Sunday night Maddie and I set out on a dinner adventure. We wanted to try someplace new, maybe something from a food group that is slightly off the radar. If you know me you know my main food groups are: pizza, gelato/ice cream, fried chicken, Asian cuisines, and sandwiches. We went to our usual hood, Asian food central on Convoy street. We started out thinking we'd go for Shabu Shabu, then when we got to the strip center that houses Shabu Shabu Lounge, Red Moon Noodle House, Pokeritto, Raki Raki Tsukemen, Tasty Noodle House. We decided to eat at Tofu House. Tofu House specializes in Korean Soondubu Jjigae or soft tofu soup and hot stone rice bowls (Bibimbap) This would be Maddie's first Korean Food adventure.
It took us a while to decipher the menu as there were lots of selections. We looked all around to see what everyone else was eating, but that wasn't much help. We settled on a Sapporo Beer, a combo dinner of Galbi with fisherman's hot stone rice bowl and a seafood soondubu. For those who live in cold weather locales Soondubu and hot stone bibimbap are great for those freezing winter evenings as these dishes come out really, really, hot, the Soondubu comes out still bubbling and boiling and the hot stone bowl is nuclear hot as it's designed to cook and crisp the rice that comes in contact with the bowl. For those who have had crispy Persian rice or Tahdig, you know how yummy and addicting this can be. Korean crispy rice kicks persian rice's ass as it combines crispy, crunchy goodness with many levels of flavors and textures. Banchan's arrived shortly after we ordered, for the uninitiated banchan are small side dishes that accompany every Korean meal, at least one of the side dishes is usually a kimchi. We received a kimchi, pickled spicy cucumber, pickled daikon radish and a dish of fish flavored dried tofu strips.
Korean food rule number one: Banchan's have unlimited refills, so eat as much of these as you like. Korean food rule number two: the fancier the restaurant the more banchans you get.
The Galbi arrived first along with the traditional stainless steel individual rice containers. The Soondubu followed shortly boiling and bubbling away with its red-orange soup and sea creatures poking out from the surface. I told Maddie not to even try to eat it at this point, let cool down from its thermonuclear temperature or risk losing all your tastebuds. When we were waiting for our table we saw a young man put 5 eggs into his soondubu he probably wanted to get his money's worth as eggs are free. Adding raw egg to your boiling soup is the traditional way to eat soondubu. The raw egg adds a richness to the soup but if you add it when the soup first arrives it will instantly cook and adds bulk to your soondubu, if you wait a bit it wont cook as much and it adds richness to the broth. Maddie elected to add only one egg not 5. You're supposed to eat the spicy soup with the rice and soft tofu. The rice mediates the spicy heat a bit. If it's not spicy enough there's gokujang spicy chili paste on the table along with dried red chili flakes (gokujaru) on the table. The hot rice bowl arrived smoking and sizzling. You have to stir the bowl up to circulate the rice so that it gets crispy and not burned. The trick is to stir it just enough so that it doesn't burn but not too much that it doesn't get thick and crispy.
They provided some soy based salt to add some flavor to the rice and I added some gochujang to the rice and gently stirred it occasionally making sure that the bottom was getting crispy and GBD (Golden Brown & Delicious) not BBB (Black, Burned, Bummer). The rice bowl with its seafood bounty was very flavorful and we both loved the crunchy rice. As the bowl starts out red hot the food stays hot throughout the meal and the seafood continues to cook, so for those of you who like their ocean creatures well cooked will be very happy with this method of cooking. For Maddie's first Korean food adventure she did very well she loved the soondubu and the crunchy rice. Now maybe it's time for more exotic Korean foods.
Tofu House 4646 Convoy Street, suite 116 open 11:00AM-10:00PM 7 days a week
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Steve & Maddie