting to blacken and the tofu browning, it is done.
  5. Prepare bowl with cooked rice, cucumbers, and tofu. Sprinkle with green onions and sesame seeds. I also foresee some bowls with a fried egg blanketing the top.
* Cooking time may change depending on how big you cube your tofu. Cucumber banchan adapted from many sources and lots of taste-testing Persian cucumbers (I used 775 g = 27 ounces), or other small seedless cucumbers 2½ tablespoons kosher salt 2 teaspoons sesame oil 2 teaspoons honey 1 teaspoon white vinegar 1 teaspoon minced garlic 2 teaspoons sesame seeds 1. Wash cucumbers well. 2. Using your trusty mandolin (or a painstakingly steady knife and lots of time and patience), slice thinly. I used my 1.3 mm setting on my mandolin. 3. Add 2½ tablespoons kosher salt to sliced cucumbers, mix well and allow to sit for 30-40 minutes. 4. Add water to cover and place in refrigerator overnight. 5. Rinse well and squeeze out moisture with thick cheesecloth (or clean tea towel). 6. Season with sesame oil, honey, vinegar, garlic, and sesame seeds. You may want to add a little salt, depending on how much you rinsed it off earlier (but it will pull out some of the moisture). 7. Chill. Lasts for 1 week in the fridge.


  • Lisa August 31, 2014 Reply

    Thanks for these recipes. I can’t wait to try both the tofu and cucumbers. It’s a great combo.

  • Lisa August 31, 2014 Reply

    Hi again, I just saw in another post that you lived in Champaign — that’s where I’m writing from! Coincidence. I was Googling “tofu bulgogi” because I saw it offered by a newish Korean joint in town called K Bowl. I’m going to try K Bowl’s version tonight, but I look forward to trying my hand at making it at home also.

    • story August 31, 2014 Reply

      Cool! I used to eat at A-Ri-Rang (not sure if it’s still there) and shop at Amko and Far East for Asian groceries. Let me know if K Bowl’s version is any good –it’s always good to know if we ever make the stop back into town. I hope you like the recipe I posted here! I just bought cucumbers today to make the salad again. I could eat it for basically every meal.

what do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe:  
story of a kitchen