Welcome to Never Fail, a weekly column where we wax poetic about the recipes that never, ever let us down.
Wednesday at 7 p.m. is hard enough even when I do have an idea of what’s for dinner. And on nights when I don’t, panic strikes. And that’s when I turn to Tofu and Kimchi Stew.
The whole recipe adds up to just 10 ingredients and 69 words of instruction, which is shorter than my weekly horoscope and definitely more favorable. Just heat some oil, add some scallions, ginger, and garlic, pour in the chicken broth (ideally homemade, but at least high-quality), whisk in gochujang and soy sauce, then add daikon, then the kimchi and tofu, simmer, aaaaaaand done.
Of course, it’s so simple that it also makes a great base for your own spin. The recipe calls for firm silken tofu (tofu that hasn’t been pressed), but I always go for the softest stuff just because I love how its extra-creamy lusciousness adds a complementary texture to the mix. I’ve also worked in some glass noodles, topped my bowl with an egg yolk, and sprinkled over sesame seeds. These last-minute additions add almost no time at all.
Whether you improvise with a few added touches or not, it comes together so quickly and easily that there’s really no excuse for takeout. (Try getting your pad see ew in under 30 minutes once that freezing snow-rain-ice slurry starts to fall.) Plus, it feels so good to slurp, with its elemental deliciousness, fermented wholesomeness, and nose-drip-inducing kick, that it never feels like a last resort (even if it is one).
So while I can never quite predict when my no-dinner-plans panic will strike, I can breathe easier knowing I’ve got two flavor-packed ingredients in my fridge and this two-stanza recipe memorized. Now if only I could also remember to call my grandmother…