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Give Me Umami

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About two years ago I came across a recipe for Spicy Kimchi Tofu Stew in my beloved Bon Appetit. KDD and I had planned to make this detoxifying stew to cure any upcoming hangover Sunday, but some time between then and when I moved to Napa we must have become responsible adults because we were never hungover enough to make this stew. Or maybe we just kept forgetting – also a sign of getting older. In any case, I finally found an opportunity to make this savory stew last week. And although it wasn’t to cure any particular hangover, it did feel extremely detoxifying after a week of too much wine and rich food.

There are two key ingredients in this stew that give it umami: gochujang and kimchi. I had purchased a little jar of gochujang when I was doing the BA Food Lovers Cleanse last month, and I had just enough leftover for this recipe. As for the kimchi, my pickling guru – who shall be known as Canuck from this point forth – had given me half a quart of some kimchi that he made at home. I’m not exactly sure how he made it, but I know it involved fish sauce and cabbage. If you don’t have the time or equipment to make kimchi at home (or you don’t have a pickling guru to “lend” you some), you can find it at Whole Foods or any Asian market, along with the gochujang.

Reid's homemade kimchi

Canuck’s homemade kimchi

Spicy Kimchi Tofu Stew (serves 4)

    • Kosher salt
    • 1 16-oz. package silken tofu, cut into 1” cubes
    • 1 TB vegetable oil
    • 2 cups kimchi, including liquid
    • 1 ½ TB gochujang 
    • 6 scallions, cut into 1” pieces
    • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 4 large egg yolks

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Reduce heat, then carefully add tofu and simmer gently until slightly puffed and firmed up – about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer tofu to a medium bowl and set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the kimchi and gochujang and cook, stirring often, for 7 minutes. Add kimchi liquid and 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until kimchi is softened and translucent – about 40 minutes.

Add scallions, soy sauce, and tofu; simmer gently until tofu has absorbed flavors, about 20 minutes. Add sesame oil and season with pepper (the stew will already be salty so there is no need to add more). Ladle stew into bowls and top each with an egg yolk.


I served this spicy soup to my pescatarian friend and her fiancé (who eats meat, and was actually able to recognize the fish sauce in the kimchi) and they both loved it. While very spicy, it’s not a burn-your-tongue spice but more of an addicting umami spice. The egg yolk does lighten it up a bit and add a touch of creaminess. Having Canuck’s homemade kimchi in my possession certainly gave me a reason to finally make this soup, but it also elevated the dish and added depth of flavor. So much so, that I am considering making my own batch of kimchi at some point! Let’s just hope I don’t push it off for two years like I did with this stew.

Spicy Rice Noodles with Shrimp

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This week I received an email from Epicurious highlighting an Asian rice noodle dish with fresh, julienned veggies. I decided to test the recipe out on my pescetarian friend, with a few small changes. It was a big hit, and we finished the entire bowl of noodles while engrossed in ABC Thursday night television, i.e. Shondaland.

Rice Noodles with Shrimp (serves 2)

  • 4 TB tamari or soy sauce, divided
  • 4 TB rice vinegar, divided
  • 1 TB, plus 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1 TB honey
  • 1 tsp Sriracha
  • 1/2 lb uncooked, peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1/2 cup peeled, seeded, julienned cucumber
  • 1/2 cup peeled, julienned carrots
  • 1/2 cup julienned radishes
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • pinch of salt
  • 12 oz rice noodles*
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

*Rice noodles can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store. My favorite brand is Poolee Rice Stick Noodles.


In a small bowl, combine 2 TB tamari, 2 TB rice vinegar, 1 tsp sesame oil, and white pepper. Add shrimp to marinade and refrigerate, covered, for 1 hour.

In another small bowl, combine 2 TB tamari, 1 TB rice vinegar, 1 TB sesame oil, honey and Sriracha. Set aside.

I used my julienne peeler to prepare the carrots, cucumber and radishes. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend making a purchase. It’s also great for zucchini noodles. OXO sells one for only $10 with a grip handle, but I prefer my stainless steel piece because it’s easier to clean.

bottle-shot-2013-Chenin-Blanc-ViognierCombine the vegetables in a large bowl, then add 1 TB of rice vinegar and a pinch of salt. Toss to combine and let sit for 15 minutes.

Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add rice noodles and cook for two minutes. Drain, then rinse with cold water to cool. Add noodles to vegetables, and toss in the tamari mixture.

Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick pan over medium-high flame. Add marinated shrimp and cook for two minutes on each side. Add shrimp to the bowl of noodles and top with cilantro. Serve cool or warm.

We enjoyed our meal with some Domain Serene “r” Rose, which provided as a sweet yet zesty balance to the spicy umami flavors in the noodles. This meal would also pair well with Chenin Blanc-Viognier from Pine Ridge, a vibrant and refreshing white blend that always makes a great companion to Asian food. It may be officially fall, but we’re still drinking summer wines here in Napa!

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