Combination Soon Tofu from Sohn-mat

When I opened Beverly Soon Tofu in 1986, I had four soon tofu options on the menu. This combination of beef, oysters, and clams was one of them.

AUTHOR: Monica Lee with Tien Nguyen

When I opened Beverly Soon Tofu in 1986, I had four soon tofu options on the menu. This combination of beef, oysters, and clams was one of them. I created this recipe for a few reasons. I believed customers would want a little bit of everything in their soon tofu stew, and by having a little bit of everything, they would feel that the soon tofu was a good value, well worth their time and money. Plus, all these ingredients just taste delicious together, especially if you use flavorful Manila clams. I intentionally omit shrimp , as I find the flavor of shrimp to be overpowering here. While the recipe instructs you to make the soon tofu as four individual servings, you'll be marinating the short rib trimmings in one large batch.

Serves 1


1 cup / 240ml homemade beef broth (see below) or store-bought

2 tablespoons Dadaegi / Seasoned Red Pepper Paste (see below), or to taste

1 teaspoon Gahreun Mahneul / Blended Garlic (see below)

¼ cup / 55g marinated short rib trimmings

3 baby clams, preferably Manila

3 to 4 small shucked oysters

1 (11-oz / 312g) package extra-soft tofu

Toasted sesame oil, for finishing

Handful of green onions, green and

white parts, chopped, for garnish

1 small egg


Place a clay pot over high heat. Add ½ cup / 120ml of the beef broth, the dadaegi, garlic, and marinated trimmings and stir. Bring to a boil and cook until the beef is cooked all the way through and no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Add the clams and oysters and boil until the clams open and the oysters are fully cooked, 4 to 6 minutes (discard any clams that do not open). Add ½ package tofu and the remaining ½ cup / 120ml beef broth. Use a spoon to divide the tofu into smaller pieces, then stir to distribute the pieces, doing so gently to avoid breaking up the tofu any further. Be sure to stir the bottom of the pot, too, to prevent burning. Skim any fat or other impurities with your spoon as they rise to the surface.

Stop stirring and bring the soon tofu back to a boil. Add another ¼ package of tofu to the pot, dividing it into smaller pieces with your spoon, and stir gently again. Bring the pot to a boil, then add the remaining ¼ package of tofu and stir.

Continue to cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the center of the soon tofu is at a rapid boil. Finish with a splash of sesame oil and the green onions. Crack the egg into the pot. Allow the egg to cook, undisturbed, until the whites are firm and the yolk is as done as you’d like.

Serve boiling hot on a trivet at the table along with the banchan, kimchi, and any shared platter you may have prepared.

Fast Beef Broth:

Makes two quarts

This beef broth takes less than an hour to make from start to finish, and all you need are some short rib trimmings (or any other fatty cut of beef ) and plenty of water. Though it is lighter and less nuanced than broth made from boiling beef bones for several hours (see page 44) [in the book] it is delicious nonetheless. It’s also faster to make and doesn’t require you to source any bones.    


2 cups (about 1 lb / 450g) short rib trimmings


Place a large pot over high heat, add 10 cups / 2.4L water, and bring to a boil. While the water comes to a boil, place the beef in a large bowl and cover with cold tap water to release any excess blood.

Once the water reaches a boil, use tongs to transfer the beef from its bowl to the pot, discard the soaking water. Boil on high heat for 20 to 25 minutes. Using a fine-mesh strainer or a colander, strain the broth, reserving the solids. The broth can be used immediately or stored; first cool completely, then pour into airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. The cooked beef can be repurposed for another use (see Spinoff) or discarded.

If you don’t want to discard the cooked beef, try marinating it for 15 to 20 minutes with 2 tablespoons Gahreun Mahneul / Blended Garlic (page 49), 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, 2 teaspoons sea salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper. Then add the beef to a soup and enjoy it with a hot bowl of rice for a quick meal.

Seasoned Red Pepper Paste

Makes 1/2 cup

Every Korean restaurant has its own signature dadaegi, and this is mine. I have treasured this recipe for the last thirty-five years; it is the heart and soul of every soon tofu soup I make, the base that enlivens the stew with a medley of spiciness, saltiness, sweetness, and richness. It has many uses beyond soon tofu, too. Use it to build flavor in my Gochujang Chigae / Red Pepper Paste Stew with Tofu (page 224) or the Spicy Squid Soup (page 231). It is very simple to make, but it does require two days to develop its flavor. Because it is so versatile and stores so well, I suggest making plenty. Back when I ran my restaurant, I made gallons and gallons. In fact, the longer it sits, the deeper and more complex the flavors become.


¼ cup / 45g coarse gochugaru

¼ cup / 30g fine gochugaru

¼ cup / 60ml soy sauce

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon granulated sugar


In a medium bowl, combine ¼ cup / 60ml water with the coarse and fine gochugaru, soy sauce, salt, fish sauce, and sugar. Mix until the sugar has dissolved and the gochugaru are well incorporated. Place the mixture in a glass container and cover. Leave at room temperature for 1 day, then place in the refrigerator. It’s ready to use the next morning. Store for up to 1 month in the fridge.

To make a vegetarian or vegan version, omit the fish sauce and increase the salt to 1 ½ teaspoons. Mix and store as instructed.

Blended Garlic

Makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups

Garlic is in almost everything I make. As a time-saving measure, rather than peeling and mincing every time I needed it, I decided to try blending heads of garlic with water and seeing if it lost its flavor—and it didn’t! In fact, I found that blended garlic actually mellowed and its flavor became more balanced, even after a week or two in the fridge. Add this garlic to all your dishes but do be careful when adding it to hot oil: the water in the mixture may cause the oil to spatter. Once made, it will keep in the refrigerator for up to ten days. Discard the garlic when its color turns from pale yellow to brown.


2 cups / 300g whole peeled garlic cloves


Slice off the root ends of the garlic cloves and discard. If any of the cloves have sprouted, slice the clove in half lengthwise and remove and discard the green germ.

Place the garlic in a blender and add ¾ cup / 175ml water. Blend until smooth or until it has the consistency of applesauce, adding up to ¼ cup / 60ml more water if necessary to reach that consistency. It’s now ready to use. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Excerpted with permission from Sohn-mat by Monica Lee published by Hardie Grant Publishing, October 2023, RRP $35.00 Hardcover. You can order it from Now Serving bookstore here.


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