This is spicy. Not Minnesota people spicy, it's Korean spicy. This is a great soup if you're sick because it's got lots of garlic and also ginger in the kim chi, plus the spice clears out your sinuses. I used the Kim Chi we fermented at home, but you can obviously substitute with a good store bought brand. Most large grocery stores (and probably every health food store) carry jars of kim chi in the produce section.
On a scale of 1-10, I give this soup a 10. The idea for this soup is based off of a soup I had in Seoul one night when we visited Korea in 2001. That soup is still the best soup I've ever had.
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
6-8 oz. crimini or button mushrooms, cut into chunks
5 large shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/2 a large white onion, thinly sliced
3-4 large cloves garlic, crushed
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
3 large leaves bok choi or other green (kale, collards, etc.), sliced with stem and leaves separated
3/4 c. Kim Chi (more or less to taste), minced along with its juice
1 Tbsp. (more or less to taste) Korean chile powder or pure chile powder
1 Tbsp. (more or less to taste) Korean fermented bean paste or chile garlic paste
3 Tbsp. shoyu or tamari
1 Tbsp. mirin (sweet rice cooking wine), optional
2 lbs. firm or extra firm tofu, cubed
1/4 tsp. sea salt (add more later if necessary)
6 c. water
Cooked brown rice, optional
1) Prepare all of the vegetables and have them ready to go. You are going to cook the white parts of the scallions and the stems of the bok choi with the onions, but the greens are going to be added last.
2) Rinse the tofu, pat it dry and cut it into large cubes.
3) Heat the toasted sesame oil over medium-high heat (more high than medium) in a large soup pot. Add the onions, white bok choi stems, the white portion of the scallions, and the mushrooms. Saute for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, and then add the garlic. Saute for another minute or two, but don't let the garlic burn.
4) Add the Korean chile powder, the fermented bean paste or chile garlic paste, and the kim chi and stir to mix with the vegetables.
5) Gently place the tofu on top of the vegetables and then add the shoyu or tamari and the mirin and place the cover on the pot. Let it steam for about 4-5 minutes.
6) Add the water and gently mix the pot being careful not to break up the tofu. Let it cook at a very high simmer, partially covered, for about 25 minutes.
7) Taste the broth adding more shoyu, sea salt or toasted sesame oil if necessary. Then add the green part of the scallions and the chopped bok choi leaves. Cook for another 5 minutes.
This makes about 6 servings and can be served as a soup alone or poured over cooked brown rice (in which case it would probably serve more).